Monday, May 13, 2019

Paperback Crush

Paperback Crush: The Totally Radical History of '80s and '90s Teen Fiction. Gabrielle Moss. 2018. Quirk Books. 256 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence from the introduction: Are you an adult with a full-time job who still dreams of switching places with your (nonexistent) identical twin?
First sentence from chapter one: Where there are teens, there are love stories.

Premise/plot: Paperback Crush is a book about books, or, if you prefer a book about reading books. Specifically it is about (paperback) book series published in the 80s and 90s that were geared towards tweens and teens. Moss examines trends and quirks and presents her findings with a little perspective that only time can provide. She addresses books categorically. Chapter one focuses on LOVE. Chapter two focuses on FRIENDS. Chapter three focuses on FAMILY. Chapter four focuses on SCHOOL. Chapter five focuses on JOBS. Chapter six focuses on DANGER. Chapter seven focuses on TERROR.

Each chapter begins with the roots of the genre or sub-genre. Is this a topic or subject that has a long past? (For example, books focusing on family and friends and school). Is this a new topic or subject that has not been openly talked about before? (divorce, abortion, drugs, alcohol, rape, stalking, etc.) How diverse are the books being published? What was the appeal then? Does it still hold appeal now?  How long did the series last? Were there copycat series? Did the series have one author or many contributing authors? Each chapter includes many examples--dozens--of books. You can expect to find book covers, synopses, the occasional excerpt, and critique. The critique often addresses issues of realism and sensitivity. Moss never expects series to be realistic exactly. But some are more over-the-top than others! Another fun aspect of critique is when Moss talks book covers!

You might be thinking what are the differences between DANGER and TERROR. In the 'danger' chapter, the focus is on problem/issue novels. Sexual abuse and assault, kidnapping, drug or alcohol abuse, sexual orientation and/or coming out, teen pregnancy, abortion, terminal illness, death. In the 'terror' chapter, think werewolves, vampires, ghosts, suspense, thrillers, murder mysteries, etc. Stalking, I believe, may be mentioned in both chapters.

There are a handful of interviews sprinkled throughout the book.

 My thoughts: You could read this book in one of two ways. I could definitely see someone reading it cover to cover. (That's what I did.) But I could also see someone skipping around and reading the chapters out of order. It doesn't lose anything, in my opinion, if you approach it in this way.

The book title suggests the focus is TEENS, but I didn't find that to be totally accurate. A good many of the books were geared towards a younger audience (upper elementary). Still over half the books are geared towards teens.

There were three series that I read growing up: The Gymnasts, The Babysitters Club, and the Sunfire Romance "Name" books. I don't necessarily regret selling the Babysitters Club books. But I very much regret selling The Gymnast series. I would never, ever, ever sell my Sunfire books.

I liked the narrative approach. This one is very visual. So many book covers. It was a treat to read.

© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


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Review Policy

I am interested in reviewing books and audio books. This blog focuses on books written for middle grade on up (essentially 10 to a 110). I review middle grade fiction and young adult fiction (aka tween and teen).

I also review adult books.

I read in a variety of genres including realistic fiction, historical fiction, mystery, romance, science fiction, fantasy, literary fiction, and chick lit. (I've read one western to date.)

I read a few poetry books, a few short story collections, a few graphic novels, a few nonfiction books.

I am especially fond of:

  • Regency romances (including Austen prequels/sequels)
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  • westerns (if it's a pioneer story with women and children, then maybe)
  • extremely violent books with blood, blood, and more blood

I am more interested in strong characters, well-written, fleshed-out, human characters. Plot is secondary to me in a way. I have to care about the characters in order to care about the plot. That being said, compelling storytelling is something that I love. I love to become absorbed in what I'm reading.

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