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Prom: overrated or misunderstood?

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Laurie Halse Anderson has written several bestsellers for the YA genre. Prom is just one such book. The story follows senior Ashley Hannigan, who comes from a poverty-stricken family and just wants to hang on long enough to get her diploma. Ashley hates the prom, but her best friend (along with every other girl in school) can’t wait for the “big day” to arrive. End, set-up. Begin, problems: the money for the prom is stolen two weeks beforehand and Ashley somehow finds herself involved in the struggle to make it happen despite the impossibility of the situation.

If you're feeling confused, wondering why it's such a big deal for the prom money to be stolen--it can't cost that much, right?--think again. In Boise, a small city by comparison to many others, the Rose Room (where many proms are held) is $1,200 to rent for a day. Factor in food, punch, a photographer, a DJ, decorations, and maybe even some favors. Now you've got quite the price-tag on an event that doesn't seem like it should cost so much.

But Ashley’s got her fair share of problems already: a no-good boyfriend, a crummy minimum-wage job, a family too big for their home, and enough detentions to take up every spare moment up until graduation. Suddenly, she’s faced with the need to straighten out her poor attendance habit and get in gear in order to make her life move in the direction she wants it to.

This story is written in an enticing first-person narrative reminiscent of journal entries, but in real time. The reader gets a clear understanding of Ashley and sees first-hand all the problems she must confront as the story goes on. Ashley has a compellingly clear view of the world around her, un-fogged by euphemisms and sugar-coated fantasies. Her life is presented in an intense manner that the reader will clearly feel. She feels perfectly “ordinary” in her world, as do many teens—but she isn’t really, and this is inspiring.

Prom feels like a shout-out to all those forgotten kids—the ones who don’t expect much from life because life hasn’t given them much. It’s a reminder that these kids exist and struggle through unbelievable setbacks every day. And it’s especially touching because in this story, Ashley manages to persevere through it all.

NEXT UP: Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

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