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  • Writer's pictureAmanda

Reliving the 90's and 2000's with "One in a Millennial" and "Toxic"

It’s no secret that I love the library. The amount of money that I save simply by borrowing books is impressive, but I also love having the ability to stumble upon a book, judge it by it’s cover, and bring it home without worrying if I will like it or not- because it’s free.


A couple of weeks ago, I was browsing the “new non fiction” section when I came across two books that jumped out at me: “One in a Millennial” by Kate Kennedy, and “Toxic” by Sarah Ditum. I flipped open both books to quickly skim the pages, and immediately knew that these were worth reading.

Book covers for "One in a Millennial" and "Toxic"


I read “One in a Millennial” first and was all set to write a blog post just on that book alone, but after I started reading “Toxic” I quickly realized that they both needed to be included in this article. Both books cover the early 2000’s and talk about how pop culture and the timing of the World Wide Web shaped society as we know it today.


Inside cover of "One in a Millennial"

“One in a Millennial” is a very fun read that takes a deep dive into pop culture (music, tv, toys, fashion, etc) throughout Kate’s life, written in essay form, and divided into three sections: 90’s-2000’s, 2000’s-2010, 2010-present. Each section begins with a poem about that era that set the tone and brought me right back to the time:


“Smell the pencil shavings cascading into a trash can

Never step on a skateboard but still wear the Vans

If the words hurt, stack the markers into a lightsaber

Then draw the sun in the top corner of every piece of paper”

The book is full of pop culture references that Kate doesn’t take the time to explain- you either understand them, or you don’t. She loves word play, and I found her really funny. She was born the same year as I was (1987), so a lot of what she wrote about happening at a certain age for her, happened at the same age for me. In fact, our lives paralleled so much, that at times I was thinking “Is this book about me?!”


Back cover of "One in a Millennial"

How My Life Paralleled

with Kate Kennedy’s:


1.     We were born in the same year (1987)

2.     We both have always had a fascination for pop culture

3.     We both didn’t excel in school, and neither of us were "popular"

4.     We are both entrepreneurs

5.     We both made welcome mats (actually though, what are the chances?!)

6.     We both had ectopic pregnancies (again…WHAT are the chances?!)


Am I her, or is she me?



I loved being reminded about some details from my childhood that I had forgotten about (the necklaces with your name on a piece of rice floating in water, TyPiNg LiKe ThIs, Dream Phone…) and appreciated Kate for keeping such detailed diaries used to reference this book. She credits AOL for learning how to type (I always said MSN taught me) and celebrates what it means to be a millennial in a world that has always seemed to roll their eyes at our generation. We were the only generation whose adolescence happened at the same time as the internet, and this book focuses on the way that that timing shaped us- for better or for worse.


 Some of my favourite quotes:


  • “Diamonds are cool, but have you ever come home to a fresh pack of midrange office pens?”

  • “…but it felt exciting at the time to do things adults totally do, like drink a glass of Malibu rum neat so you’ll be warm enough at a party in someone’s heatless garage”


  • “Something about personal rock bottom makes you go back to basics”


  • “I love the girl’s-girl energy of a person who both burns money like it’s nothing with high-end candles, but then saves the jar for crafting purposes”


  • in an essay largely about the Spice Girls: “Not long before I slammed it to the left politically…”

"One in a Millennial" gives context to why we are the way that we are. "We were raised in preparation for a world that no longer exists and are forever trying to navigate the terms". This book had me nodding my head more often than not, and (obviously) taking notes while I did so.


 While “One in a Millennial” mostly celebrates what it meant to grow up in the new millennium, “Toxic” has a very different tone.

Timeline of Events

“Toxic” is written from a feminist perspective that focuses on the lives of “nine women so famous you know them by their first names alone. Britney, Paris, Lindsay, Aaliyah, Janet, Amy, Kim, Chyna, Jen.” Each chapter focuses on one of these women, but often the chapters build on one another and celebrities are intertwined throughout (Justin Timberlake is in Britney and Janet’s chapters, Britney is in Paris’s chapter, Paris is in Kim’s Chapter…).


