This afternoon, I got into a discussion with someone about the trend of books set in the 1980s. I’m just going to say it: for the most part, it’s a trend I’m tired of. I wouldn’t mind not seeing it happen for a long time. I may be alone in this sentiment, but I’m sharing it because it’s something that has really started turning me off in book descriptions and when I open a book and find out it’s set in that time period.
I think in a lot of cases, this time period is more nostalgia than it is purposeful in plot. Not always, of course, and in some cases, the setting and nostalgia is integral to the story. There are books which are historical and centered around historical events in the 1980s. I talked about this in a previous post.
The argument for teens reading historical fiction set in the 1980s is a fair one. Except…what happened in the 1980s that’s interesting enough from the historical standpoint to make it such a popular time period to use in YA now?
That there was little access to technology and to the internet is the biggest one, in my mind. And that’s not say that’s why it’s being used. Rather, maybe that’s why we’re seeing so much of it? Historically, much more interesting stuff happened in the 1960s and 1970s, and there aren’t nearly as many YA books set then (at least recently — a few, but not as many as set in the 1980s). In addition, I think there’s something to be said about the pop culture references and potentially the age of the writer and when they came of age themselves. Again, this isn’t meant to be a generalization, but rather, an musing on the possibility of why the 80s.
I preach about how books won’t appeal to every reader and that doesn’t mean there isn’t reader appeal. But I do think there is something worth thinking about or discussing when there are so many books set in the 1980s that are meant to be realistic, as opposed to historical. As someone who was born in the mid-80s and has no recollection, it’s tough enough for me to relate or get all of the pop culture references. So I think then about how it is I sell that setting to teen readers in my library who, well, were born in the mid- and late- 1990s. Of course you sell on the book’s plot and on character and other appeal factors, but setting is an appeal factor.
For me, the 1980s setting is becoming a factor I’m finding less and less appealing.
Here’s a look at a handful of the 1980s-set novels I’ve read or taken note of on the blog published since 2011. Please feel free to add other titles in the comments. I know there are more, especially published in 2012 and coming out this year.