Book Excerpt from “’90s Kids”

A book excerpt from 90s kids.
Meet Bex! She’s the captain of her high school’s drumline, a huge fan of ’80s music and movies, and the only teen in 2006 without a cell phone! But she won’t need one when she gets sent back in time to 1989 in “’90s Kids,” a new young-adult novel available on

By the time the West Plainfield Marching Band was lining up outside the North Media University stadium and preparing for its last performance of 2005, the sky was a transitional shade of medium blue. But the setting sun apparently had no effect on Jackowski’s eyesight, Bex realized, when she found herself face-to-face with a familiar mustached authority figure.

“Goshdarnit, Rebecca!” His voice boomed though his face was mere inches from hers. He was so close that she could smell the egg salad that he’d likely had for lunch. “What did I tell you about wearing makeup in uniform?!”

“It’s Bex,” she muttered. She knew that Mr. Jackowski probably couldn’t hear her. But Bex had reminded him of her preferred name so many times that if he couldn’t remember it, that was his own goshdarn fault.

“You’re supposed to be the captain!” he yelled again, making Bex grateful for the brim of her shako serving as a small barrier to Jackowski’s nasty egg and onion breath. “How are you going to set an example for the freshmen when you can’t even follow the rules yourself? We are ambassadors of our school, Rebecca! We have an image to uphold! We’re not just one high school! We’re here representing the entire greater Media City area! And …” Jackowski paused for a moment. His eyes darted past Bex’s shako and toward her ears. “What the fudge is this?!”

Bex was used to Jackowski saying things like, “What the fudge?” or “Let’s give a goshdarn good performance,” or “Let’s get our rears in gear,” but for some reason, his censored language did nothing to make his anger less grating.

Bex knew exactly what the object of Jackowski’s fudge was this time around. His eyes focused on the three silver stud earrings lining each earlobe.

“Jewelry too? Good thing I didn’t make you drum major, or you’d have shown up at band camp with a goshdarn face tattoo!”

“Sorry, Mr. Jackowski,” Bex said. “I got the ear piercings last week as an early Christmas gift from my dad. They’re too new to take the studs out yet.”

That was at least half-true. The earrings themselves weren’t the gift; Bex’s dad had told her that this year’s present was finally allowing her to get additional piercings. That wasn’t really much of a gift, especially when most of the other kids her age were getting cell phones for the holidays. But as one of the only poor kids in West Plainfield and one of the only kids in her school raised by a single dad, Bex didn’t really want to draw attention to the fact that her dad couldn’t afford to pay for the piercings and earrings themselves. That price was covered by a few weeks’ worth of saved wages from Bex’s past summer job as cashier at one of West Plainfield’s lesser-known supermarkets.

Apologizing to Jackowski always felt like admitting defeat. What Bex really wanted to say to him was, “You’re supposed to be an ambassador to our school. What is the entire Midwest region of band directors going to think about that half-dead caterpillar sleeping on your upper lip?” But for the sake of saving her nostrils from another olfactory assault, Bex kept her mouth shut.

Thankfully, before Jackowski could give Bex another retort, a pimply university student in an NMU-branded polo ran over to the band and shouted, “West Plainfield, you warm up in five!”

The evening passed quickly as the band performed and then watched other groups without Bex having another negative encounter with Jackowski. Despite West Plainfield’s devastating loss to a performing arts school from Michigan, Bex remained optimistic as she headed home that night.

Visit for your own copy of the novel in e-book, paperback, or hardcover.

Illustration and book cover by Erik Evensen.

About author

Savy Leiser

Savy Leiser is a Chicago-based author, journalist, and freelance editor. In addition to writing for Halftime Magazine, she is the author of the “Furever Home Friends” children’s book series. Savy graduated in 2015 from Northwestern University, where she was a member of the Wildcat Marching Band. She is currently pursuing her Master’s in Writing and Publishing at DePaul University.

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