Riot Headline 10 Exciting Books to Read this Summer

Recent YA Releases Set in the 1990s

Tirzah Price

Senior Contributing Editor

Most of Tirzah Price's life decisions have been motivated by a desire to read as many books as humanly possible. Tirzah holds an MFA in Writing for Children & Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts, and has worked as an independent bookseller and librarian. She’s also the author of the Jane Austen Murder Mysteries, published by HarperTeen, and Bibliologist at TBR: Tailored Book Recommendations. Follow her on Twitter @TirzahPrice.

THIS TERRIBLE TRUE THING, an artistic story of family grief.

In this heartbreaking multimedia debut, Danielle Silver is a high school senior at the dawn of the 90s. Ever since her parents split up, she has known her father was gay, but she never expected to be hit with the bombshell that he is HIV positive. Filled with drawings, poems, and journal entries—author Jenny Laden draws on her own experience to create a story of grief and transcendence, perfect for fans of Francesca Zappia and Jennifer Niven.

The 1990s are alive and well with Gen Z! While it might be simple to say that the ’90s are so popular because of the fashion aesthetics or easy access to ’90s pop culture (thanks, internet!), I think the ’90s are such an interesting time period to explore for today’s teens because they look back on a time (although not so long ago!) where our lives didn’t center around the constant connection of phones, social media, and the internet. While some things have changed, we’re still facing a lot of the same social issues, but in different contexts.

YA books set in the 1990s aren’t exactly scarce thanks, likely, to many millennials’ nostalgia, but here are three more recent YA releases set in the 1990s for your TBR!

Be That Way cover

Be That Way by Hope Larson

Set in 1996, this novel follows Christine, who makes a resolution to be the shiny, cool girl that people will actually want to hang out with — like her best friend. But when a falling out and a misstep leaves her without friends at all, Christine has to learn how to strike out on her own and figure out who she wants to be…and maybe that person isn’t shiny or cool, but someone of her own creation.

Rana Joon and the One and Only Now cover

Rana Joon and the One and Only Now by Shideh Etaat

Also set in 1996, Rana is struggling with grief after the loss of her best friend and faltering under the weight of her family’s expectations. She’s supposed to be a perfect Iranian girl, but in reality, she has a crush on another girl and is more interested in honoring her best friend through a rap battle than getting perfect grades. As the rap battle approaches, Rana has to figure out the best way to commemorate her friend and be herself.

Dead Flip by Sara Farizan

Cori, Maz, and Sam are the best of friends, until Sam disappears without a trace when they’re 12. Cori and Maz drift apart, partly because Cori can’t believe Maz when he insists that Sam got sucked into a pinball machine. But five years later, Sam reappears…only, he’s still 12. Now Cori, Maz, and their friends need to figure out what happened to Sam and how to save him, all without anyone else discovering that the impossible has happened. This book takes place in 1992, although there are flashbacks to 1987.

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