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Beyond “Forever”

Lauren Ortega, 20
Lauren Ortega. Photo by Claudio Sanchez/NPR

Back in July I heard an interview on NPR with Lauren Ortega, a 20 year old Latina woman, who was struggling to earn her high school diploma while raising two children she had as a teen.  My heart ached for her as I listened to her talk about the challenges of teen pregnancy and motherhood.

Then I received my Summer 2011 Young Adult Library Services in the mail, which included a study by Caroline McKinley of current YA female characters and their sexual behaviors and attitudes. These YA characters have complex emotions about their sexual experiences.

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The college experience in YA books

Last month Hub blogger Becky O’Neil write a great blog featuring school stories for teens featuring a array of subsets of the traditional school story genre. I thought I’d feature some fictional books featuring college-aged students for older teens or those already in college looking for stories that depict their current college experience. Publishers haven’t published too many teen books focused on this age group and I don’t have many titles. I know college aged students are too busy to read, but what about during school breaks or as a brief distraction from studying? Here’s some of what I’ve found:

Megan McCafferty’s irresistible Jessica Darling series begins with Sloppy Firsts (a 2003 Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers and a 2003 Popular Paperback for Young Adults) when Jessica is 16, then Second Helpings when she’s a senior in high school, followed by Charmed Thirds. This follows Jessica’s college years as she juggles her studies, works as an unpaid intern during her freshman summer at True magazine with its überhip staff, and dates her first love Marcus Flutie, despite his being 3000 miles away in California at a Buddhist college. When Jessica confesses she cheated on him in her sophomore year with a punk Republican, Marcus stops communicating with her – except for sending a series of cryptic one-word postcards. There’s also a cute (and married) Spanish grad student she’s working with on a storytelling project over her sophomore summer. Despite these distractions, Jessica can’t let go of Marcus and is stunned to learn he’s left the Buddhist college and is now living in total isolation in the middle of Death Valley at a small, all-male college run entirely by the students supporting themselves by working with cattle (or, as one of her friends says, he’s at a “gay cowboy camp”).

McCafferty describes what life’s like as Jessica lives in a series of dorms on campus, struggles to pay for school after her parents withdraw their financial support sophomore year, and other hook ups she has while trying to get over Marcus. Jessica hilariously recounts her summer job her junior year teaching college prep classes to neurotic, overachieving high schoolers – resulting in her being fired and having to work a humiliating job serving ice cream at the Jersey shore and her search for housing her senior year. The last two books in this wonderful series, Fourth Comings and Perfect Fifths recount Jessica’s life after graduation.


The Hub: Tweets of the Week – September 16, 2011

Here is a list of fun and informative tweets from some of your favorite people in YA Lit:

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