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Maureen Daly McGivern, 85; Her Young Adult Novel in 1942 Launched a Genre

September 30, 2006|Mary Rourke | Times Staff Writer

Maureen Daly McGivern, who pioneered the young adult novel with "Seventeenth Summer," a teenage coming-of-age story published in 1942, has died. She was 85.

She died Monday at a hospice in Palm Desert. The cause was non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, her sister, Sheila Daly White, said this week.

The "spiritual grandmother" of the young adult fiction genre, Daly, who used her maiden name professionally, wrote several novels for teenagers as well as short stories and nonfiction works. She also wrote children's books and nonfiction books for adults. "Seventeenth Summer," her best-known work, has sold more than 1 million copies and has never been out of print.

She also had a long career in journalism, most recently as a columnist for the Desert Sun in Palm Springs.

As a 15-year-old living in Fond du Lac, Wis., Daly was a wallflower who found that writing stories allowed her to "relieve the tense, hurt feelings inside," she later said.

Her first two published stories, "Fifteen" and "Sixteen," which she wrote when she was those ages, appeared in Scholastic magazine and won prizes in the magazine's short story contests. "Sixteen," about a boy and girl who meet at a skating rink, has been included in a number of fiction anthologies for teenagers.

She wrote her acclaimed novel as a college student. It is the story of Angie, a teenage girl who falls in love with Jack, a boy from her small town in Wisconsin.

"I was wildly and vividly happy about love and life at a particular time," Daly recalled about the novel in a 1986 interview with Publisher's Weekly. "I knew that euphoria and hope could not last, and I wanted to get all that fleeting excitement down on paper before I forgot the true feelings."

The book was reviewed in the adult fiction category because books for young adults were not yet considered on their own. "Simply, eloquently, Maureen Daly tells one how youth in love really feels," the New York Times wrote of "Seventeenth Summer."

Born March 15, 1921, in Castlecaulfield, Northern Ireland, Daly was one of four daughters. She immigrated to the U.S. with her parents when she was 2. The family settled in Wisconsin, where some relatives lived.

She attended Rosary College in River Forest, Ill., and wrote a popular advice column for teenagers, "On the Solid Side," for the Chicago Tribune while she was in college. It appeared three times a week and was syndicated to other newspapers.

After graduation, she covered the police beat for the Tribune for about a year. "Often, I'd be standing in a phone booth with sweat pouring down my neck," she later said of the high-pressure work.

In 1944, Daly moved to Philadelphia to become an associate editor for Ladies Home Journal. At a writer's conference in Chicago she met William P. McGivern, a magazine writer and novelist. The couple married in 1946 and had two children, Megan and Patrick.

The family moved to Europe in 1949 and lived for a time in Paris, Rome and London. They returned for extended traveling through Europe and Africa through the 1950s.

Daly and her husband wrote "Mention My Name in Mombasa: The Unscheduled Adventures of an American Family Abroad" in 1958.

"Neither a guidebook nor a study of social conditions, the book should appeal to all kinds of travelers," a Kirkus review noted.

On her own, she wrote several travel books for adolescents, including "Spanish Roundabout" (1960), which is filled with vignettes about cooking, bullfighting, religious observances and local traditions.

The family settled in rural Pennsylvania in the mid-1950s and moved to Toluca Lake in 1958. William McGivern was by then a successful novelist and screenwriter.

Several of his mystery stories were made into movies, including "The Big Heat" (1953), which was adapted from a serialized novel first published in the Saturday Evening Post. He also wrote episodes of popular television series including "The Virginian," "Ben Casey" and "Kojak."

The family moved to Palm Desert in the early 1970s. Maureen Daly continued writing novels, and became a columnist for the Desert Sun in the late 1980s.

One of her more recent novels for adolescents, "Acts of Love," is about her daughter's teenage years. She wrote it after Megan McGivern Shaw died of cancer in 1983.

Referring to Daly as "the spiritual grandmother of the young adult novel," a Los Angeles Times review of 1986 observed: "With 'Acts of Love' she returns after 44 years to the sort of love story she pioneered when she herself was a young adult."

Daly is survived by her sister, who lives in New York City; her son, Patrick McGivern of Palm Desert; and grandsons Antonio and Nicholas Shaw of Glendale.

Her husband died of cancer in 1982, one year before her daughter died of the disease.

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