Malls and monsters, glamour shots and aerobicizing, neon lights and everyone’s dad Steve Harrington in a jaunty sailor suit: who else is still shook by the Stranger Things season three trailer? If you’ve spent the day riding high on 80s nostalgia, here are five 1980s-set books to read while listening to “Teenage Wasteland” (yes, I know it’s a 70s song) on repeat.
Weetzie Bat, by Francesca Lia Block
Block’s punk heroine dances to the music of X, drinks pink champagne on the beach, and drives past the jacaranda trees of a mystical, magical Los Angeles with her best friend, Dirk. While it takes place in the 80s, Weetzie‘s setting is more dependent on the Shangri-la gilding of Block’s hypersensual prose. But the music, the clothes, and the slang pulsing through it bear an unmistakable 80s stamp. Give it to your favorite 80s-nostalgic (or 80s-curious) reader of YA—he/she will thank you later. (Maybe much later. Thanks, dad!)
Eleanor & Park, by Rainbow Rowell
Eleanor and Park meet on a school bus, and fall in love over comic books and mix tapes filled with songs like “Love Will Tear Us Apart” and “How Soon Is Now?” The story transcends its time and place (1980s Omaha), but the period details make the misery of Eleanor, and the redemption of her and Park’s love, so real you’ll want to wrap yourself in them (and start reading right back from the beginning).
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Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, by Benjamin Alire Saenz
In concise, poetic prose, Saenz traces the arc of Aristotle and Dante’s connection, as it grows from new friendship into something more. To become who he really is, both with Dante and on his own, introverted Ari has to overcome a stultifying family life and his own expectations for himself. He risks life and limb for outgoing, bighearted Dante, and braves a journey of self-discovery that is mesmerizing, wildly satisfying, and utterly assured. This book, set in 1980s Texas, will make your heart will grow three sizes.
Tell Me No Lies, by Adele Griffin
Griffin’s latest plays out against a 1980s backdrop, as heroine Lizzy navigates first love, a heady new friendship, and her first forays into the art scene and city life of Philadelphia. In her last year of high school, Lizzy’s on the edge of independence and rebelling against her chosen path for the first time. She faces also the sharp discovery of the damaging power of secrets, and how quickly everything can unravel when they come to light.
Tell the Wolves I’m Home, by Carol Rifka Brunt
Evoking the days of the AIDS crisis, when the disease’s name still often went unspoken, this adult crossover novel explores the aching grief of fourteen-year-old June, bereft after the death of her beloved Uncle Finn. Her loss is complicated by the fact that he was also (in her secret heart) her first romantic love. When his lover, dying of the same disease that killed his partner, reaches out to June, she finds solace in knowing someone who loved her uncle as much as she did, and juggles their tentative, hidden friendship with the pain of distant parents, a changing bond with her sister, and the sense that she was born in the wrong place and time.