erasing clouds

Chris Colin's What Really Happened to the Class of '93: Start-Ups, Dropouts, and Other Navigations Through an Untidy Decade

book review by tonydoug wright

During the early nineties many American high-school students were told that they were graduating during a time of great opportunities due to changes in the political and social climates. Communism was dead in Europe, a Governor from Arkansas who represented the baby boomers and Generation X won the Presidency, music had moved away from material and shallow excess and moved towards a more serious nature, technology was making everyday life better, and an ugly recession appeared to be in the past. Young people, regardless of their social backgrounds, were given assurances that endless possibilities awaited them in an ever-changing society. There seemed to be nothing to worry about since the Cold War was over and the “Me Me Me” or ”Trickle Down” mentality of the Reagan era was nothing more than a distant memory. For a while the biggest problem facing young people was the Y2K scare. Sadly, as these young Americans entered the Twenty-First century their invincible and optimistic attitudes were all but gone.

For these graduates of the early nineties, disillusionment and despair began with the 2000 Presidential election, an election that was shrouded in controversy due to voting issues in Florida. America saw its darkest hour when attacked on 9/11 by terrorists. Following the 9/11 attacks we saw troops going into combat in Afghanistan and later we entered into a highly debated war in Iraq. War, a poor economy and an uncertain future was what the high school graduates of the early nineties faced. Would they survive? Was everything OK?

Chris Colin, author of What Really Happened To The Class of ’93, set out on a quest to answer these questions and to see what happened to his fellow graduates from the Thomas Jefferson School for Science and Technology (TJ) in northern Virginia. TJ is a “magnet” school for well-to-do kids who seem to have it all but they too were told that they were going out into the real world during an exciting period in history. They too were fed the hype of slacker success and dot com wealth. Colin’s fellow classmates made a mad dash out of the gate following graduation only to see a few stumble towards the finish line just in time for their ten-year reunion.

Colin’s book examines the lives of sixteen students from TJ and how they coped with success, failure, pressure, relationships and everyday life. Colin was successful in finding people that most of us remember from our high school days. We are given a glimpse into a decade long journey for the homecoming queen, the class jerk, the angry young man, the alienated kid, the popular student, the openly gay student, and a few others who seem to fit into those all-to-familiar high school social categories. Some of Colin’s fellow students have incredible and heart-warming stories to tell while a few others have self-absorbed tales that go on ad nauseam. These stories are told with honesty and humor plus they reflect an uneasy transition from adolescence into adulthood. Colin does what he can to put past friendships and differences aside in order to tell a story of a generation that experienced a decade of incredible highs and lows.

The book ends with the anti-climatic TJ ten-year reunion where some of the interviewees are in attendance. But the answers to Colin’s question of “Are we OK?” goes unresolved and one is left to ponder: Is ten years too soon to see if your classmates are doing OK?

What Really Happened To The Class of ’93 does introduce the reader to an assortment of twenty-somethings and their life stories, but it also places the reader into the drama of TJ where we are treated to a high school soap opera of sorts. Like many of us it seems that Colin did have some unresolved issues from high school and this book was partially an attempt at mending fences with a past girlfriend and a class nemesis. Nonetheless, Colin’s What Really Happened To The Class of ’93 is an enjoyable read about how a bunch of Generation X’ers survived the hype of the 90s, survived the horrors of the early 21st Century and found a way to get through the everyday nonsense we all face.

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