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Paperback Crush: The Totally Radical History of '80s and '90s Teen Fiction

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3.78  ·  Rating details ·  2,323 ratings  ·  656 reviews
A hilarious and nostalgic trip through the history of paperback pre-teen series of the '80s and '90s.

Every twenty- or thirty-something woman knows these books. The pink covers, the flimsy paper, the zillion volumes in the series that kept you reading for your entire adolescence. Spurred by the commercial success of Sweet Valley High and The Babysitters Club, these were not
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Paperback, 256 pages
Published October 30th 2018 by Quirk Books
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Justin Tate
Feb 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
High off reading Paperbacks from Hell, which refueled my love for out-of-print horror, I couldn't wait to check out this follow-up from Quirk Books. Like many young readers in the 80s and 90s, my life was pretty much devoted to tearing through hoards of slim paperback novels. I tended to stay in the horror/mystery world of YA lit, but I was always curious about those other mega-series like Sweet Valley High and Baby-Sitters Club. Paperback Crush seemed to be the perfect guide to inform me all ab ...more
Nenia ☠️ Khaleesi of Bodice Rippers, Protector of Out of Print Gems, Mother of Smut, and Actual Garbage Can ☠️ Campbell

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When I was in second grade, I announced to my mother that I had tried and succeeded with my first chapter book and was ready for more. To my delighted seven-year-old self's surprise, she went up into our attic and came down with a gigantic box filled with all kinds of young adult pulps she had gotten at a garage sale and saved for just this moment. Digging through that gigantic box was a moment of such joy that hasn't really been repeate
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Cameron Chaney
Nov 05, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2018, adult, nonfiction
I will have a video review for this book up soon, but you can read on for an early look at my (very mixed) thoughts…

Paperback Crush by Gabrielle Moss… where to begin? I’ll start by saying that as someone who grew up in the ‘90s, children’s fiction played an important role in shaping who I am today. Had I never picked up a Goosebumps book or one of its many rip-offs, you wouldn’t be reading this review right now. I never would have become a veracious reader, I never would have become a writer, an
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Sarah
Nov 05, 2018 rated it did not like it
Thought it would be lighter. And funnier. It was a woman trying to be oh so hip and giving commentary on books that weren’t really meant to be more than they were on the surface. Disappointed there wasn’t more on the overall sweet valley series, baby sitters club. It gave a tidbit of each of the authors. Plus the social commentary. We get it, no diversity. No this no that. They were written 30-40 years ago before everything became a socially conscious message. Things are just so over the top the ...more
Jen
Jun 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: bea-2018, keepers, arc
Edit: Bought the finished copy at ComiCon. Woot, all the pictures!

End edit.

I really loved this book. I grew up reading YA from the 80s and 90s, so this spoke to me re: memory lane, but it also felt well researched. The author mentions YA books from other eras from American history, including the first YA mystery, YA career books, etc. This was an ARC, so I don't know what the notes and bibliography will look like until it comes out in a finished form, but I so want it in the finished form. The p
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Robyn
Jan 19, 2019 rated it it was ok
When I got this from the library I was pleasantly surprised to see that it was a full-colour, lite-textbook style of book. The cover touts it as "the totally radical history of 80's and 90's teen fiction" but what it should have said is "a totally sarcastic critical review of ...etc". There's not much I can add to what the top reviews for this book haven't already said. All the covers of various books that were included throughout were awesome, and a nice visual trip down memory lane for someone ...more
Jessica
Mar 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: humor, library, nonfiction
Ohmygosh, Becky! This was like, the MOST!

Not merely a look at the history and trends of the books that shaped so many childhoods, this book is also so damn hilarious that I was crying with laughter multiple times! Gabrielle Moss can really write, and her zingy deep dive into teen pulp fiction is truly a gift to us all. The book is a great mix of fascinating information (including the first books to feature non-white or queer main characters, trends that came and went and those that stayed, and i
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Sarah
I squealed in excitement when Paperback Crush was first brought to my attention. I pounced upon the advanced copy, flipping through its contents, waves of nostalgic recognition brightening my day. Bummer Summer! Sixth Grade Can Really Kill You! If This is Love, I'll Take Spaghetti! Old friends, these books. Once home, I eagerly delved into reading what I was certain would be a "good read."
On the nostalgic front, Paperback Crush certainly delivers. Author Gabrielle Moss traces the rise of tween a
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Lexie
Jun 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
Pretty much everything I wanted. It's s fun pop cultural dive into the history of Teen/Tween fiction from Nancy Drew to the Wakefield Twins.

