Seventeenth Summer by Maureen Daly
My second book of the year was Maureen Daly's Seventeenth Summer, which was a required book for my Literature and Resources for Young Adults course (this is going to be a theme for the next four months or so; I have very reading-heavy courses yet again this semester). The book was published in 1942, but I believe it's set during the 1930s, mostly because there's no mention whatsoever of WWII. The book is set in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, which amused me because my mom was born in a small town in Wisconsin (although not in the 1930s :-P).
Slight spoilers follow.
The main character of this book is Angie, who is the protagonist. The book is basically a recounting of Angie's "seventeenth summer", during which time she meets Jack, a popular boy from town, and proceeds to fall in love with him (and him with her). The book is very description-heavy; the weather is nearly tangible, as are Angie's feelings. Angie comes from a well-to-do home (she has two older sisters, Margaret and Lorraine, and a younger sister, Kitty), whereas Jack is solidly working class (his family owns a bakery in town). The book has some class distinction in it, especially when Jack comes over for dinner and doesn't have the best table manners (Angie actually freaks out pretty significantly over things that honestly aren't that big of a deal, imo), but it's mostly about Angie's feelings and the craziness first love can cause. For instance, there's lots of time spent on her feelings as she waits for the phone to ring, for Jack to call her and ask her out. While Jack and Angie kiss, it's written in a way that, if you blinked, you'd miss it completely, so that's why I can't call this book a romance. And yet, the two characters do love and care about each other, almost from the very first date.
There's also a lot of discussion about how, prior to dating Jack, Angie wasn't popular and was ignored by the other kids in town. She spends a lot of time musing on how she used to not fit in, but now does thanks to Jack.
I felt that the book read incredibly slow, though. There's so MUCH description that the plot – which was sort of slow and sensual anyway – was bogged down. I kept waiting for something to HAPPEN and it … didn't. That's not to say I didn't like the book, because I did, but I don't think it's something I ever would have picked up on my own, and if I were a teen today, I can't imagine it would even cross my radar, no matter how influential it was when it was written. The end, however, did make me cry a bit, when Angie goes away to college in Chicago and Jack and his family are preparing to move back to Oklahoma. The farewell at the train station was kind of heartbreaking without being over-the-top.
So, it was a decent book, but nothing spectacular. Hopefully that won't continue to be a trend; I am hoping that something on the required reading list will be really fantastic, as I am always looking for great reads.
Currently reading: A Very Long Engagement by Sébastien Japrisot, The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier