Retro Friday: Seventeenth Summer

Retro Friday is a weekly meme hosted by Angie of Angieville and focuses on reviewing books from the past. This can be an old favorite, an under-the-radar book you think deserves more attention, something woefully out of print, etc.
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Seventeenth Summer by Maureen DalySeventeenth Summer by Maureen Daly
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Number of pages:  340
My copy: paperback, bought from Fully Booked

A summer to remember…

Angie always thought high school romances were just silly infatuations that come and go. She certainly never thought she would fall in love over one short summer. But when she meets Jack, their connection is beyond any childish crush. Suddenly, Angie and Jack are filling their summer with stolen moments and romantic nights. But as fall grows closer, they must figure out if their love is forever, or just a summer they’ll never forget.

* * *

Considered to be the first YA novel ever published, Maureen Daly (1921 – 2006) started writing this when she was 17 and finished it when she was in college, and finally published in 1942. Seventeenth Summer is about Angie Morrow’s last summer before she goes off to college spent in her hometown in Wisconsin. Angie catches basketball star Jack Uluth’s eyes and he asks her out on a date and they fall in love. As summer ends, their inevitable separation looms and they have to decide whether their love is forever or just for that seventeenth summer.

I knew from Chris’ short post about this book that it was written in the 1940’s, so that kind of prepared me for what this novel would be like. It took me a while to reconcile the setting of the book with the cover which looks a little too modern for how it was written. I had to stop reading the book for a while and start it again so I would have the proper state of mind while reading it (and believe me, Jane Austen’s Emma put me right there) and appreciate the novel for what it’s worth.

Unlike the modern YA contemporary novels, Seventeenth Summer is quiet. There are hardly any interesting parts, really and to be honest, Angie is kind of dull. She’s not like any of the feisty or snarky female heroines that I know. She’s shy, almost awkward and plain looking, as she often described herself. Angie spends most of her time doing housework and helping her mom manage the household, and up until Jack’s arrival in her life, she tends to shy away from people from her school. The rest of the novel tells us about Angie’s dates with Jack and her thoughts about him, how he relates to her family, what she feels and all the questions involved in having a crush to dating someone and figuring out if it’s love or not. There are no mean girls to torment Angie, little parental resistance for their going out and it’s all really just an account of Angie’s summer. Angie and Jack’s relationship is also very chaste compared to what comes out nowadays (not that I mind) — just a few kisses here and there. I was honestly surprised to read the word “necking”. How long has it been since I last heard that word?

If you’re not into contemporary, you’ll probably be bored to death with this novel because like I said, there are no exciting parts. Truth be told, the B-plot with Angie’s sister, Lorraine, was more exciting than the actual main plot. It wasn’t the kind of romance that we read in books nowadays — I don’t think Jack even ever gave Angie flowers (so he has no need for ProFlowers coupon codes, not like they already existed then). However, I find that the beauty of Seventeenth Summer lies not in that, but in how the author captured Angie’s emotions with her relationship with Jack. I thought Daly described it perfectly: the first tingles of a simple crush, the recollection in the morning after a nice date, the longing for a phone call, the first kiss, the pain of realizing the first mistake you committed unknowingly and the delicious feeling of seeing everything in rose-colored glasses because of love. Not that I know how it feels exactly, but if I were to fall in love, that would be how I’d want it to feel. I was honestly surprised to find myself noting so many quotes in the book that convey those feelings, such as:

In the brightness of the morning last night didn’t seem quite real…I knew in a little while I would be getting up…there would be no more of the exquisite uncertainty of last night, no queer, tingling awe at the newness of the feeling, and no strange, filling satisfaction of being just alive. All that was last night because it was night and because it was the first boy I had really been out with. Not because it was a special boy…but because it was the first one. After a while, maybe after years…I would think of last night and remember it and that breathless loveliness… (p. 26-27)

…there is something so final, so husband- and wifelike about going to church with a boy. Religion is too personal a thing to share promiscuously and the thought of being there with Jack filled me with a kind of awe… (p. 120)

And as each day changed into evening…I didn’t even feel like a girl anymore. And all my thoughts turned into little prayers, which I meant so much that it made me ache all over. “Just once,” I kept saying. “Let him call just once.” (p. 134)

Sometimes, when we sat in the movies, Jack would hold my hand. It wasn’t silly. We did it because it was good to sit so close together in the darkness and, somehow, by holding hands you can carry on a conversation without talking. (p. 183)

I’m not sure if I ended up liking this novel because I read it during February and I was really feeling the Valentine’s air, or if I’m really just a sap at heart. This is one of those books that you’d rather read as an in-between book and you just want to feel like laying back and enjoying a good, clean summer romance. Seventeenth Summer isn’t the most exciting or mind-blowing read, but it has that air of sweetness and simplicity that almost makes it timeless.

