1970s -- fiction

Tales of the Madman Underground by John Barnes

Tales of the Madman Underground by John Barnes

Tales of the Madman Underground is not the feel-good read of this or any other year, and yet I am completely enchanted with its accuracy of teenage desperation. It fills me with hope to see how author John Barnes has so succinctly summed up the powerlessness and determination of youth.

If I Ever Get Out of Here by Eric Gansworth

If I Ever Get Out of Here by Eric Gansworth

If I Ever Get Out of Here centers around Lewis Blake, a Native American teenager in a gifted junior high program. Lewis might be academically successful, but he has no friends. All his white classmates don't have much to say to Lewis, and all of the kids from the reservation are just in the regular classes.

It is 1976, and living outside of Buffalo, New York, Lewis wonders if the area's teachers are going to be surprised when they find that the Native American kids are not that excited about the country's Bicentennial celebration. His family has called this land "home" for much longer than a mere two hundred years.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

The Ocean at the End of the Lane

The Ocean at the End of the Lane, by Neil Gaiman, is a touching blend of family drama and otherworldliness. He wrote it for his wife, who does not care so much for extreme fantasy, and so he decided to include many realistic details from his own childhood. But he enriched that beginning with dark and horrific drama, as well as beauty and wisdom, and ultimately gave it an elemental, magical grounding.

The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer

The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer

Summer is almost here and many children will be heading to camp. Most parents try to find a camp that will speak to their children’s interests or talents. In the year of the Watergate scandal and Nixon’s resignation, six campers at an arts camp called Spirit-in-the-Woods decide to call themselves, with typical teenaged self-absorption, The Interestings. At camp, everybody gets a trophy for participation, but once they pass through the door into adulthood, who will be ones to keep up with their talents and who may be the one to show it to the world?

Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan

Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan

In its first chapters, Sweet Tooth begins like Dickens’ David Copperfield.  Serena Frome (rhymes with Plume) tells of her unremarkable childhood and how she ends up working as a spy for Britain’s MI5. With her blonde and beautiful looks, she is a bit of a Bond Girl and wreaks havoc on the men around her.

A good all-around student, Serena devours novels and wants to do an English degree in a small university, but her housewife mother, in an uncharacteristic fit of feminism, tells her she has a chance of making something of herself by going to Cambridge and doing “maths.” 

The Wild Girls

By Pat Murphy

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It's 1972. Twelve-year-old Joan is sure that she is going to be miserable when her family moves. Then she meets a most unusual girl. Sarah prefers to be called "Fox," and lives with her author dad in a rundown house in the middle of the woods. The two girls start writing their own stories together, and when one wins first place in a student contest, they find themselves recruited for a summer writing class taught by the equally unusual Verla Volante.

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When You Reach Me

By Rebecca Stead

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Four mysterious letters change Miranda's world forever. By sixth grade, Miranda and her best friend, Sal, know how to navigate their New York City neighborhood. They know where it's safe to go, like the local grocery store, and they know whom to avoid, like the crazy guy on the corner. But things start to unravel. Sal gets punched by a new kid for what seems like no reason, and he shuts Miranda out of his life. The apartment key that Miranda's mom keeps hidden for emergencies is stolen. And then Miranda finds a mysterious note scrawled on a tiny slip of paper: I am coming to save your friend's life, and my own. I must ask two favors. First, you must write me a letter. The notes keep coming, and Miranda slowly realizes that whoever is leaving them knows all about her, including things that have not even happened yet.

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Inside Out and Back Again

By Thanhha Lai

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Through a series of poems, a young girl chronicles the life-changing year of 1975, when she, her mother, and her brothers leave Vietnam and resettle in Alabama.
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Wonderstruck

By Brian Selznick

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Having lost his mother and his hearing in a short time, Ben leaves his Minnesota home in 1977 to seek the father he never knew in New York City, and meets Rose, who is also longing for something missing from her life. Ben's story is told in words; Rose's in pictures.

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Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin

Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin

A nubile co-ed is missing from the same small, rural Mississippi town where another young woman had disappeared twenty-five years earlier—the mystery unsolved, her body never found. So begins Tom Franklin’s stellar novel, Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter.

Socially-awkward Larry Ott was 16 years old when Cindy Walker, both beautiful and popular, asked him out on a date. That momentous occasion—at least through Larry’s eyes—was the point when his young life began a downward slide from which it would not recover. Walker was never seen again. Although no evidence was ever found connecting him to the girl’s disappearance, the townspeople unanimously convicted Larry without the benefit of any trial. Shunned and taunted, he became the local pariah.