Seventeenth Summer by Maureen Daly
When I picked this book up I assumed I'd be reading a cute YA summer read. In a way the book completely meets those expectations, but that wouldn't quite be the whole story.
From the cover you would assume that this is a contemporary story. The summary does really nothing to tell you anything different. Even the author's biography just mentions the fact that she was in college when she wrote the book, but curiously never mentions what she is doing now. It's only when you look at the copyright date you see that this was actually written in 1942, and after some internet research is considered by some to be the first modern YA book.
The book never comes out and says when everything is taking place. But even if you started reading without knowing, it would probably hit you, when you realize Angie's date, Jack, takes her on a date to a soda shop, where teens are able to order beers without anyone bating an eye. There are no cells phone or internet, instead Angie and her still all wind up waiting by the one phone in the house hoping that their boys will call. Not quite what you expect to see in a modern YA book, so hopefully even though the book is marketed without mentioning the time period, as a reader you would figure it out.
There do seem to be a lot of people complaining that the book is slow and hard to understand because it was written for a different time period. But I didn't find that to be the case, probably because I read a lot of historical fiction. Except while the book is historical, it wouldn't be considered historical fiction since it was written about the 1940s in the 1940s. There are things as a reader that the author assumes we'd know and aren't explained, whereas if it was written for today's reader we'd probably be receiving a little more detail, nor are there any specific historical events that place the book in a specific year. After all to Daly it wasn't history, it was just her life.
What I loved about this book is that even though it was over 70 years ago it still fells current. I can relate to Angie's feeling towards Jack, her sisters, and her feelings on leaving for college. It interesting to see while some things have changed (for instance, Angie taking a train to go to college versus an airplane now) so much has stayed the same.
But while I liked Angie's personally and thoughts she didn't seem to say much. Throughout almost all of her dates with Jack she never seemed to actually talk to him. It isn't till the end of the novel, when finally there seems to be some conversation between the two. I do think part of this could be again when it was written, since in general girls weren't nearly as forward with guys as they are now.
The whole novel has an innocence about it. I don't just mean Angie herself, although she does come off as innocent. But more that looking back I know this story takes place on the brink of World War II. Except the story never once mentions that life is about it change for its characters. It isn't unusual considering a young woman in college in the early 1940s may not have known what was going in, and even if she did there's no way she could have known just what the war would bring. But I can't help but wonder and be worried about what happens for these characters. And if anything I only wish I had a little more closure and knew exactly what the future held for Angie and Jack.
9 hours ago