The format is fun, lively and perfect to pick up and put down in between running for class prez and prom Queen and baby-sitter of the year and fending off an ancient curse brought on by your family's inability to be decent human beings for one second.

While th majority of the coverage is for the 80s/90s, Moss goes into the history of these books (primarily a
...more
Alex (Hey Little Thrifter)
3.5 stars

Paperback Crush is a good overview of teen fiction from the 1980's and 90's. Overall I found it to be fun and informative, although I will say that this is quite a broad overview rather than an in-depth or 'definitive' guide. While I enjoyed it while reading it I can't say it's a book that I would return to.

As a big Point Horror fan, I mostly picked this book up for the Terror section but I'm glad I plunged into page one and read the whole thing as I found the rest of the topics intere
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Kristina Horner
Oct 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
This book a very fun and nostalgic romp down memory lane, as I read a SHOCKING number of these books growing up. I loved revisiting all the old titles that made me fall in love with reading in the first place (for better or for worse, lol!)

Small amount of critique, though:
1. The author felt a little preachy at times - yes, many of these books haven't aged well. It's important to talk about how far we've come as a society and as an industry, definitely. Sometimes the author just felt a bit self-
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Trin
Jan 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
I wasn't allowed to read "series" books when I was a kid; my mom (hi, Mom!) thought they were trashy. Of course, this only increased their allure for me, so I snuck reading them whenever I could: secretly buying them for a quarter at yard sales and hiding them behind my bed; tucking myself away with them in the padded bathtub in the basement children's department of our town library after school*; and at least once going for a sleepover at a friend's house and then completely ignoring said frien ...more
Christopher
Oct 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2018, netgalley
Somewhere between the YA ‘problem’ novels of the 1970s and the record breaking premiere of Harry Potter, publishers targeted tweens with a very specific kind of book. They were often short paperbacks with flashy covers and sometimes ridiculous plots. In Paperback Crush, author Gabrielle Moss has written a beautiful celebration and critique of these massively popular tween paperback series.

It should be noted that though this book is detailed, it isn’t encyclopedic. There are simply too many books
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Stacy Fetters
Sep 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
"This is R.L.’s world; we just make out with our dead, hunky ex-boyfriends and have psychotic breaks in it."

This was a blast from the past and I couldn’t stop reading it. No matter where I was, I found myself pulling out my phone to read this. I laughed, I cringed, I remembered how old I was, and then I laughed some more.

I remember reading some of these books when I was a kid. It was definitely a perk from being a 90’s kid. Some of these titles I have never heard of and they were instantly adde
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Anna
Nov 13, 2018 rated it liked it
Very much through a modern lens, which is both good and bad. I hate the constant cries of how 'problematic' and 'racist' things were. It was an age pre-hyper political correctness -- of course these things were there, both with and without subtlety. Also, this book ends SUPER abruptly, which disappointed me more than anything else. I'm surprised the editor/publisher let it go to print that way, with no real conclusion. Overall an okay deconstruction of pop culture, but with some finesse lacking ...more
Kelly
This was just fun. Thoughtful reading on nostalgic teen and tween book series from the 80s and 90s, peppered with interviews and insights into the trends and themes of these ubiquitous books. I extra appreciated that Moss highlighted how white and upper class these titles were, while also including the few inclusive titles that did exist (and I'm FASCINATED by Marie G. Lee's name change to make her less Asian-sounding as an author but she was the first Asian American author to write an Asian Ame ...more
Stasia
Nov 30, 2018 rated it it was ok
Well. Here's what I liked:
-It had a really, cool cover.
-Nostalgia over childhood/tween books.
-It had a really nice cover.
-The bit where the author says ordering a crate of "Sweet Valley" books was a form of self help for her.
-...have I mentioned it had a REALLY nice cover?!

I hate it when a book bombs for me. I had been waiting three weeks to get this from the library, and after getting it, I felt really let down. Things that annoyed me: the authors personality throughout the book was like hearin
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Kirsty
I loved this book! Of course I'm a sucker for this sort of thing anyway (I even co-host a podcast, Teenage Scream, about 90s teen horror; Point Horror, Nightmare Hall, Goosebumps, Christopher Pike – yes please) so I was predisposed to enjoy it.

