Monday, January 31, 2022

Reading on a Theme: YA Books Set in the 1990s

Are we ready to call books set in the 1990s historical fiction? All of these books were published between 2019 and 2021 but set in the 1990s. If you remember the 1990s, these books are a fun throwback, and if you are too young to remember the 1990s, these books can give you a little introduction to that decade.

LA in the 1990s
It's 1992 in LA, and Ashley has a good life. She goes to one of the best schools and lives in one of the wealthiest neighborhoods in the LA area. Then the police brutality against Rodney King that culminates in sweeping riots forces her to confront her identity and the racial inequities that are right in front of her. The Black Kids is really excellent. I love the historical setting and how it allows us to examine this moment from the past through a teenager's eyes. And, unfortunately, this is a very timely book, as these events have many parallels in today's America. Christina Hammonds Reed's writing is also lovely. It has a rhythm and tone to it that I, personally, loved. Review copy from NetGalley.
The American West in the 1990s
Everyone Dies Famous in a Small Town is a collection of intertwining short stories set in the 1990s in small towns in Alaska and Colorado. I loved seeing how the various characters were connected as I moved from tale to tale. This book shows how the effects of choices, incidents, and accidents cause ripples that impact people in far-flung places. I absolutely loved Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock's debut, The Smell of Other People's Houses, and I was very eager to read more from her. This book did not disappoint. It's beautifully done with lyrical writing and a contemplative tone that always works for me. I'll be thinking about this one for a long time. Review copy from NetGalley.

Garden Heights in the 1990s
It's 1998 and Maverick is trying to get ahead in life. He's dealing for the King Lords, and it looks like he's got a clear path to the top of the gang hierarchy. That all changes when he learns he's a father. Seven's mother proves herself to be unreliable from the start, and Maverick knows he's got to step up to take care of his baby. I absolutely flew through this prequel to The Hate U Give. As always Angie Thomas writes with heart. Maverick has such a good heart. I can't think of any other books that center around a teenage boy becoming an unexpected father like Concrete Rose does. Maverick does his best to be a good one from the start. 
The Mall in the 1990s
The 90s are back. Cassie Worthy was supposed to have the perfect summer before heading off to college. But it's not two minutes into her new job at America's Best Cookies when she finds out her boyfriend fell in love with the Bath and Body Works' girl while she was out with mono. Now she's working at Bellarose Boutique with her former best-friend Drea. The Mall is pretty silly. It was fun though. Drea and Cassie rekindle their friendship and go on a mad-cap scavenger hunt to find the legendary treasure of the Parkway Center Mall. As someone who spent a fair amount of time in the mall in the 1990s, Megan McCafferty's novel made for a fun throwback. Review copy from NetGalley. 
Brooklyn in the 1990s
1998 Brooklyn. Three friends attempt to propel another friend into rapper stardom. The problem is that that friend is dead. Let Me Hear a Rhyme has a great premise. I really enjoyed the interactions between our three main characters/ narrators. This would be a great book for fans of rap music. Even though that's not exactly me, I still really enjoyed all the references to 1990s celebrities. The book also deals with the more serious issues of gangs, rats, and retribution in these teens' Brooklyn neighborhood. I really like how Tiffany D. Jackson told an entertaining story that also sheds a light on real life issues. 

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