Rating:

Other reviews:
Teen Ink
Tahleen’s Mixed-Up Files
The Hub

Required Reading: March

Hello March! :) March is my favorite month of the year — can you guess why?

I started Required Reading last February in an attempt to tackle my Mt. TBR into (semi) submission. This is a small reading challenge were I pick four books as priority books to be read within the month. They should follow some sort of theme if I can find one, but there could also be no reason for that. The only rules for this mini-challenge are:

  • The books should be read within the specified month
  • These books should be in my TBR and not yet to be acquired
  • These books cannot be used for any other reading challenges I am participating in.

So how did I do last February?

The truth? Some kind of miserable. I may have had encountered some sort of reading slump right after I finished reading Emma and my brain refused to read at its normal speed. Out of the four books I listed last month, I only finished two on time:

  • Delirium by Lauren Oliver
  • Seventeenth Summer by Maureen Daly (review to be posted later this week)

I’m still reading Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis and there’s no hope for me starting Something Borrowed yet. So…in terms of quantity, I kind of passed, but it was such slow reading that it nearly drove me out of my mind. This makes me wonder if setting specific required books to read is more detrimental than just reading whatever comes to mind first.

Ah well. But I’m not one to back out from a challenge I set for myself, and I still want to conquer my Mt. TBR somewhat. So even if February’s challenge results weren’t really that good (hey, February was a short month!), I’m still doing this mini challenge.

Yeah, I can be a bit masochistic sometimes. That doesn’t mean I won’t ever read Something Borrowed anyway — the movie is coming soon, and what better time to read the book than before watching the movie, right?

But I digress. It’s a new month, so it’s time to move on! It’s time for Required Reading for March!

Required Reading: March

Truth be told, I am not entirely sure what theme I’m going for this month. The ones on my list don’t really have a central theme to it, except that two books I got there are for free (one won and one gift) and the two others I got for myself as rewards. I was thinking of making the theme about “heroes”, but I’m not sure if one book fit that theme. So…let’s go back to the gift theme instead. This is my birth month, after all. :)

thanks, weheartit

And there you go. I don’t know if I’ll be able to make the challenge this month. Let’s see if my birth month will be favorable for my required reading. Maybe I should give myself a reward if I read all four…like disney jewelry perhaps? …Nah.

So, how about you? Any books you want to bump up your TBR this month? Books you must read, no matter what? Do share! :)

Delirium

DeliriumDelirium by Lauren Oliver
Delirium # 1
Publisher: Harper Collins
Number of pages: 441
My copy: ebook review copy from Netgalley

Before scientists found the cure, people thought love was a good thing. They didn’t understand that once love -the deliria- blooms in your blood, there is no escaping its hold. Things are different now. Scientists are able to eradicate love, and the governments demands that all citizens receive the cure upon turning eighteen. Lena Halloway has always looked forward to the day when she’ll be cured. A life without love is a life without pain: safe, measured, predictable, and happy.

But with ninety-five days left until her treatment, Lena does the unthinkable: She falls in love.

* * *

I loved Lauren Oliver’s debut novel, Before I Fall, so when I found out that she was coming up with a new dystopian book, I was psyched. I saw this book first from The Book Smugglers and added it to my wish list, eagerly anticipating its release. The premise is intriguing, and as the release date got nearer, reviews are cropping up left and right. The mixed reviews kind of worried me, especially since some of my trusted reviewers were lukewarm on it, but I decided to carry on and find out for myself instead of just scrapping it because of the reviews.

Love is bad. It is a sickness that needs to be cured and you must be protected from it at all costs until you are old enough to get the cure. This is what Lena Halloway grew up with in a society that declares love as a disease – amor deliria nervosa — one that causes pain, clouds judgment and kills not only the person infected but the people around them. Lena grew up believing this and blaming the sickness for her mother’s eventual suicide and she looked forward to receiving her cure. She wanted a normal, safe, and predictable life with a person matched for her, to prove that she is not like her mother and she will not endanger anyone. As Lena counts the days to receiving her cure (a simple operation is all you need to get rid of love and you don’t need to drink anything like jack3d after), something unexpected and totally forbidden happens: she meets Alex, and she falls in love. What follows is a lot of secret meetings and stolen moments and learning about the truth that has been hidden from Lena for almost all her life.

