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Seventeenth Summer is a young adult novel written by Maureen Daly and published in 1942. Daly was born in Ireland but grew up in Wisconsin. Before writing Seventeenth Summer she wrote a short story entitled "Sixteen". Daly began writing the novel when she was 17. After graduation from high school Daly attended Rosary College in River Forest, Illinois. She wrote all of her life, as did her three sisters. Maureen Daly died in 2006.
Seventeenth Summer is a book about a 17-year-old girl named Angeline "Angie" Morrow. It takes place in the early 1940s in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. Angie gets asked out on her first date by local high school basketball star, Jack Duluth. They fall in love, knowing that Angie has to leave for college in Chicago in the fall and Jack is moving with his family to Oklahoma to help his uncle with the bakery business. Jack falls in love with Angie, but Angie never says that she loves him back, so the question is, does she? Although Jack spontaneously proposes to Angie at an end-of-summer party, they both know they are too young. The novel ends with a heartfelt goodbye at the train station: Jack gives Angie his class ring and Angie goes away to school, knowing she will never forget Jack or her seventeenth summer.
- Angeline "Angie" Morrow: Main character and narrator of the novel. She dates Jack and the book shows their young love. Her family is very proper and although she starts hanging out with a rougher crowd she remains proper and wholesome throughout the novel. While the book tells a lot about Jack's feelings for Angie, she rarely records herself expressing love to Jack. Is Angie leaving out details as a narrator or is she not the kind of girl that loves out loud?
- Jack Duluth: The star of the high school basketball team and Angie's boyfriend.
- Lorraine Morrow: Angie's sister, who has been away at college and is home for the summer after her sophomore year. She dates a lot in college but not as much while she is home.
- Margaret Morrow: Angie's sister. She is the most popular of all the sisters. She is in with all the right people.
- Martin Keefe: Lorraine's summer boyfriend. He is rude, always asking her out at the last minute and finally standing her up and disappearing.
- Kitty Morrow: Angie's youngest sister, age ten.
- Mrs. Morrow: Angie's mother, a stay-at-home mother with a strong sense of propriety
- Mr. Morrow: Angie's father, a traveling salesman who is not often home
- Art: Margaret's fiance
- Tony Becker: a boy with a reputation for being fast with girls. Angie goes out with him once.
- Jane Rady: The girl Jack used to date off and on. She knows how to act with boys, and this sometimes makes Angie jealous.
- Swede Vincent: Jack's friend who goes sailing with him and Angie
- Fitz: Jack's friend who often goes on double dates with him and Angie
- Margie: A girl in Jack's group of friends, with whom Angie becomes friends. She and Fitz are going steady.
- Dollie: A younger girl who Swede sometimes dates
The main theme is first love. The growth of the love between Jack and Angie is symbolized in the novel by the growth of plants—at the beginning of the summer everything is lush and green, but as it ends the autumn frosts are setting in. The love has a distinct beginning at the start of summer and a distinct death at the end of summer.
There is also a theme of propriety (definition) in the novel. While Jack introduces Angie to a crowd whose behavior conflicts with the way she was raised, she retains her sense of propriety and never becomes a flirt or goes wild. Lorraine does not behave properly (according to the mores of the time), and because of this is embarrassed to be with her own family (first on the Fourth of July, then when she sees Angie and Jack out on a date, and finally when she leaves for school).
The novel also explores the pressure of appearances, or adherence to social norms. Angie often worries about how a girl is supposed to act towards a boy, or how people view her when she goes out without a date. A group of boys called the "checkers" often gather in the drugstore or on the street corner to keep an eye on who is dating whom; Angie considers people to be important if the checkers pay attention to them. When she starts dating Jack, she is pleased to be seen dating and to be a part of the in crowd.
Literary significance and criticism
Some critics claim that "the modern period of young adult literature is often said to have begun with Seventeenth Summer". Daly is a teen writing for teens and her work influenced other writers to write specifically with the young adult audience in mind. Dwight Burton claims that, because Daly was so near adolescence herself, "Seventeenth Summer captures better then [sic] any other novel, the spirit of adolescents."
The book was controversial for its time. Though the relationship between Jack and Angie remains chaste, the novel addresses the topic of sexuality and desire in a way that had not been done before in a work of adolescent fiction. It also portrays underage drinking and smoking, both of which were considered highly improper in the 1940s.
For examples of treatment of these same themes (first love, propriety, pressure to conform) in other decades, see the following:
- Fifteen (novel) (1956) by Beverly Cleary
- Splendor in the Grass (1961)
- Forever... (novel) (1975) by Judy Blume
- Waiting Games (1981) by Bruce Hart and Carole Hart
- Vogel, Nancy. "The Semi centennial of Seventeenth Summer: Some Questions and Answers." The ALAN Review 21 (Spring 1994): 41.
- Burton, D. H. Dwight. The Novel for the Adolescent. The English Journal. 40.7. 363–369.