Nostalgia is money these days, and with good reason. We all love to look back at the good ole days and wonder why anything had to change at all. As a '90s kid, I remember trading Pokemon on my super cool see-through purple Game Boy. I was allowed to run wild around my neighborhood on my bike so long as I was back by the time the streetlights went on. During elementary school I wore leopard print leggings and over-sized shirts almost every day (something I could absolutely never pull off now), and the greatest day of my entire life was the day of the Scholastic book fair.
Do you remember those awesome fliers that advertised what books would be available? I treasured them, reading them over and over until I could get the books that I wanted. While there were a few outliers, more often than not I always knew that I would get something good if I stuck to a few specific authors. These authors reigned supreme throughout my school days, a pantheon of guaranteed hits that my '90s brain loved to love. They are the only reason why I know that the past was objectively better, they just don't make books like these anymore, or what books now exist don't fit into that space left by these extraordinary authors.
So what to do? That's easy, just re-read them! I've compiled a list of five authors from the '90s that are well worth re-reading. Whether you loved supernatural teens, scary stories, or good old fashioned fun, these authors can stand the test of time...and I'll tell you why.
1. Ann M. Martin
Would it surprise you to hear that Ann M. Martin actually wrote other books besides those of the famous Baby-sitter's Club series? It actually surprised me, but this is mostly because I was pretty convinced that "Ann M. Martin" was a pseudonym for a super group of ghostwriters due to the high volume of Babysitter's Club books. No, she's real, is from Princeton, New Jersey, and is still writing books today!
So, why should you re-read Ann M. Martin? Three words: The Baby-sitter's Club. That was pretty obvious, wasn't it? But hear me out: There is something so pure and beautiful about the premise of the Baby-sitters Club: a group of teenage (and occasionally guys) who were all best friends but also ran a highly organized and successful business. The middle grade category is tough to put my finger on now that I'm no longer in the torturous agony of middle school, but I remember being a young tween, still loving horses and anime at the age of 12. All I know is that whenever I want to recapture the feeling of feeling like I was growing up when I was barely doing any growing at all, I reached for a Baby-sitter's Club novel.
If you don't want to re-read the entire series (although now as adults you could probably knock it out in about a week), why not just stick to the Baby-sitter's Club Super Specials? Or the Mysteries? Or the Super Mysteries?! These awesome big tomes featuring multiple points of view were like sweeps week but for books. If you want something a little edgy, just reach for the California Diaries series, or perhaps check out one of the books that she wrote to stand alone? Either way the possibilities are endless, and you'll feel like you're coming home.
2. Francine Pascal
Advocating for the work of Francine Pascal might be cheating a little bit, given the fact that the first Sweet Valley High books were published in the mid-to-late '80s, but because the bulk of the series was published in the '90s I'll give her a pass. Francine is also cheating a little bit, given the fact that she was simply the creator of the multiple Sweet Valley High series, but if it wasn't for her, Elizabeth and Jessica Wakefield would have never existed, and I never would have developed my overwhelming and abiding love for soap opera plots.
Why should you re-read Francine Pascal? This one is pure nostalgia for melodrama. While The Baby-sitters Club was full of purity, the Sweet Valley High series was nothing but backstabbing and drama, and I'll admit even to myself that in spite of how exhausting it can be in real life, there is a reason why human beings can't seem to shake it. Drama is entertaining. It's why reality television is so addictive, and how better to enjoy your drama by reading completely fictional replays of it? For those who either can't seem to pick a series from the myriad choices that Sweet Valley offers, why not check out Fearless? It's a 36-book series starring Gaia Moore, a girl born without the gene for fear while she lives in the city with her father's anti-terrorist CIA friend. If you've read it before, clearly you need to re-read it, if you've never heard about it until now, you're welcome.
3. R.L. Stine
I don't need to tell you to keep reading R.L. Stine because you never stopped, right? The Goosebumps series was an institution back when I was growing up, and I refuse to believe that it's any different now even if I've stopped reading the books myself. He was Wes Craven for kids, spinning spooky supernatural tales that weren't too scary, not like we remember them as anything less than utterly bone-chilling. As I grew I moved on to the Fear Street Series, another series that, much like a bunch of series for children in the '90s, had a whole handful of spin-off series to choose from. Of course, R.L. is still kickin', including writing a relaunch of the Fear Street series much to the delight of myself (and hopefully others), while the Goosebumps series tickled all of our nostalgia by being released as a movie starring Jack Black.
So why should you re-read R.L. Stine? Mostly because it's pretty amazing to see what used to scare us when we were children, and with the new Fear Street relaunch, it'll be a heck of a lot of fun to compare his writing now to his writing then. I highly recommend Goosebumps # 27: Night in Terror Tower, because that ending still resonates with me today.
4. Caroline B. Cooney
The Face on the Milk Carton was the first YA novel I ever read, I was enthralled with the ongoing adventures of Janie Johnson, beginning from that first moment she saw her own face on the back of a milk carton. Caroline B. Cooney was the queen of the Scholastic book fair, if I wasn't searching for a new Janie Johnson book, I could hope to find one of her books in the Point Horror series, or the Time Travelers series... children's and YA authors were pretty prolific back in the '90s.
Why should you re-read Caroline B. Cooney? This is mostly because I believe her work could absolutely still stand up today. There are certain things that went completely over my head when I was reading her books as a child ("Why was Janie's dad so mad that she had a sleepover with her boyfriend Reeve?" asked 12-year-old me), and it would be interesting to pick things up as they are now. It holds up, is what I'm saying.
5. Katherine Applegate
Although that totally classic Animorphs cover displays her name as "K.A. Applegate," Katherine Applegate finally bust through the bias of women's writers and publishes under her own name. Animorphs was the very first supernatural teenager series I've ever read. Back in my day, we didn't have Edward, Bella, and Alice, we had Jake, Rachel, Cassie, Marco, and Tobias. I mean, imagine being a 13-year-old and stumbling upon an alien that not only tells you that a powerful group of aliens has infiltrated earth but also gives you magical animal morphing powers. Do you know what I was doing at 13? I was playing a dog in a school production of Annie.
However, I'm not going to suggest you re-read the Animorphs series, even if I do remember looking forward to each Megamorphs book like it was Christmas, I'm suggesting that you either read or re-read the Everworld series. This 12 book series was definitely a little darker than edgier than the Animorphs were. Centering on a group of four teenagers who find themselves trapped in a strange world full of a mish-mosh of different mythologies, they need to find a way home before they are lost forever. This was the first book series I've ever read that has hearts being ripped out by book two. It may still be the only series that does.