Kara Jesella and Marisa Meltzer, “How Sassy Changed My Life”

I was a little too young to have witnessed Sassy‘s heyday, but it’s practically impossible to not be aware of this teen magazine that didn’t hesitate to push buttons and challenge authority. It was around from 1988 to 1996 in various incarnations, and this book presents a pretty comprehensive history of its ups and downs.

Published: 2007, 144 pp.
Obtained via: Library
Date started: 12.7.07
Date finished: 12.9.07
What I liked: First off, the design is gorgeous. It’s magazine-size and each chapter is punctuated by what I believe to be issues of Sassy stood on end on a scanner. OK, aside from the design, I liked learning about all the trials and tribulations of this seminal magazine and its place in third-wave feminism. The authors got quotes from most everyone who worked on the magazine, and intersperses some gushy anecdotes from fans.
What I didn’t like: I know this book’s aimed at the Sassy fanatic, but there were a couple times when I couldn’t make sense of things because it was assumed all readers were starting with the same background knowledge. I was expecting more of a critical history of the magazine (I don’t know why, considering the subtitle is “A Love Letter to the Greatest Teen Magazine of All Time”), so some of the overtures felt excessive, and there were a couple points where I felt major exaggerations were being made. Also—the authors refer to Sassy as an arbiter of indie culture throughout the book, but I didn’t really think “indie” as such existed in the late 80s and early 90s… wouldn’t that have been “alternative”? (Which was the parent or elder sibling of indie, but still.)
Final thoughts: I really want to read some back issues of Sassy and all the other early 90s teen magazines now. I’ll have to check my library, because early issues are going for $15+ on eBay…


  1. Jaclyn

    Actually, as teen, I remember distinctly disliking Sassy. Even when I was like 10, I could sense that it appeared to be trying much too hard. My fav teen magazine actually came out a few years after Sassy bit the dust, I believe: Teen People. It actually had real stories and profiles, which I enjoyed more than top beauty buys and tips on how to make sure your best friend doesn’t take your boyfriend.

  2. gracedobush

    I’m guessing that you might have seen the later issues of Sassy… According to the book, the last year or two was a huge change from its origins. Once it was bought by another company in ’95 or so, they started running diet and makeup stories, which they had entirely banned at the beginning.

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