If you spent your childhood taking trips to the library and earning those sweet, sweet personal pan pizzas from Book It, then you probably read your fair share of YA book series. Horses, babysitting businesses, impossibly beautiful twins, terminal illnesses, and time-traveling. . .no matter what you were looking for, there was a YA series for you in the ’90s. Ready for a nostalgic trip down memory lane? Let’s recap the most popular of those series, as well as a couple of hidden gems that I almost never hear anyone mention (I will find another Holly’s Heart fan to bond with if it’s the last thing I do).
9. The Saddle Club
Were you a horse girl in junior high? I don’t mean, were you half-human and half-horse. . . I just mean, were you into horses? If you were, then you were definitely into The Saddle Club. The Saddle Club’s slogan might as well have been, “Horse Girls Talkin’ About Horse Stuff.” Apparently the Club is still active, judging by the fancy site, so your Saddle-Club love never has to die.
8. Holly’s Heart
There’s a very high probability that I’m the only person who remembers this series from Beverly Lewis. Holly was a teenage girl dealing with a Brady Bunch-style blended family and typical junior-high drama. I don’t remember any of the actual plots of the Holly’s Heart books, but judging by this cover, Holly has to deal with a best friend who has a crush on A.C. Slater and refuses to use her giant cellphone.
7. The Nancy Drew Files
I can hear you asking, “But weren’t the Nancy Drew books written way before the ’90s?” Yes, you’re correct, but do you remember The Nancy Drew Files, the ’90s spin-off? No? Well, I do. If you’re wondering how The Nancy Drew Files differed from the original series, you can check out an excerpt on Amazon for “Kiss and Tell” (plot summary: “A TASTE OF ROMANCE LEADS NANCY TO A RENDEZVOUS WITH DANGER!”). There’s a black-velvet choker involved, so you can be sure it happened in the ’90s.
6. Fear Street
We all loved Goosebumps in elementary school, right? When we got too old to read about haunted masks, R.L. Stine was there for us with a series that was even scarier: Fear Street. I’ll admit that I didn’t even read very many of these because I was a big huge baby, but with titles like The Secret Bedroom and The Wrong Number, I can only assume they were disturbing. If you want to relive the days of being terrified by R. L. Stine, you’re in luck! There are actually new Fear Street books that are supposedly “more adult and more violent” than the originals. You know what? Maybe I’ll just stick with Goosebumps.
5. The Janie Johnson series (The Face on the Milk Carton)
Poor Janie Johnson. She went through a lot—finding her face on a milk carton, discovering that her parents were actually her grandparents, learning that she was actually kidnapped, etc. A serving of dairy has never caused so much trouble.
4. The Time Traveler’s Quartet
In the ’90s, you couldn’t go wrong with a Caroline B. Cooney book. Not only did she write The Face on the Milk Carton, but she also wrote this series about a time-traveling girl named Annie who is transported back to 1895, where she falls in love with a mega-babe named Strat. It’s basically like Outlander, but with a lot less sex.
3. Lurlene McDaniel books
Maybe these books don’t technically count as a series, since they all had different characters and they weren’t really a continuing story. But since they were all a similar story, I say they totally count. You knew what you were getting into when you picked up a Lurlene McDaniel book. Someone was getting sick and dying, and then you were sobbing your eyes out on the bus ride home from school. This is what we had before The Fault in Our Stars.
2. Sweet Valley High
I’ll admit that I 100% did not understand the appeal of the Wakefield twins when I was a kid. They were popular and beautiful and I was decidedly not either. Once a character insulted another character for “dressing like a fourth grader,” and I was deeply embarrassed because I was a fourth grader. Was Francine Pascal implying that I was a bad dresser? (Yes. I wore a lot of oversized sweatshirts.) But there’s something sort of intoxicating in reading about perfect, popular, blonde twins. If you don’t want to take my word for it, the inimitable Roxane Gay loves Sweet Valley High, too.
1. The Baby-Sitters Club
Was The Baby-Sitters Club the best YA book series of the ’90s? Um, does Kristy Thomas have mad business game? Does Claudia Kishi love candy? Does Stacey McGill have diabetes? Can 11-year-olds be trusted to watch small children as long as it isn’t nighttime? The answer to all of those questions, of course, is yes. The BSC series was great, except for that one chapter in every book that recapped everything about the girls’ lives, but you knew to skip that chapter anyway.