Quite often, young adult books are about rich kids at fancy suburban or boarding schools — the kind of teens on 90210 or Gossip Girl who don’t have ANY financial problems and don’t need to work. So to celebrate Labor Day, I’m paying tribute to the hard-working teens of young adult. OK, maybe they’re not all employees of the month material, but these kids aren’t layabouts waiting for their next allowance payout. They work.
Adam Parrish, THE RAVEN CYCLE by Maggie Stiefvater
He works as a mechanic to help pay for his Anglionby and other expenses.
Adam had once told Gansey, “Rags to riches isn’t a story anyone wants to hear until after it’s done.”
Adam finally sat down on one of the pews. Laying his cheek against the smooth back of it, he looked at Ronan. Strangely enough, Ronan belonged here, too, just as he had at the Barns. This noisy, lush religion had created him just as much as his father’s world of dreams; it seemed impossible for all of Ronan to exist in one person. Adam was beginning to realize that he hadn’t known Ronan at all. Or rather, he had known part of him and assumed it was all of him.
The scent of Cabeswater, all trees after rain, drifted past Adam, and he realized that while he’d been looking at Ronan, Ronan had been looking at him.
Gwen Castle, WHAT I THOUGHT WAS TRUE by Huntley Fitzpatrick
She works at a diner and as an elderly woman’s companion in a rich beach town that’s divided between the haves and have-nots:
I finally get that sometimes we hold on to something – a person, a resentment, a regret, an idea of who we are – because we don’t know what to reach for next. That what we’ve done before is what we have to do again. That there are only re-dos and no do-overs. And maybe … maybe I know better than that.
Willowdean Dickson, DUMPLIN’ by Julie Murphy
She works at Harpy’s, a fast-food joint where she works with Bo.
I’ve wasted a lot of time in my life. I’ve thought too much about what people will say or what they’re gonna think. And sometimes it’s over silly things like going to the grocery store or going to the post office. But there have been times when I really stopped myself from doing something special. All because I was scared someone might look at me and decide I wasn’t good enough. But you don’t have to bother with that nonsense. I wasted all that time so you don’t have to.
Sean Kendrick, THE SCORPIO RACES by Maggie Stiefvater
Sean works as a horse trainer on Thisby’s biggest horse farm.
I listen to the sound of water hitting water. The raucous cries of the terns and the guillemots in the rocks of the shore, the piercing, hoarse questions of the gulls above me. I smell seaweed and fish and the dusky scent of the nesting birds onshore. Salt coats my lips, crusts my eyelashes. I feel the cold press against my body. The sand shifts and sucks out from under my feet in the tide. I’m perfectly still. The sun is red behind my eyelids. The ocean will not shift me and the cold will not take me.
Lainey Mitchell, THE ART OF LAINEY by Paula Stokes
She works at her family’s coffee shop, where she plots how to get her ex back.
Standing up for yourself is about more than flinging barbed-wire insults around. Its about picking your battles, knowing when to fight, knowing exactly what and who is worth fighting for.
Skylar Evans, I’LL MEET YOU THERE by Heather Demetrios
She works at the Paradise Motel, where she gets to know Josh.
I had to tell him we were like a collage. Pieces that could be put back together in a new way, a better way. If I didn’t say it now, I never would.
Levi, FANGIRL by Rainbow Rowell
He works as a barista at Starbucks, where he makes a special Pumpkin Mocha Breve.
“I like your glasses,” he said. “I like your Simon Snow T-shirts. I like that you don’t smile at everyone, because then, when you smile at me.… Cather.” He kissed her mouth. “Look at me.”
“I choose you over everyone.”
Charlie Reynolds, ON THE FENCE by Kasie West
She works at a boutique to pay her father back for a speeding ticket — and to grow up.
We can’t let boys define how we feel about ourselves. You have to know who you are before you should let any boy worth anything in.
Sam LaCroix in HOLD ME CLOSER, NECROMANCER by Lish McBride
He works as a fry cook at a fast-food restaurant.
No wonder I’d always felt lost. I actually was. The knowledge felt terrible, but in a strange way, it also felt good. Now I knew why I’d never connected to anything. Why I felt like I was outside the world around me, moving at a different speed from everyone else. That amputated piece of me explained everything, even why I’d failed at college. But that kind of blanket excuse can be dangerous. Crutches usually are.