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First a Dream

PDF Maureen Daly, a writer whose first novel, “Seventeenth Summer,” anticipated the young-adult genre by decades when it appeared in 1942 and has endured as a classic coming-of-age story, died on Monday in Palm Desert, Calif. She was 85 and made her home in Palm Desert.

Maureen Daly, about 1942.
The cause was non-Hodgkins lymphoma, her sister, Sheila Daly White, said.

Written when Ms. Daly was a teenager and published while she was still in college, “Seventeenth Summer” told the story of Angie and Jack, two teenagers who fall in love during one enchanted summer in a Wisconsin lakeside town. Written in a straightforward, unpretentious style, the book is full of innocent pastimes — boating on the lake, Cokes at the corner drugstore — mingled with more grown-up pleasures like beer and cigarettes.

Reviewing the novel in The New York Times Book Review, Edith H. Walton wrote:
“By a kind of miracle, and perhaps because she is so close to an experience not easy to recapture, Miss Daly has made an utterly enchanting book out of this very fragile little story — one which rings true and sweet and fresh and sound.”

Published originally by Dodd, Mead & Company and most recently in 2002 by Simon & Schuster, “Seventeenth Summer” has sold more than a million copies worldwide, according to the reference book Authors and Artists for Young Adults.

Though fiction about adolescents was nothing new in the 1940’s — among its eminent practitioners had been Mark Twain, Booth Tarkington and Louisa May Alcott — the concept of novels specifically earmarked for adolescents would not exist until the late 1960’s, ushered in by writers like Paul Zindel and S. E. Hinton.

Yet a quarter-century earlier, “Seventeenth Summer” anticipated many of these authors’ concerns, as Teri Lesesne, a professor of library science at Sam Houston State University and a specialist in young-adult literature, explained in a telephone interview yesterday.

“For ’42, this is a pretty avant-garde young woman: she smokes, she drinks, she dates,” Ms. Lesesne said. “She thinks about more than a chaste kiss at the end of a date.”

Maureen Patricia Daly was born on March 15, 1921, in Castlecaulfield, County Tyrone, Northern Ireland. She came to the United States with her family as a young child.

When Ms. Daly was 15, her short story “Fifteen” was published in Scholastic magazine. The next year she wrote another story, fittingly titled “Sixteen,” that was included in the O. Henry collection of 1938, which gathered together the best short stories of the previous year. Then, working in the basement of her parents’ home in Fond du Lac, Wis., she began “Seventeenth Summer.”

After earning undergraduate degrees in English and Latin from Rosary College in River Forest., Ill., Ms. Daly worked as a reporter and book critic for The Chicago Tribune. She was later on the staff of Ladies’ Home Journal and The Saturday Evening Post.

Among her many other books are the young-adult novels “Acts of Love” (1986) and “First a Dream” (1990), both published by Scholastic, and “Mention My Name in Mombasa: The Unscheduled Adventures of an American Family Abroad” (Dodd, Mead, 1958), a travel memoir written with her husband, William P. McGivern, a well-known crime novelist.

Ms. Daly’s husband died in 1982; her daughter, Megan McGivern Shaw, died the next year. Besides her sister, Ms. White, of Manhattan, she is survived by a son, Patrick McGivern, of Palm Desert, and two grandchildren.

In an interview quoted in the reference book Major Authors and Illustrators for Children and Young Adults, Ms. Daly recalled the special urgency — akin to grasping quicksilver — that gave rise to “Seventeenth Summer.”

“I was so wildly and vividly happy about love and life at a particular time in my existence,” she said. “I wanted to get all that fleeting excitement down on paper before it passed, or I forg

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