The balance here is just right. There's the nostalgia of the plotlines, characters and issues; the soft watercolour covers of the 80s into the neon geometrics of the early 90s into the edgy black-and-white covers of the late 90s; the humour and wit of Mos
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vanessa
A light and entertaining look at a subject I was not that well-versed on: YA fiction of the '80s and '90s. Moss divides the book by themes these books touch upon, such as friendship, family, romance, and taboo subjects and issues. I enjoyed that this book had pictures of covers and used nice glossy paper. I also liked the little interviews with pivotal players in the genre. Definitely not a book that dives deep and that may get repetitive at some points (yes, I get that the majority of these boo ...more
Jess
Oct 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
I would have liked a little bit more on the books themselves instead of the books as societal trends, but reading this was a delight and a really nice little time capsule. It's amazing how many of these books I recognized and also how many totally went past me (the stalking, horror, give me all the clubs, please!) Now if you'll excuse me, I have a Nancy Drew/Hardy Boys Super Mystery series read to attend to.
Kyra Leseberg (Roots & Reads)
Mar 09, 2020 rated it really liked it
Quirk Books can do no wrong.
Do you hear me? No wrong!
They are publishing every book possible to fill a pop culture void I didn't know I had in my life.

Paperback Crush is an incredible compilation discussing the most memorable (and even some forgotten) YA books, focusing on the YA craze of the 1980s. It is seriously all here: Francine Pascal, Judy Blume, Lurlene McDaniel, Lois Duncan, Christopher Pike, and R.L. Stine ... any series you can think of is discussed with a heavy dose of humor and nos
...more
Jacqueline
Jan 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
This was a pretty entertaining and cute trip down memory lane. I grew up with Sweet Valley High and Babysitter's Club series (and all their variations, especially California Diaries--those mature themes taught me a LOT, probably too much, as a young teen). It was interesting to read about all the popular teen series in the 80's and 90's and how they could be both reflective of their times and also drive the cultural climate. I loved reading these YA books either for wish fulfillment or seeing my ...more
Renata
Jan 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: grownup, nonfiction
This was just the blend of nostalgia and criticism that I wanted. I loved revisiting series I loved/forgot about, as well as learning about other series that totally passed me by. I appreciated Moss's mixture of remebering her own faves, observing how they skewed white/abled/straight/upper class/etc, and digging out pioneering books/series that perhaps were less overall popular but were more diverse than Sweet Valley et al.

(I also appreciated her introductory note that she was blending together
...more
Hallie
I'M OBSESSED. I feel like this book was written just for me
Meg
Jan 13, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, 50-in-19
My library covered this book with contact paper, just in case the contents alone didn’t remind me of fourth through eighth grade.
Tiana Hadnt
Nov 25, 2018 rated it liked it
So....I finally finished this. It’s barely a ⭐️⭐️⭐️ read for me. More like ⭐️⭐️1/2. Let me explain.

This book was marketed as a trip down memory lane for those of us who grew up reading and loving the mass produced YA (though that term didn’t really exist then) from the 80s and 90s. It would talk about loads of favorite titles and basically just be a nostalgia-fest. And in a very specific way it did that. So many titles and authors I loved, and so many new ones for me to go search for. I could po
...more
Eva B.
May 07, 2020 rated it liked it
This is definitely a case of "it's not you, it's me". I didn't care much about 80s teen fiction going in (I read it mostly since my mom and my younger sister both really enjoy it) and this book didn't do much to change my mind on it, although I'm tempted to check out the more diverse works. I'm Gen Z, and I don't really have the nostalgia connected to any of these books, so I really would've liked for some more explanation on the books as opposed to rapid-fire name dropping.
All in all a good non
...more
Katie
So overall I liked this a lot, but at times, it was too snarky for me. Like, for sure I want a book like this to deal with lack of diversity and problematic approaches to serious issues, but I'm not here for making fun of ridiculous plots. I'm here to be nostalgic!
Alexis
May 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019
This book was completely hilarious and will be a trip down nostalgia lane for any woman who grew up in the 1980s and 1980s and read A LOT. I read a lot of varied things, so I did not hit all of the titles mentioned in this book. However, I did read quite a few. The author also has some great turn of phrases and I laughed out loud several times. It was amazing how much I remember when these book titles were shown to me again. This book is also full of covers, so you can check out bad 1980s and 19 ...more
vicky
Dec 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
Oh, this was great!
“Are you a mature, sensible individual who cares about mature, sensible things like your 401(k) and gum health – but who also cares about those poor dopes who kept moving to Fear Street, even though it had a well-documented murder problem?”


Umm, yes.

I have been on a bit of a 90s teen horror binge this year (and not only for Halloween), in part thanks to Hey Little Thrifter and the amazing Teenage Scream podcast hosted by Heather Parry and Kirsty Logan.

Paperback Crush consis
...more
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