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Book Gallery: Teen Lit with Working Teens

Today is Labor Day, a day when we pause and celebrate the labor force. Around the world, teens are working. Recent statistics indicate that in the United States, more than 20 million people aged 16-24 were employed. This is around 54% of the people in this age category. They work in our restaurants, our grocery stores, and in places that are often deemed “essential” in the height of a deadly global pandemic. They often work while going to school and for many of them, they aren’t just working for themselves but to help their struggling families put food on the table and keep a roof over their head. You can read the latest youth employment statistics at the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Today, I want to talk about teens working in teen lit. I was recently reading The Cost of Knowing by Brittney C. Morris and started thinking about teens working in teen fiction.

In The Cost of Knowing, Alex Rufus, our main character, works in an ice cream shop called Scoops. This is not the only book I have read where the main character works in an ice cream shop, the main character in Stay Sweet by Vivian Shiobhan also works in an ice cream shop.

Restaurants and food trucks are another place that you can find teens working in teen lit. Rather than duplicate lists that are already out there, here is a great list of food themed ya books that include lists of teens working in restaurants and food trucks. My personal favorite food truck book currently is Geekerella by Ashley Poston

And one of my favorite books about working in a restaurant or diner is All the Rage by Courtney Summers. This fantastic book highlights the profound economic need that many of our teens live in and the necessity of employment.

The Education of Margot Sanchez highlights another place that a lot of teens work: the local grocery store or super market. I know that when I begrudgingly go grocery shopping, it is often teens I know from the local high school that bag my grocery and stock the shelves.

And it what would now seem like a very 2021 twist, the book Okay for Now by Gary D. Schmidt stars a teen who delivers grocery. Although this job seems very relevant and everywhere today, Okay for Now was actually written in 2011, which makes it kind of spooky in light of current events.

In Carrie Mesrobian’s Perfectly Good White Boy, the main character works at a thrift store. Sean also ends up joining the Marine Corp, a job that a lot of teens will choose as they see the military as their only option after high school.

In Nina Lacour’s Everything Leads to You, Emi is a set designer. This is arguably one of the coolest jobs I have seen a teen hold in this moving love letter to the cinema.

And we will wrap this post up with a book that features a teen having my first job as a teenager: working in a movie theater. In The Map from Here to There by Emery Lord, Paige works at a local movie theater. This was my first job back in the very late 80s and early 90s, the time when we had midnight special showings and prize give aways and it was honestly pretty glorious.

What is your favorite book about a teen working? Share it with us in the comments.

Additional Resources:

Bustle: 11 Contemporary YA Novels about Life Changing Summer Jobs

The Hub: Working Teens in YA Fiction

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