Forgive us our nostalgia. All of us. When I was kid, I bemoaned my parents' lionization of the 50s and 60s, but now here I am, approaching middle age, and I'm spending an awful lot of time reflecting on the good-old-days, which we all know were actually the 80s. At least I have an excuse. My latest novel for young readers, The Riverman, is set in 1989. And while it isn't explicit in its pop culture references--sorry, Bobby Brown's "My Prerogative" does not play on the radio during any key scenes--the narrative is infused with atmosphere of the period. These were the days when the Berlin Wall was falling and TV talk shows were warning us that if we didn't die of marijuana addictions then satanic cults would get us in the end. It was the last gasp of hair bands and Porky's movies and the first gasp indie rock and Steven Soderbergh films. A moment of great transition, at least that's what it felt like to a 13-year-old.
As a new generation rolls its collective eyes when I try to assure them that C. Thomas Howell was once a big freakin' deal, I must also remind them that many of the books they're currently reading--the middle grade and young adult novels that sell by the metric ton--were written by authors who came of age in the 80s. The foundations of those novels are built on the films they watched over-and-over on thrice-dubbed VHS tapes. So kids, reconsider some of those Reagan-era gens. And parents, look closer at the novels your kids are reading. You'll find more in common than you realize.