...Thank you, Maureen Daly....
by Charlotte Bennardo
This month, the theme, appropriately, is gratitude for authors. Many of my colleagues are posting thanks for specific authors and the impact they had on their lives. While I had favorites as a child and middle grader, I can't remember them, so I can't argue they had an impact on my life. I think the one author that opened up a whole new world for me was Maureen Daly.
She is credited with writing the first true Young Adult book, Seventeenth Summer (1942). When I read that book, I felt as if this person understood what it was to be a teen, (especially a teen girl) even though I read it when I was just barely into my teens- 12 or 13 years old. I was grateful that someone wrote a book that I could identify with- it wasn't my mother's book or my little sister's. Looking back, it seemed as though this book opened the genre up not only to me, but to many other readers and the publishing world.
There were other YA reads before Daly's- Shakespeare's play Romeo and Juliet could be classified as YA not only because of the age of the protagonists, but let's face, it's got almost every teen drama: parental disapproval, rebellious teens, substance abuse (i.e. 'sleeping' poison), gang fights, and family squabbles, but it may have been mostly read by adults, scholars, and English students. Others considered YA are The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton (1967) which has stood the test of time. Books like the Nancy Drew Mysteries and Hardy Boys Mysteries (40's-50's) ghost written by various authors, Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger (1951), and Lord of the Flies by William Golding (1954) were books I never cared about, nor thought about once I read them. Zero impact or love for them. Flowers in the Attic by V.C. Andrews (1979) horrified me with its themes of incest, filicide (parent killing one's child), and child abuse. Never got past the first book.
There are other early YA books, but another pivotal one for me was Go Ask Alice by Beatrice Sparks (1971). I read the book after the movie came out and for me, the book showed me a different possibility for why Alice died. I felt like I was inside her head more while reading the book. The horror of drug addiction made me leery of being around people who used, promoted, or praised drugs. It forever stayed with me.
I'm grateful for all the authors who contributed to the YA genre mostly because there have always been books for children and adults, and it seemed as though prior to Maureen Daly's book, Young Adults had little to read specifically for them. Now, lines are blurred; adults read YA and have picture books for themselves, older YA readers have the sub genre of New Adult, and really it seems like everyone is reading whatever they wish, but there is still a genre specifically for them.
And that's the way it should be.