Sarah wrote “Toxic” from a very fact based view point, and I only noticed her speak in first person in the Amy chapter and the conclusion. The book is very highly researched (there are 67 pages of reference notes at the end), and focuses on events that happened during the “Upskirt Decade” (when it was decided in the court of law that it was perfectly acceptable to take upskirt photos of women). I remember the events discussed in this book, but I was shocked reading them in detail now. As Sarah says in her conclusion:

“I lived through the aughts. I read the blogs. I listened to the music. I participated in the gossip. I laughed at the jokes. And yet, in writing this book, I haven’t felt like I was revisiting familiar territory: I have felt as though I were entering an entirely alien landscape. …with the added confusion that instead of wondering “how could people have thought such things?” I am forced to ask, “how could I have thought such things?”

Say what you will about “woke culture”, but I would like to think that if Amy was stumbling on a stage now, the media wouldn’t get away with laughing at her like they did then. And there is no way that we would let Janet Jackson get raked over the coals while the media pretended Justin Timberlake didn’t grab her shirt in the first place.


Aaliyah’s chapter gave me chills- I was too young in the early 90’s to understand just how creepy the R Kelly relationship with her was, and I don’t remember any of the details surrounding the plane crash that ended Aaliyah’s life. I do remember though, how society always blamed the girl. If a man was having a relationship with a teenager, what was she doing to attract him? If a girl was raped, what was she wearing? If a teenager was pregnant, “she should have kept her legs shut”. This mentality can still be seen somewhat today, but after #MeToo it is much less accepted. R Kelly was only found guilty of sex trafficking in 2021 (!!!), but I would hope that if the accusations that happened in 1994 happened today, it wouldn’t take almost twenty years to press charges and follow through with sentencing. “When MTV reported the marriage story, the item ended with a banter-y sign-off: “Whether or not she’s in legal trouble for passing off fake ID remains to be seen. We will keep you posted.” The story was reported as juicy gossip, rather than a narrative of abuse; there was no suggestion that Kelly might face repercussions for raping a minor, only that Aaliyah could be identified as delinquent”. Unfortunately, this delayed persecution only gave him more time to add victims to his list.


Back cover of "Toxic"

The same questions were asked in Britney’s chapter: “If Britney really was better, what was the justification for her father’s continued ownership of her life? And if Britney was still the fragile young woman everyone had watched coming apart in 2007, how could it be ok for her to be out on public display with each performance?” It seems like society took things at face value, and we are only questioning things in hindsight. Were we just too young to question the headlines of TMZ and Perez Hilton, or did we all live in a time when everything published was accepted as truth with one narrative?


“Toxic” allows us to revisit the Upskirt Decade with the wisdom of #MeToo. We can’t rewrite history, but we can learn from a time that we allowed women’s lives and bodies to be mocked by the media and society for our entertainment.


 I love Pop Culture. I majored in Communication Studies with a focus on Media, Culture, and Society in University, and was often not taken seriously for my interest in commercials, magazine advertisements, and celebrity gossip. Both “One in a Millennial” and “Toxic” focus on how pop culture simultaneously shaped and acted as a mirror to society in the 2000’s. The laugh track in Saved by the Bell every time Jessie stood up for herself and said something feminist helped to create a culture where no one wanted to be called a feminist, and we laughed along with the rest of the world as we watched celebrities abuse drugs and alcohol instead of wondering if they needed help.


The media in the 2000’s was often not questioned. Whether it was a major news network or Perez Hilton’s blog, we often took what was published as truth. We never considered intentions or if photos were edited, and treating women with kindness was definitely not a priority. I personally am not a fan of cancel culture, but I am glad that we hold one another (and the media!) to higher standards now. I am glad to live in a world where mental health is talked about openly, and that we treat addictions as the brain disorders that they are. If only we could have learned these lessons ahead of time…


If you lived, laughed, and loved the 90’s and 2000’s, I highly recommend adding “One in a Millennial” and “Toxic” to your reading list. I learned so much from both of these books, and am so glad I found them at the library when I did!

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