Plano Library is taking a trip Back to the 90s from 3-4 pm on November 19 at Haggard Library. To celebrate this all-ages program, here are some diverse young adult books from the 80s and 90s that show how certain themes stand the test of time. Which books would you add to this list?
The Not-So-Star-Spangled Life of Sunita Sen, by Mitali Perkins (1993)
Ashamed of her family and her Indian heritage, eighth-grader Sunitha Sen desperately wants to be “American,” and when her grandparents come to visit her, she is conflicted between the two worlds of her American friends, and her Indian family. This is a story that will strike home to children of immigrants and describes a social struggle still prescient today.
This mature novel is about Charlie, a socially ostracized high school freshman who makes friends with a group of older teens and discovers his identity as well as comes to terms with his traumatic past. The book explores friendship, abuse, and sexuality.
This collection of vignettes follows 12-year-old Esperanza Cordero, a young Latina growing up in Chicago, as she explores her identity and family history. Cisneros’ prose is incredible as she delicately weaves a tale of love and loss that is infused with Latinx culture.
This classic middle-grade series is creative and refreshing, emphasizing the importance of love and perseverance in a challenging world. It follows three orphaned siblings — Violet, Klaus, and Sunny — as they encounter various silly obstacles set up by a villain who tried to steal their inheritance.
Annie on my Mind, by Nancy Garden (1982) eBook
This groundbreaking novel was one of the first depictions of queer romance in young adult literature, and it tells the story of two seventeen-year-old girls who, despite pressure from their family and society, fall in love. The novel was hugely controversial when first published, but it undoubtedly paved the way for LGBTQ+ representation in YA.
This children’s book is a fun and light-hearted read that follows a young boy and his energetic little brother, Fudge. Reluctant young readers and older readers looking for a nostalgic tale will love this humorous and digestible series.
This book, although not explicitly YA, is filled with honest and visceral wisdom about life and friendship. Author Mitch Albom recalls a series of visits to his former sociology professor, Morrie Schwartz, as his illness progressively worsens. It is a novel about coping with death, certainly, but its insights on life are far more powerful.
The book follows Korean-American teenager Ellen Sung, who is bullied because of her race, as she finds pride in her identity and ethnicity. The book covers a small-town environment in 1992, but its remarks about American culture and social isolation are more relevant than ever.
This dark academia classic is about a group of students studying Classics at a prestigious New England college who are roped into a murder. Tartt’s writing is illustrious, striking, and deeply unsettling — a great spooky fall read.
This title is something you might see in upper-elementary classrooms, but it is undeniably worth revisiting. Set in a town where children celebrate an annual Pigeon Day by breaking the necks of wounded pigeons, the novel follows a young boy named Palmer who does not want to participate. It covers abuse, peer pressure, and what it means to conform to societal standards.
Any list discussing throwback reads — or, any list about young adult literature in general — would be incomplete without Nobel Prize-winning author Toni Morrison. This novel is a coming-of-age story set after the American civil war that follows an African-American mother and her teenage daughter as they grapple with the destructiveness of slavery. It is difficult to face, but indubitably a compelling story.
Most glaze over this book as part of required reading in middle school, but Louis Sachar’s inventive story of Stanley Yelnats (his name is a palindrome!) and his adventures at a rehabilitation camp is still an enjoyable read.
Today’s teens view the film “Lady Bird” (dir. Greta Gerwig) as a poignant dissection of mother-daughter relationships — think of this novel as the literary “Lady Bird” of the 90s. The story is set around a group of elderly Chinese women in San Francisco who gather to play Mahjong and explore complicated relationships with their daughters and serves as a touching reflection on the immigrant experience.
For more nostalgia, join Plano Library’s Back to the 90s program for youth in grades 4-8 at 3 pm on November 19 at Haggard Library!