Seventeenth Summer by Maureen Daly

“In the brightness of the morning last night didn’t seem quite real–as if it had been a movie which I had sat and watched but of which I had not really been a part. It could hardly have been me who felt almost beautiful just because wind was fingering through my hair and the moon was thin like a piece of sheer yellow silk. I knew in a little while I would be getting up and putting on blue denim slacks and eating cereal at the table beside the kitchen window and dusting window sills and talking to my mother about garden flowers and what to have for dinner just as I had for so many summers. 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 out of just being 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–a boy different from other boys–but just because it was the first one. After a while, maybe after years when I had had so many dates that most of them were hazy, I would think of last night and remember it and that breathless loveliness, the same way and with the same amused pleasure that I think now about how I used to wait for the first look at the tree on Christmas morning or about the sweet pink froth of cotton candy at carnivals. Maybe, I thought to myself, if I were to see Jack this morning in the bright sunlight his eyebrows might be scraggly or his face might be pale and silly.”
You can laugh when you see the title of this post and its accompanying picture. You can say, “But, Bellezza! You’re not seventeen! And I’ve known your blog to focus more on literary fiction than Romance. Or, Young Adult.” But you’d only be saying that if you haven’t read this book. Or, if you don’t have a small selection of titles which you love to pull out every five summers or so.
The first time I read this book I was in eighth grade. It struck my heart in such a way that I have tucked it away in my mind as one of those “forever” books; a book that you know you will always love even as you grow up. Change. Leave the spot you were emotionally when you first encountered it.
Do you have a few books that you love so much you’ll never give them away? Do you have a few books that you pull out specifically for summer? (Another favorite summer read of mine is Anne Rivers Siddons’ book, Colony.) Share the titles if you do. And, if you haven’t read this one, really, you should.
by Maureen Daly
first published in 1942
~a Booklist 25 Books That Span the Decades Selection

16 thoughts on “Seventeenth Summer by Maureen Daly”

  1. I was hoping to reread Colony this summer; we'll see if I have time before school starts. I'm crazy about Madelleune L'Engle, but strangely enough I don't know of Camilla. I'll have to look for it because Arm of the Starfish, Wrinkle in Time, and The Love Letters are some of my favorite books ever.


  2. I read this book many, many years ago and haven't revisited it. Perhaps this summer would be a good time. I loved COLONY as well. I'd love to read it again. I also loved the teen books of Beverly Cleary (FIFTEEN) and Rosamund du Jardin. Adult books I'd love to reread are ones by Gwen Bristow and also CHRISTY. Sigh. I have copies of all of these and sometimes I dip in for a few minutes of remembering without reading the whole thing.


  3. This is such a fun conversation we've been having, about books we once loved. And Ladies of The Club, Fifteen, Colony, Christy…except for the first one, all known and beloved by me. It's nice to give myself permission to put down some of the newer releases for some of my older favorites.


  4. Oh, Seventeenth Summer!! I LOVED that book – haven't read it in decades. I also loved Colony… and Beach Music by Pat Conroy.

    Also, I remember a time 20+ years ago when I gave And Ladies of the Club to every friend given a 'bed rest' sentence during pregnancy 🙂


  5. I think it was more of a “sensation” in America although perhaps other countries might have a copy of it by now. I loved that Booklist had it on a list for books which span the decades, because for me? This book certainly has. Although when I saw it on Goodreads it Amazon it did NOT get five stars so obviously not everyone feels the way I do. Shocker. 😉


  6. I had never heard of this book before today. I guess I should add it to the wishlist 🙂 There's something nostalgic and beautiful about reading books periodically, I think.


  7. I loved Colony and would be willing to give it reread, but not this summer. Same goes for Beach Music. Loved both of these novels. The Shell Seekers is another great read that I associate with summer…not sure why. I would like to reread Dandelion Wine (Bradbury) next month. I read it in 7th grade and absolutely loved it!

    Let's see how many times I can use “loved” in one comment, shall we?


  8. I’ve never heard anyone mention this book before, but it had a huge impact on me when I read a copy from the bookmobile, I don’t know how many years before my own seventeenth summer. I only read it once, but it stayed with me for a long time. I need to read it again, I realize now. And here we are in summertime – perfect 🙂


  9. After reading your post I bought a copy of Seventeenth Summer so I could read it again. I was not far into the story before I realized that I hadn’t read it after all!! But it is a wonderful book — I read it to the end and wouldn’t mind starting at the beginning to read it once more this summer.

    But what book was it that I had read, that I remembered so strongly, if — obviously — vaguely?? I got my hands on a copy of Seventeen by Booth Tarkington, an even earlier novel, but it is much farther from the tone of the story I am remembering, and not at all to my liking, so it will go back to the library right away.

    I thought that the word “seventeen” was in the title of “my” book, when I recalled it over the years of adulthood, but maybe I’m wrong on that point, too. The girl in the story is dating someone who is in college, I believe. I’m sad thinking that I probably will never find whatever book it was that I remembered so fondly.

    Still, I’m very glad for my mistake, and that I have become acquainted with the book you love. I’m happy to say that although I was mistaken before, now I do certainly love it, too. 🙂


    1. I am thrilled that you loved Seventeenth Summer, as I did, even though you were thinking of something else. Could the novel you are thinking of possibly be Fifteen by Beverly Cleary? It’s a tad similar in that it’s a Young Adult novel with a sweet romance, but this one is my favorite.


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