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Becky's Readers' Advisory Challenge: 1980s teen romance

by Becky C | Jul 30, 2018
One of my favorite types of questions at the reference desk involves investigating what book a person is looking for when they only remember a few details -- the type of book, a general outline, maybe a character's name.  Cover details can also be helpful.  Between the wealth of online resources available, the fact that I personally read a lot, and the fact that I'm acquainted with a lot of people who read a lot, it's rare to not be able to match the remembered details to the book.  It's not always a fast discovery -- the fewer the details, the longer it tends to take.  There are instances, however, when even a wealth of remembered details do not lead to an immediate answer.  

Recently, I decided to put my readers' advisory skills to the test.  There are a few books that I read as a teenager back in the 1980s that I remember better than books I read just last year.  I'm not referring to the required reading in English class, either, although I can still feel my heart's reaction to the The Pigman by Paul Zindel.  I'm referring to the mass market paperbacks that I could typically finish in an afternoon. 

One book I remember particularly well was about a girl named Marnie and a boy named Lucas.  While their parents were friends, they were not.  When the story began, they lived in a city.  Then, both sets of parents decided that it would be best to move to the country, together.  They buy a farm and share a house.  Marnie is devastated -- at first.  But somewhere along the way, she discovers that she has feelings for Lucas.  Given their prior antagonistic relationship, this is awkward.  She pretends to knit a sweater for herself, but deliberately sizes it to him, so that the obvious thing to do is to give it to him.

That's a fair amount of detail, right?  I even vaguely remembered the cover of the book -- I remembered that the girl was a brunette and the guy was blond.  But I could not remember the title or the author.  So, I approached it the way I would any other question like this one.  I first tried keyword searches -- many library and bookstore records include basic summaries.  No luck. No luck with NoveList either.

Next, I turned to my good friend, Google.  I began with a Google image search for 1980s "teen romance" "book covers"; I saw many covers I remembered, but not the one I was looking for.  I created a keyword search for "1980s teen romance fiction" and received several results.  Goodreads has a Teen Romance of the 1980s list and I scanned it first.  I clicked a few titles that seemed promising but didn't find a match.  If I had scanned the Goodreads list for Out of Print '80s Teen Series, I would have found my book, but I passed that list by -- and I'm glad I did.  Why?  Because my longer search led me to discover an amazing blog called Cliquey Pizza.  It hasn't been updated since 2014, but its posts live on, and if you are interested in teen fiction from the 1980s, it's a treasure trove of information.  The blogger evidently loved teen fiction and wrote a series of detailed posts focusing on the popular series from that decade. 

While scrolling down a  post published on February 5, 2010, titled 80's Wildfire Teen Romances, I saw it.  The cover featured a blond guy in a flannel shirt with his arms around a brunette in a country-western shirt.  I remember wishing that guy would enroll in my high school -- and since I'm a brunette, it was easy to picture myself as the girl on the cover. And, if there was any doubt that this was The One, it was erased the minute I read the description the blogger had included:  

An April Love StoryToday,” My father announced, “I bought a farm in North Carolina. We’re leaving the city, Marnie.  We’re going back to the land.” Back to the land?  Leaving the city? Marnie Macdonald can’t believe her ears, her parents must be kidding. Worse, they’re going with the Petersons…sharing a house with them. And Marnie can’t stand their son Lucas. At first. But by April, when the MacDonalds and Peterson’s have lived and worked together for almost a year, Marnie finds herself head-over-heels in love with Lucas! Now if Lucas would only notice.

The book in question is An April Love Story by Caroline B. Cooney.  We don't have a print copy in the system but it's available online via Hoopla.  Like my teenage self, I read it in an afternoon, and I'm pleased to say that it has stood the test of time.  I loved it then and I love it now. 

What about you?  Are there books you have fond memories of but you just can't recall the title or the author?

Becky CBecky likes to read … A LOT. When she’s not reading, she likes to pretend that she can garden. Her favorite books are The Spellman Files by Lisa Lutz and The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman..
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