Ah, Scholastic book fairs. That glorious week in December when parents volunteered in a hastily constructed cardboard bookstore and kids ran wild with their five dollar gift certificates. To me, and countless other Gen-Zers, book fair week was the best week of the school year. There, I discovered my first favorite books: the Rainbow Magic series. Numbering nearly 150 volumes, the series followed besties Rachel and Kirsty as they rescued helpless fairies from evil Jack Frost.
After Rainbow Magic, I dabbled in Bailey School Kids and Magic Tree House before finding home in Cam Jansen mystery novels, which followed Cam, a quirky tween with a photographic memory and a penchant for mystery-solving. But, after Cam came the true mecca of mystery novels: my aunt’s collection of Nancy Drew novels. I was as in love as a seven year old could be (that is, until I discovered Harry Potter and Percy Jackson).
All of my favorite $4.99 paperbacks were riding the wave of immensely popular mega-hits like Baby-Sitters Club, Sweet Valley High, and Goosebumps, which hit peak popularity ten years before I was born. These “Young Adult” novels of the 80’s and 90’s (think: post Judy Blume, pre J. K. Rowling) are the subject of Bustle Features Editor Gabrielle Moss’ newest book, Paperback Crush.
Paperback Crush sheds light on seven popular topics in this era of literature: love, friends, family, school, jobs, danger, and terror. Providing both witty commentary and cultural context, Moss paints a picture of a time in YA that is both deeply sentimentalized yet critically disliked. Although most of her writing is nostalgic, Moss does not shy away from writing about the injustices of the time period- from anti-abortion sentiments, to romanticized illness, to racism.
As someone who knew who Kristy, Claudia, Mary Anne, and Stacey were thanks to pop culture but has never actually read the BSC books, I fell in love with Paperback Crush. It felt fantastic to finally understand the roots beneath my current favorites.
Almost encyclopedic in its breadth of knowledge, Paperback Crush is essential for every modern reader of Young Adult. After all, in order to really understand anything, you must understand who and what came before it.