Anyone who’s read my previous posts can guess how old I am.  Born at the tail end of the 60s, I was blessed to spend all my formative years of high school and college in a single decade.   A quarter of my life has been dominated by the Smurfs, Dippity-Doo hair gel, and U2, not to mention Ronald Reagan. And all my cultural references show it.  I like nothing better than laughing through an entire episode of Everybody Hates Chris and then not explaining any of the 80s references to my ten year old son.  He’d never get the Billy Ocean vs Michael Jackson debate anyway.

It isn’t my 25th high school reunion that has me revisiting the 80s, but the release of the book You Couldn’t Ignore Me if You Tried: The Brat Pack, John Hughes, and Their Impact on a Generation by Susannah Gora.  Sixteen Candles can still bring tears to my eyes, but a whole book on how we all wanted to be Ferris Buehler? Yes, we’ve lived long enough to see an 80s rebound.  Although nothing can explain a remake of the A-Team, this might account for the number of 80s based coming of age stories popping up on the shelves.  A sampling includes:

Model Home by Eric Puchner
In 1985, a family of five uprooted from Wisconsin must move into one of their father’s dismal Southern California model homes when his real estate scheme goes bust.

Sag Harbor by Colson Whitehead
A love of roller disco and Dungeons and Dragons makes the only African-American at a New York prep school a social pariah.  Escaping to the African-American beach community at Sag Harbor offers a chance of finding a way to “fit in”.

Black Swan Green by David Mitchell
The backwater of Worcestershire, England in 1982 finds teenage Jason enjoying his first Duran Duran album and the joys of a first kiss amidst the darkness of the Falklands war and his parent’s slow motion divorce.

Rockin’ the Bronx by Larry Kirwan
Looking to find his girlfriend and return to Ireland, Sean struggles to maintain his musical dreams in the drug addled world of the 1980s Bronx.

How I Paid for College: A Novel of Sex, Theft, Friendship and Musical Theater by Marc Acito
Left with no way to pay for Julliard when his father finds a trophy wife, Edward must resort to scamming him out of the money all while practicing for a high school production of Grease.

Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok
Having emigrated with her mother from Hong Kong, Kimberly Chang claws her way from the squalid sweatshops of 1980s Brooklyn to an elite private school.

True, the angst of the teenage years is universal and cuts across decades, but it still means more when you have something to latch on to, even if it is the theme song from Breakfast Club.

What book or movie truly takes you back to your teen years?

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4 Responses

  • EJ Posted May 28th, 2010

    This cracks me up – although the book about the kid who loves roller disco and d&d sounds intriguing, I have no desire to revisit the 80s. That decade needs to slip quietly into the past! Maybe our kids will enjoy reads like this someday in the same way that our generation seems to love historical fiction about the 40s.

  • Leah Posted May 29th, 2010

    It was all about Titanic and terrible Nicolas Cage action movies (Con Air, Face/Off, The Rock). Now it’s the other James Cameron (Avatar) and comic book action movies. I suppose things don’t change all that much.

    But the biggest difference between teen movies in the 80s and those in the 90s is that almost all of those in the 90s had the obligatory mass dance scene (Michael Jackson-style). Other than that, just repackaged Brat Pack stuff: misfit, jock, hot girl, nerd, etc.

  • AJP Posted May 29th, 2010

    I loved Sag Harbor! It lacked a little bit on the plot side of things, but the atmosphere that Whitehead creates is terrific.

  • Mark Vice Posted June 12th, 2010

    I love it!