Wednesday, June 6, 2012

90s YA classics

Come, gather round, ye young adults of the 1990s! What were the the stories you leafed through during your painful adolescences? These were some of the significant titles of mine:

People Might Hear You (Robin Klein) Frances' aunt and guardian has married a man who belongs to a religious cult and soon Frances is literally locked inside a big house and forced to live - and frightened into living - by their restrictive rules. This is one that's as powerful on my 32nd reading as it was on the first. The powerlessness that she feels, the same feeling that Professer Umbridge evokes in The Order of the Phoenix ... shudder.

Steven Herrick's Love, ghosts and nose hair. Probably the first verse novel I read and still one of my favourites. And its sequel A Place Like This. Guitar Highway Rose, which I've blathered on about in the past. Not to mention After January, by Nick Earls: the best in-between-school-and-the-real-world novel, and which you can read about here and here.

Cried my way through Peeling the Onion, about karate champion Anna and the trauma she goes through following a terrible car accident. Wendy Orr's book is wonderfully written - the descriptions of Anna's pain and the ways she shows how Anna's accident affects the rest of the family, and her friendships. Caused me anguish, but gives us all hope!

And Isobelle Carmody's terrifying The Gathering, which our grade 6 teacher Mrs Chappell read to us and we sneaked in during lunch to read ahead ... and we read ahead to chapter 26 when the terrible, awful, sickening thing happens. The stench of Cheshunt, the frightening Kraken and the group of mysterious misfits that Nathanial meets - it's a story of good and evil, light and dark. It's that brilliant mix of real world and paranormal that grabs you and draws you in, almost against your will.

Before David Levithan and Rachel Cohn paired up to write their dual-narrative books, Gary Crew and Libby Hathorn wrote Dear Venny, Dear Saffron, which tells the story of bogan Vinny and New York City artist Saffy, who begin exchanging letters and we follow their stories over a couple of years and all the amazing highs and devastating lows of their lives.

There were others: Queen Kat, Carmel and St Jude Get A Life (Maureen McCarthy), and Margaret Clark's ridonkulous backlist, Joanne Horniman's Loving Athena, Libby Hathorn's Thunderwith. Letters from the Inside and Tomorrow, When the War Began (all of John Marsden's, actually), Touching Earth Lightly by Margo Lanagan, Phillip Gwynne's Deadly, Unna?, Borrowed Light by Anna Fienberg. I think this is a list to be continued. Watch this space.

When I read books now I try to think of what my teenage self would think. It's harder than it seems. I'm more of a cynic now, and I don't read YA in order to experience things (which i think is one of the greatest strengths of YA). Perhaps there's a sense of nostalgia. How lucky was I to have a bookseller for a Mama Bear?

Memory Lane, The Basics*

*oh Gotye. I'm still "looking over my shoulder" for you to come back to The Basics. *UPDATE* The Basics show at the Empress on 22nd July was the best thing - thank you Wally, for obviously reading this blog and putting the show on for me. Or the Empress's 25th bday, whatever.


  1. Ah, yes, it' all comes back!! I remember most of those books, but I was already a teacher-librarian in the 90s, so read them in my professional capacity. :)

  2. Hey, I like your new header (which may have been there some time).
    90's books - I'm feeling all nostalgic. I'd barely started then (well, I was certainly slower then), but they were definitely different, weren't they?

    1. Thanks!

      They do feel different. But I can't decide if it's the books that are different or if it's the readers. I kind of want to blame the internet? I feel like books had more of a chance back then, were allowed to take their time a bit more. Maybe that's the difference?

  3. Oh yes! Lots of the above, plus: Sleeping Dogs by Sonya Hartnett, Looking For Alibrandi by Melina Marchetta, Galax Arena and Foxspell by Gillian Rubinstein, That Eye The Sky by Tim Winton...

    1. Yes and yes and yes and yes and yes.

  4. Guitar Highway Rose. Yes! Also Slow Burn by Victor Kelleher was a big turning point for me as a moody thirteen-year-old. I read some super trashy things too, like Night World by L. J. Smith (of Vampire Diaries fame, which has somehow made a comeback, but the Night World series was tons better). xx

    1. ooh, yes! victor kelleher. nice one. i also read trash. a lot of it. (and sometimes go back to it now too...babysitters club...cough)

  5. i love this pile. i have read them all, though, sadly, do not own them. i am such a library girl. though lately i have been getting the urge to collect my faves.

    i;'ve read after january twice and yet i feel like i need a refresher on that one.

    hi five for reading these in the 90's! that was such a great era for aussie YA.

    1. high five! argh, i'm terrible...have to own books. it's a bad compulsion that will leave me poor and probably killed and buried in books when the shelves finally give way.

  6. Nice to see that After January spine showing some wear and tear. Looks like it's been well read. Thanks for having it on your list.

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