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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

Book Review: Stay Sweet by Siobhan Vivian

Publisher’s description

stay sweetFrom the author of The Last Boy and Girl in the World and The List comes a bold and sweet summer read about first love, feminism, and ice cream.

Summer in Sand Lake isn’t complete without a trip to Meade Creamery—the local ice cream stand founded in 1944 by Molly Meade who started making ice cream to cheer up her lovesick girlfriends while all the boys were away at war. Since then, the stand has been owned and managed exclusively by local girls, who inevitably become the best for friends. Seventeen-year-old Amelia and her best friend Cate have worked at the stand every summer for the past three years, and Amelia is “Head Girl” at the stand this summer. When Molly passes away before Amelia even has her first day in charge, Amelia isn’t sure that stand can go on. That is, until Molly’s grandnephew Grady arrives and asks Amelia to stay on to help continue the business…but Grady’s got some changes in mind…

 

Amanda’s thoughts

Totally enjoyable book. Vivian is one of my auto-read authors—if she has a new book, I’m reading it. Reading this delightful summery book was just the ticket on an annoyingly cold day in Minnesota in April (we had a snow day this week and it was below zero two mornings this week). It made me want ice cream, which is no small feat given the unseasonable cold and the fact that I don’t generally like ice cream (Breyer’s nearly impossible to find vegan ice cream being the exception).

 

Vivian excels at great characters and great dialogue. The plot here is fairly small—when Grady inherits the ice cream stand, changes are afoot, including the possibility of selling the stand—but the relationships between the characters and the introduction of Molly’s own teenage diary makes this quiet story full of life. I like that Vivian is never afraid to show how complicated friendships/relationships between girls can be. Amelia and Cate are the very best of friends, but they keep secrets from each other, they argue, are jealous, they hold grudges, they lash out, and they figure out how to move past all those slights. I loved the whole concept of the ice cream stand—started in World War II by a young woman and only ever staffed by girls, all these years later (until Grady comes along). The system of support and friendship these Meade Creamery girls have is lovely and powerful. I would happily read a whole series about Meade girls over the years and what hijinks they got up to and saw each other through, from Molly and friends in the 1940s through now.

 

This will easily fly off shelves this summer. Give this to fans of Sarah Dessen and Jenny Han. And when you sit down to read this, have some ice cream handy, because you’re going to want some. A satisfying and sweet read. 

 

Review copy courtesy of the publisher

ISBN-13: 9781534405035
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing
Publication date: 04/24/2018