One thing I realized while reading Delirium is that there are two ways to read this novel: the romantic side and the dystopian side. The side you’re more fond of will make or break this novel for you. I really liked the premise of the novel, and I was curious to how Oliver will make all of it work out. I’m not an expert in dystopia despite having read a lot of it (not as much as other people, though), so a world without something is already enough for me to classify it as such. I was kind of afraid there would be another love triangle in this, but figuring that this is a book where love is considered forbidden, there’s got to be some swoon-worthy and tingly romance in this book that I was willing to take on.

And I was right: the romance between Lena and Alex was surely swoon-worthy. I liked how Lena’s feelings were described as she learned of love with Alex. Oliver sure had a way with words and these were reminiscent to how she wrote Before I Fall. I related to Lena in the same sense that I’ve never been in love — never felt the rush, the sparks, the exhilaration of knowing that someone thinks you are perfect no matter how plain looking you know you are. The symptoms listed for the disease accurately describes (as much as I know, anyway) how it feels to have a crush and to fall in love if things don’t stop. It could be a symbolism of sorts in real life: the disease could be something that people who are afraid of falling in love are avoiding, and cured people are those who have decided never to love again after they have been hurt by love. Lena’s innocence about love was pure and kind of sweet, albeit tainted with fear of the deliria. But I guess that’s what love is, right? It’s scary and beautiful all at the same time, and choosing to live with or without it will kill you either way. The only difference between them is what dies in you if you choose to love or not.

But as far as the dystopia factor is concerned, I didn’t feel it. To be honest, I felt like Delirium reads better like a contemporary novel instead of dystopia. I may be biased because I really liked Before I Fall and I think the author is better at contemporary. There were just too many why’s that doesn’t make sense. Why is love considered a disease? What happened? I would understand if it’s too far off into the past that people hardly remember it, but it was only sixty-five years ago, and something that big shouldn’t be too easy to forget. What are the instances that made love the bad guy? And in their world that is controlled by the government, the big bad government didn’t feel like such a threat. They didn’t really strike much fear into me, unlike the Peacekeepers from The Hunger Games. Who led this totalitarian government? And for such a strict one, why can people get away with going to underground parties and breaking curfews. How? Delirium‘s world feels a bit hazy compared to the other dystopian books I’ve read. I guess it would be explained more in the next book, but I believe that for dystopian novels — especially books in series — to work, the world should be built solidly from the start, not in the next books because that’s what readers will be looking out for first. At least, that’s what I am looking for.

Overall, Delirium is kind of a mixed bag for me. I liked the romance, the dystopia was just kind of so-so. I liked it, but not as much as the the author’s debut. This is one of those books that people either really loved or really disliked, but I’m kind of in the middle ground. It’s just…okay. Read it and decide for yourself if you like it or not.

Oh and that ending? I have no words. :O

Rating:

Other reviews:
Janicu’s Book Blog
The Book Smugglers
Presenting Lenore
Bart’s Bookshelf
GReads!
Forever Young Adult
Attack of the Book

Required Reading: February

Sometime around January, I was thinking of what books I would have lined up for February seeing that it was Valentine’s month and it’s sort of the right month to pick up romance novels and such. How cliche of me to do that, but I liked having themed reads. I like reading certain books at a certain time of the year because the month’s celebrations call for it. I think that makes it more fun (albeit masochistic, especially in February, if you know my stories :P).

Anyway, as I was choosing books from my Mt. TBR, I wondered if I could do a theme for every month. Which led to me thinking that maybe I can have kind of direction for the books I read in this year, instead of just choosing randomly. I would be able to conquer my TBR a bit for the entire year but without the big pressure of reading them all, you know?

So I came up with my own, sort of TBR challenge for 2011, where:

  • I would pick 4 books from my TBR pile that I should read within the month that sort of fits one kind of theme.
  • These books should not be included in other 2011 challenges.

This doesn’t mean that I would only read the books I listed within the month. These are just the books that I should read within the month, but I can read other books, too, in the pace that I want to. Call it required reading, I guess.

WAIT. Okay that’s the name of this “challenge”. Required Reading. :D

I have constructed a list in my planner which is still subject to change. I will share them every start of the month, of course, but for now, my February line up!

Thanks, we heart it!Well it’s obvious the theme is love. Like I said, it may be a bit masochistic for me because of the current state of my love life (or lack thereof — but I will not post that here. If you want more of that, it will be posted in the personal blog :P)…but hey, everyone loves a good love story, right? With all it’s red and pink magic. :)

So from my TBR, here are my February Required Reading!

  • Seventeenth Summer by Maureen Daly
  • Delirium by Lauren Oliver
  • Something Borrowed by Emily Giffin
  • Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis

There’s a book on summer love, a dystopian novel about love being a disease, a novel about a wedding, and finally a retelling of a Roman myth with the god of love. I even feel like throwing in a few more romance novels in the mix here. Let it be a month full of books on love, yes? :)