I was a kid in the '90s, so I am pretty much contractually obligated to be nostalgic. And even though I try not to fall into the trap of imagining the decade as some sort of Golden Age, I still reminisce a lot anyway. I just can't resist the siren's call of old cartoons and fashion, and I'm definitely one of those people who wax poetic about the "simpler" time before social media and the 24-hour news cycle. And the '90s books? They're one of the things I miss from childhood most of all. Although I'll always make reading a priority in my life, gone are the days when I could sit around for afternoons at a time, working my way through a pile of my favorite series.
Luckily for me, and for you if you're just as '90s nostalgic as I am, there are actually lots of new books out there that take the same themes, or similar characters, or just the general vibe from some of my collective favorite childhood series, all grown up. If you're looking for the standalone novel that's going to make you feel all warm and cozy like only your beloved childhood reads can, I've got a few below.
If You Loved The Baby-Sitters Club, Read 'Stay Sweet' by Siobhan Vivian
Ann M. Martin's The Baby-Sitters Club series was all about a group of five friends — Kristy, Claudia, Mary-Anne, Stacy and Dawn — who start their own babysitting business. But, it's also a coming-of-age story about fierce female friendship and the girls' varying quests for independence.
Siobhan Vivian's Stay Sweet has all of the above, too. It follows Amelia during the summer she must run the local ice cream stand, along with her best friend and a group of other girls. There she learns the true meaning of friendship, legacy, and love.
If You Loved Goosebumps, Read 'Sawkill Girls' by Claire LeGrand
For so many '90s kids, R.L. Stine's Goosebumps books were their very first creepy reads. The long-running series (new books are still coming out!) has tackled everything from ghosts and werewolves to killer dolls and creepy monsters.
If you want a feminist take on the old monster tale, Claire LeGrand's Sawkills Girls will have you hiding under the covers in no time. It follows three teenagers who decide to fight the mysterious monster who abducts girls from their small town.
If You Loved Encyclopedia Brown, Read 'Trouble Is A Friend Of Mine' by Stephanie Tromly
Leroy Brown and his best friend and business partner Sally Kimball solved all manner of crimes from burglared baseball cards to missing UFOs in the Encyclopedia Brown series.
Trouble is a Friend of Mine also brings together a boy-girl crimefighting duo in Philip Digby and Zoe Webster. They team up to tackle a series of hilarious, dangerous, and only vaguely legal schemes all related to the kidnapping of a local teenage girl.
If You Loved Ramona Quimby, Read 'The Way You Make Me Feel' by Maurene Goo
Beverly Cleary's Ramona Quimby remains one of the most enduring children's book characters for a reason. Ramona, who readers first meet as a kindergartener, is plucky and bold, intelligent and imaginative. And of course: she's also very mischievous.
Clara Shin, the heroine of Maurene Goo's The Way You Make Me Feel, is a modern, all-grown-up Ramona. Clara is a prankster who lives for disruption, but when one of her schemes goes too far, she has to spend the summer working on her dad's food truck. And it might just change her life forever.
If You Love Animorphs, Read 'Nimona' by Noelle Stevenson
Animorphs was a series all about kids who could morph into animals, and they use those abilities to battle a secret alien infiltration of Earth by a parasitic race of aliens resembling large slugs that can take any living creatures as a host by entering their brain through the ear canal. Wild, huh?
But if you love characters that can shapeshift, and a plot about big government conspiracy, you will definitely be obsessed with Nimona. The graphic novel follows anti-hero Nimona and Lord Ballister Blackheart on their mission to prove that the Institution of Law Enforcement and Heroics aren't the heroes everyone thinks they are.
If You Loved Amelia's Notebook, Read 'Eliza And Her Monsters' by Francesca Zappia
Amelia's Notebook was a series of highly illustrated books meant to mimic the appearance of a diary. In them, Amelia would share her innermost thoughts, secrets, doodles and imaginings.
Much like Amelia, Eliza Mirk uses words to make sense of the world, or at least to escape from it for a while. Eliza and Her Monsters follows Eliza as she creates her wildly popular webcomic Monstrous Sea...while also dealing with real-world dramas like family, mental health and meeting a new boy who might change everything.
If You Loved Sweet Valley High, Read 'The Summer I Turned Pretty' by Jenny Han
Sweet Valley High, which follows the Wakefield twins and their many friends and classmates, remains one of the more controversial classic series thanks to its supremely soapy plots of stolen boyfriends, secret evil twins, cults, kidnappings and so much more.
The Summer I Turned Pretty is not set in school, but you won't find a more deliciously soapy teen series anywhere. The trilogy follows Belly, and her childhood friends Jeremiah and Conrad. The three spend every summer at a beach house with their mothers, but new family dynamics, unexpected illness and a steamy love triangle threaten to upend it all.