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Bringing a Historical Worldview to the Present, a guest post by Michelle I. Mason

I’ve always been fascinated by time travel, but have you ever noticed how most time travel stories follow a certain pattern?

Like, for example, Back to the Future (one of my personal favorites!):Doc Brown’s goal is to master time travel. Then Doc is killed, and Marty McFly travels to the past by accident. Now Marty spends the entire movie trying to find a way to return to the present.

Or, there’s the other kind of setup, like Doctor Who: A time traveler hops around to different moments, either visiting to learn something and encounter interesting people, or perhaps even to correct a wrong. But still, the end game is to return to the present. They almost never stay in the other time, unless there’s some sort of alternate reality situation.

Of course, there are exceptions. But after watching and reading countless time travel movies, TV shows, and books, I wanted to attempt something different. In Your Life Has Been Delayed, a group of people travel forward twenty-five years, but the end goal is to figure out how to live with what’s happened rather than return to their own time.

Which presented a new challenge. This book is not historical. Except for a few pages in the first chapter, it takes place entirely in the present, but the main character, a seventeen-year-old girl from 1995, has a historical worldview. So, the next step was figuring out how to imagine her reactions to life in an entirely new century.

As someone who lived through the nineties, I started by making my own list of things I thought had changed during the past twenty-five years, but then I had to dive into deeper research. Ask someone what year they started using a particular device regularly or watched a certain show, and they might tell you absolutely, one hundred percent, positively that they know. But when they look it up, they’re off by as many as five years. Because memory and time are tricky.

I tested this out at my launch party a couple of weeks ago with an audience participation game, testing their knowledge of what was around in Jenny’s world on Aug. 2, 1995. It was interesting to see answers from both those who lived through that time and those who’ve learned about it in school or from their parents.

Why don’t we see how all of you do? (Answers follow)

Google

House phone

The Hunger Games

Cell phones

Baby Yoda

Nintendo

Social media

Marvel Universe movies

Pokemon

Amazon

Netflix

Laptops

Titanic (the movie)

Not all of the things listed above are mentioned in Your Life Has Been Delayed, but quite a few of them are. Google, for sure, which came online in 1998, as well as social media, which is a completely foreign concept to my main character, Jenny. The Hunger Games, which Jenny learns about from Dylan, the story’s love interest, sparks an interesting discussion about the rise of young adult novels. House phones and Nintendo were around in 1995, as were cell phones and laptops, although the latter two were not common. And, to clarify, cell phones were not the smart phones nearly everyone uses today. Jenny does end up binge-watching some shows on Netflix, although she’s baffled as to what happened to Blockbuster.

Some of the other questions I just threw in for fun, but here are the answers anyway:

Baby Yoda – no, but old Yoda, yes!

Marvel Universe movies – no

Pokemon – no (1996)

Amazon – technically, yes (July 1995)

Titanic – no (1998)

But just knowing when something became available isn’t an indicator of when it gained widespread popularity or was adopted by a majority of the population. Or, in particular, by my character in suburban St. Louis. For example, the movie Clueless, released July 19, 1995, depicts teens running around with cell phones—but those are super-rich teens in Los Angeles. Teens in suburban St. Louis were more likely to have pagers, if anything.

Computers and the internet are another interesting and nuanced question for teens in 1995. Teens were using computers at home and school quite a lot—to type up papers, to do design work, even learning basic programming. But there’s a difference between computers and the internet, a distinction that’s very clear to Jenny but less so to teens today, who probably can’t imagine a computer that isn’t hooked up to wifi.

One of my main resources for really digging into this difference was my own high school yearbook. Some of my favorite quotes were:

“South’s library has its own modem, though it isn’t used to get onto bulletin board systems.”

“Anytime anyone walked around South, it was a common sight to see a variety of classes learning on a computer. Right now students at PSH use computers in almost every class.”

“Taking advantage of the new Macs, students transfer their thoughts from paper to word processers in the Mac Lab.”

I wonder if these quotes put a nineties teen’s use of technology into perspective for students today, many of whom do the majority of their classwork online, submitting homework through virtual portals even as they’re sitting in a classroom.

Beyond technology, I also researched other everyday things my character would encounter, like fashion, new words that have entered our vocabulary, and even things like the fist bump, which existed in the nineties but didn’t become a widespread greeting until the Obamas popularized it in 2008. But if you ask most people, they probably think they’ve been fist bumping forever. Another one of those memory tricks!

It was fun exploring all the ways Jenny would react to a new century, and if I’d wanted to write a longer book, I could have tackled so many more topics! But, since this was where Jenny’s story ended, I hope readers might consider other ways the world changed over those twenty-five years. Perhaps other passengers, with different backgrounds and experiences, might have returned to find other changes that would impact them more personally. If so, I’d love to hear those discussions, too!

Meet the author

Photo credit: Greg Mason

Michelle I. Mason is the author of Your Life Has Been Delayed and the forthcoming My Second Impression of You (September 2022), both from Bloomsbury YA. Michelle spent ten years as a PR manager promoting everything from forklift rodeos to Hotel Olympics before deciding she’d rather focus on made-up stories. When she isn’t writing, she’s probably reading, watching too much TV, cross-stitching, baking amazing brownies, or playing the violin. Michelle lives in St. Louis with her family.

Website: https://michelleimason.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/michelleimason

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/michelleimason/

Newsletter: https://eepurl.com/hh3lwD

About Your Life Has Been Delayed

Past and present collide in a captivating YA debut about a girl who takes off on a flight and lands . . . twenty-five years later.

When Jenny boards her flight back from New York, the biggest things on her mind are applying to Columbia and reuniting with her brand-new boyfriend. But when she and the other passengers disembark in St. Louis, they’re told that their plane disappeared-twenty-five years ago. Everyone thought they were dead.

The world has fast-forwarded. Three of her grandparents are gone, her parents are old, and her “little” brother is now an adult. There’s so much she’s missed out on, not the least iPhones, social media, and pop culture. When some surprising information comes to light, Jenny feels betrayed by her family and once-best friend. She’s also fighting her attraction to Dylan, a cute and kind classmate who has an unusual connection to her past. And then there’s the growing contingent of conspiracy theorists determined to prove that Flight 237 hides a sinister truth. Will Jenny figure out how to move forward, or will she always be stuck in the past?

Debut author Michelle I. Mason offers a smart and funny high-concept debut about the most unbelievable of life changes-and the parts of yourself that can always stay the same.

ISBN-13: 9781547604081
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
Publication date: 09/07/2021
Age Range: 12 – 17 Years

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  1. […] Titled “Bringing A Historical Worldview to the Present,” the post is about how I approached researching the worldview of a 20th century teen being dropped into the 21st century. You can read the post here: https://www.teenlibrariantoolbox.com/2021/09/bringing-a-historical-worldview-to-the-present-a-guest-… […]

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