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Why Are These 90s Young Adult Books So Irresistible?

Unpacking the nostalgic appeal of our favorite 90s YA book series, from “Sweet Valley High” to “Fear Street.”

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For so many kids coming of age in the 1990s, young adult books served as their entry into adolescence. Popular series like Sweet Valley High, The Baby-Sitter’s Club and Fear Street helped pre-teens understand themselves and the world around them—even if their lives and identities were nothing alike. Diversity was largely ignored in YA publishing at the time, but kids around the world managed to see themselves in these stories, grafting pieces of who they were onto the characters, as well as recognizing the universal “firsts” these books explored: first time lying, being ostracized, seeing parents as people, and, of course, crushing on classmates.

These books were everywhere, dogeared in school libraries, eagerly grabbed at Scholastic Book Fairs in the U.S., or secretly shared at boarding school in Nigeria (see our first story below).

Today, they loom large in our minds, as well as on the internet, where now-grown-up 90s kids have transcribed their impact into stories that go deeper than the original texts. We’ve gathered an eclectic mix of those pieces, essays that will activate your nostalgia and push you to think about these YA classics in new ways.

Image by drante/Getty Images.

The Ghost Writes Back

Amy Boesky
Kenyon Review

For six years during my twenties, I worked as one of the principal ghostwriters for a mass-market series for teenaged girls called Sweet Valley High. Years later, I’m still trying to make sense of what these books meant to me—why I wrote so many of them, and why (eventually) I stopped.