Seventeenth Summer By Maureen Daly


This week: from the archives!

Originally posted on Lost Classics of Teen Lit, 1939-1989:

This week, we’re going to start at the beginning, literally.  First published in 1942 and continuously in print ever since, Maureen Daly’s Seventeenth Summer is widely credited with being the very first work of YA Fiction, the genre that would go on to spawn a gazillion age-inappropriate romances, would-be Olympic Ice Dancers and the Wakefield Twins.

Seventeenth Summer Dust Jacket

Background: Written by the precociously talented Daly when she herself was 17 years old and published before she was 21, Seventeenth Summer is an interesting read in the wake of  Fifteen, and otherbooks which make a convincing case that being a teenager has been pretty much the same since the dawn of time (or at least since the mid-20th Century). In contrast, the contemporary reader picking up Seventeenth Summer unaware of its vintage is going to feel like she has been abruptly dropped down amongst the Moon-people. …

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Movie Madness and/or Mania: Hell’s Highway, The True Story of Highway Safety Films (Bret Wood, 2003)


Bret Wood’s documentary on the gory Driver’s Ed movies that are fondly (or traumatically) remembered by Baby Boomers and Gen-Xer’s opens by acknowledging that a big part of the appeal is the urban legend factor: even students who never took driver’s ed in high school still have stories of a friend or a friend-of-a-friend who threw up or fainted on “movie day.”

Rick Prelinger, the foremost historian on “ephemeral” (educational, industrial, advertising and amateur) films is interviewed on the sudden ascendance of classroom “social guidance” short films after World War II, when the proven effectiveness of military training films (and a surplus of projection equipment), and the looming menace of juvenile delinquency inspired films dealing with topics from dating to manners to personal hygiene. While drivers’ safety films date back to the 1930s, they had been marketed to adults. Then, in 1959 the Highway Safety Foundation, based out of Mansfield, Ohio released Signal 30, the first film intended to scare teenage drivers safe. Continue reading

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Checking In With The Imaginary Summer Book Club: Rebecca By Daphne du Maurier

(Click here for information on the 2015 edition of Molly’s Imaginary Summer Book Club Featuring Classics of Women’s Literature. As all of the four selected titles have filmed adaptations, we will be looking at the movie versions as we go along. This month, the June selection, Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca.)


I tend to buy into the speculation that the Gothic genre got a shot in the arm courtesy of World War II, when women might be hastily marrying men they hardly knew, or found husbands returning home “not quite themselves”. Rebecca remains the most famous variation on the theme, due in part to it being adapted as Alfred Hitchcock’s first Hollywood movie, the Academy Award winner for 1940.

Last night I dreamt I went to Manderly again…

Begins both novel and movie, as the nameless heroine, a young English woman working as a paid companion to a vulgar American tourist in Monte Carlo, describes her meeting and hasty marriage to Maximilian de Winter, a mysterious widower twice her age, and her failure to adjust to her duties as the new lady of the manor. Continue reading

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No Coins, Please By Gordon Korman

How much trouble can six 11-year -old campers cause on a tour across the U.S.A.?

No Coins Please

Background: Canadian writer Gordon Korman retains a cultish appeal among a certain segment of Middle Readers, in part because (as stated in the Scholastic Book Services biographical blurbs) “he wrote his first book, This Can’t Be Happening at McDonald Hall! when he was twelve years old”.

Korman had published a half-dozen books by the time he graduated from high school, including the hysterically funny summer camp tale I Want to Go Home! (the Citizen Kane of the genre, which would make Joel Schwartz’s contribution the literary equivalent of The Beast of Yucca Flats…)

Three years later, at the tender age of 19, Korman would publish another book very much in the same vein, featuring another dry-witted, overly-gifted young hero whose scheming nearly drives his camp counselors to a nervous breakdown. Continue reading

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Upchuck Summer By Joel L. Schwartz

What promised to be Richie’s best summer ever is turning into one giant disaster thanks to A-Number-One Nerd, Chuck.

Upchuck Summer

So, the basic questions I start with when writing these pieces is “How does this story reflect the time in which it was written?” and the follow-up “Why was this deemed a suitable subject matter at the time for a YA readership?” (Sometimes the latter comes out more as ‘WHY WHY OH GOD WHY WOULD THIS EVER BE DEEMED A SUITABLE SUBJECT MATTER FOR ANYONE???’) Continue reading

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Ten-Boy Summer By Janet Quin-Harkin

If Jill wins the contest, she’ll lose Craig forever…

Ten Boy Summer

The number of different authors means that Bantam’s Sweet Dreams romances vary in quality; in this case the author keeps the focus on the wildly divergent personalities of the heroines and their wacky schemes, so it falls firmly into the “not as asinine as you would expect” category.

The Plot:  Narrated by shy and sensible Jill Gardner, she opens by explaining that after an anti-climactic Junior Prom, she and her impulsive BFF Toni have decided to dump their boring steady boyfriends. Toni suggests they spend the summer before their senior year engaged in a little gentlewomanly wager, to see who can get dates with ten new boys first. Jill is skeptical, but has a long history of going along with Toni’s crazy ideas, even when they cause her more headaches than they are worth. Continue reading

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