QUIZ: Pick Your Favorite ’90s Movies and Get a Book Rec

Books

Steph Auteri is a journalist who has written for the Atlantic, the Washington Post, Pacific Standard, VICE, and elsewhere. Her more creative work has appeared in Creative Nonfiction, under the gum tree, Poets & Writers, and other publications, and she is the Essays Editor for Hippocampus Magazine. Her essay, “The Fear That Lives Next to My Heart,” published in Southwest Review, was listed as a Notable Essay in Best American Essays 2021. She also writes bookish stuff here and at the Feminist Book Club, is the author of A Dirty Word, and is the founder of Guerrilla Sex Ed. When not working, she enjoys yoga, embroidery, singing, cat snuggling, and staring at the birds in her backyard feeder. You can learn more at stephauteri.com and follow her on Insta/Threads at @stephauteri.

I’m at a point in my life where — when it comes to movies — I’m perpetually five years behind the rest of the general population. Promising Young Woman? Haven’t seen it yet. Werewolves Within? I’ve been meaning to watch that. Rocketman? I’ll get there. (I promise; I have a spreadsheet.)

Once upon a time, though, I was all about watching movies — particularly in the ’90s, when I was making my way through high school and early college, puzzling out my identity, figuring out who I wanted to be. This was a time when the movies I watched said something about who I was.

Now, the books I read do that.

(I’m still not cool.)

Anyway. I recently went on a trip down memory lane, remembering all the fantastic films I’d watched in the ’90s. So much goodness!

If you, like me, now prioritize your book time over your movie time — but feel a twinge of nostalgia for ’90s cinema — I’ve got the quiz for you. Just pick your favorite ’90s movies and get a book rec.

Results: Pick Your Favorite ’90s Movies and Get a Book Rec

cover of Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin

Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin

It looks like you enjoy stories about fame, ambition, complicated friendships, and the gaming world. Stories that give you glimpses into the future. That dabble in science and tech. In this novel, two college friends become collaborative video game designers, hitting it big and riding the dizzying rollercoaster of fame, joy, tragedy, betrayal, and, underneath it all, a fierce love.

Little Fires Everywhere book cover

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

I see that you, too, are aware of the dark underbelly that exists in the suburbs…and that you enjoy seeing those secrets come to life. That or you appreciate stories that delve into differences of race and class. In this novel, a single mother and her daughter move to a suburb in ’90s-era Cleveland, where the mom is hired to work for an upper-class woman who considers herself to be quite forward-thinking. As the lives of the two families intertwine, with members from both families becoming involved in the local custody battle of a Chinese American baby, the dynamic between everyone becomes far more volatile, hurtling ever closer to disaster.

Burn the Negative by Josh Winning book cover

Burn the Negative by Josh Winning

Into mysterious curses, slasher flicks, and B-horror movies with a dark sense of humor? This might be the book for you. Where Winning’s previous book, The Shadow Glass, was an homage to the ’80s, Burn the Negative is all about the ’90s. In this work of horror, a journalist is sent to cover the remake of a supposedly cursed ’90s horror film. Unbeknownst to others, she was a child actor in that film, though afterward, she disappeared, changing her identity. Now, as folks start dying again, she can’t help but wonder if the curse is still alive and well.

cover of This Time Tomorrow by Emma Straub

This Time Tomorrow by Emma Straub

I love a good time loop / alternate reality story. So, it seems, do you. Or maybe what you really love are stories where folks living stagnant lives are given second chances at getting themselves unstuck…with or without the help of time travel. In Straub’s novel, you get both. On the eve of her 40th birthday, Eve is unable to get back into her apartment and instead falls asleep in a shed. When she wakes up, it’s 1996, and she’s just turned 16. This throws Alice for a loop (hehe), and she suddenly begins to rethink the path she’s taken in life. More importantly, though, she gains a new appreciation for the relationship she has with her dad, and, as she continues to travel back and forth through time, this relationship only deepens.

Cover of Big Girl

Big Girl by Mecca Jamilah Sullivan

Based on your results, it looks like you’re into awkward coming-of-age stories and complicated intergenerational relationships. This novel has that in spades. Based in ’90s Harlem, this story centers around Malaya, an eight-year-old whose mother and grandmother have high expectations about what it means to be a young lady. Malaya’s weight, especially, concerns them. As Malaya struggles to fit into a world that seems ill-suited to her hunger, facing family tragedy in the process, she’s forced to grow up fast.

we sold our souls cover (black background with red flame and a red electric guitar at the bottom)

We Sold Our Souls by Grady Hendrix

Into demons, witchcraft, and heavy metal? The sad sack protagonist of this occult horror is stuck in the past, pining after the near-success she had in the ’90s as the lead guitarist for a heavy metal band. But when an act of violence leads her to suspect that the lead singer of that band purposefully sabotaged their chances, she goes on a journey to confront him, only to find that maybe — just maybe — he sold his soul to the devil? And not only that, but the worst is still to come.

Heavy Vinyl Comic Book Cover

Heavy Vinyl by Carly Usdin, Nina Vakueva, Irene Flores, Rebecca Nalty, and Jim Campbell

You seem to be into everything from workplace shenanigans to queer crushes to kicking butt, and, well, this book has it all. When I first picked up issue #1 of this limited series, I immediately got all the Empire Records vibes. Set in New Jersey circa 1998, Heavy Vinyl is about a group of teens working at a local record store who also happen to be members of a girl vigilante fight club (!). Will the new girl, Chris, fit in? Does the girl she’s crushing on like her back? Can they thwart a massive, music-based conspiracy? So ridiculous and so so so much fun.

My Riot book cover - illustration of three bandmates in a Polaroid frame, with the title written on the bottom of the Polaroid as if in marker

My Riot by Rick Spears and Emmett Helen

Are you drawn toward stories of band life? You are so going to love this graphic novel. When My Riot opens, it’s 1991, and 17-year-old Valerie Simmons is chugging along through an average suburban life, landing her first job at an ice cream shop and training to be a ballerina. But then, a rookie police officer murders a Salvadorian man, sparking two days of rioting by Black and Latino youth in the Mount Pleasant neighborhood of Washington, D.C., and Valerie begins to question the safe little bubble she’s lived in her entire life. At about the same time, she meets the young woman who will become her best friend, and they start their own punk band. The rest of the graphic novel takes readers through a fictionalized accounting of what most groups must have experienced during the Riot Grrrl movement, and it grabs your attention from start to finish.

Does this quiz have you itching for more ’90s-tastic reads? Check out these nine books about coming of age in the ’90s, or enjoy the nostalgia-fest that is this list of ’90s teen book series you may have forgotten.

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