Purple Daze by Sherry Shahan, Paperback | Barnes & Noble
Purple Daze

Purple Daze

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by Sherry Shahan

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Purple Daze is a young adult novel set in suburban Los Angeles in 1965. Six high school students share their experiences and feelings in interconnected free verse and traditional poems about war, feminism, riots, love, racism, rock 'n' roll, high school, and friendship.

Although there have been verse novels published recently, none explore the changing


Purple Daze is a young adult novel set in suburban Los Angeles in 1965. Six high school students share their experiences and feelings in interconnected free verse and traditional poems about war, feminism, riots, love, racism, rock 'n' roll, high school, and friendship.

Although there have been verse novels published recently, none explore the changing and volatile 1960's in America-- a time when young people drove a cultural and political revolution. With themes like the costs and casualties of war, the consequences of sex, and the complex relationships between teens, their peers, and their parents, this story is still as relevant today as it was 45 years ago.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Shahan's (Death Mountain) novel in verse is packed with the experiences and emotions of six suburban Los Angeles high school students during the tumultuous year of 1965, set against the backdrop of the Vietnam War draft, political assassinations, racism, the advent of LSD and Napalm, and rock 'n' roll. More than anything it's a story of innocence lost: Nancy unhappily works in a diner after her boyfriend Phil is drafted; Cheryl is attacked by her "sex pervert" neighbor, and her relationship with Don is on the rocks; and Ziggy runs wild with sex and drugs after her boyfriend, Mickey, joins the Navy ("Think I'll drop out and enlist./ It'd be a blast to blow stuff up"). Telling her story largely through the characters' journal entries, notes, and letters, Shahan also offers interludes about period events, speeches, and culture, further contextualizing the setting and helping illuminate each teen's circumstances and their shared feelings of abandonment, resentment, and betrayal. Shahan's writing pulls no punches as she offers a poignant mosaic that functions on personal and universal levels. Ages 14–up. (Mar.)
From the Publisher

Tim Wynne-Jones, author of The Uninvited
Purple Daze is an explosion: a moment in time smashed into a thousand glinty, sharp-edged pieces, precise and dazzling.”

Valerie Hobbs, author of Sheep, California Young Reader Medal
"I stayed up half the night reading Purple Daze and didn’t want it to end. Ziggy, Mickey, Cheryl, and Phil have found a permanent home in my heart."

Ron Koertge, award-winning author of Strays
"Sherry Shahan took me right back to the 60's with this deftly-written, politically charged novel-in-verse. Be warned -- "Purple Daze" will put a spell on you, too!"

Rita Williams-Garcia, author of “One Crazy Summer,” National Book Award Finalist, Newbery Honor, Scott O'Dell Historical Award, Coretta Scott King Author
"Shahan's PURPLE DAZE puts us on the front lines of funky times, from Los Angeles to Da-Nang. A far out, implosive, psychedelic trip that ends in indictment. This is spectacular."

VOYA, April 2011
“Shahan captures the tension and desperation of ‘60s young people who were caught up in the events, while also highlighting the chaos with song lyrics.  PURPLE DAZE will enable young adults to identify on a personal level with The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien (Houghton Mifflin, 1990), which is often included in curriculum lists.” 
Taylor Lovett, Duxbury Free Library Teen Galley Reader
“It’s a fast read and the story is really thought consuming.  It also incorporates history.  I could not stop reading until I was finished.”

Book End Babes.com 1/18/11
"Sometimes a book can surprise you. Sometimes you open a book and don’t know what to make of it. Sometimes you stay up until midnight reading a book and then stay up until three, reading it again. Sometimes all three are true, and (for me) that was the case with YA novel PURPLE DAZE by Sherry Shahan"

Catherine Ryan Hyde, author of 14 novels, including Pay It Forward
"A raw and stunning portrait of the 60’s. For those who lived them, Purple Daze will bring your past to life. For those who didn't, this story will make you feel as though you did."
Wendelin Van Draanen
"Compelling authenticity and emotional force."
Ron Koertge
"Deftly written, politically charged… Purple Daze will put a spell on you."
Zoe Jovanovich, Sno-Isle Mukilteo Library, YALSA Teen Reader
The most compelling aspect of this book was the time period. Most historical fiction books I see for young adults are generally in the 1800s, or around that time; after a while when I hear “historical fiction” I immediately think of that time period. It was really refreshing to read this book. I also loved how the author jumped right into these teenagers’ lives and had little historical blurbs throughout the book, subtly connecting the characters to them. It made it seem all the more real, as if the characters were really there. Also, the introduction to 1966 and the 1965 timeline at the end of the book really gave a sense of completion… Even though this was a really quick read, the format fit the book, which is another reason why it was so interesting. The poetry, letters, and journals were a refreshing change.
New York Journal of Books , March 2011
Purple Daze is a cutting-edge novel, strategically written to keep you wanting more as you delve deeper into the love and conflict of the rocky 1960s.

Told from the viewpoints of six main characters—Ziggy, Mickey, Phil, Nancy, Cheryl, and Don—Purple Daze gives the reader a dynamic experience of both the social and political ups and downs of a critical time in history. Not being your average historical fiction novel, Purple Daze is a combination of letters, journal entries, notes, and newspaper clippings jaggedly put together in free verse to express a timeline of war, relationships, political movements, and rock ’n’ roll.

Although sometimes hard to follow along, this story provides an insight into the mindset of teens during the year 1965, specifically into their exciting, sometimes funny, and always dramatic lives. Through life changing experiences like witnessing firsthand the Vietnam War, these six friends find themselves and discover the true meaning of friendship and sticking by what you believe in.

Slammed by the consequences of their actions, whether with relationships, parents, partying, or high school, Ziggy, Mickey, Phil, Nancy, Cheryl, and Don eventually grow up and learn to make the right choices. Touching upon controversial issues during this time, Sherry Shahan effortlessly describes how the six teens deal with whatever hits them; yet despite the plethora of action, Ms. Shahan manages to develop and maintain the characters’ individual personalities and perspectives throughout the entire story.

Eccentric yet tasteful, Purple Daze is uniquely and beautifully written, highlighting author Shahan’s one-of-a-kind writing style and technique. Whether the reader is looking for a blast from the past purposefully executed, or a rollercoaster ride of a novel, Purple Daze is sure to please both young adult and adult audiences.

School Library Journal
"Infidelity, abortion, friendship, grief, personal growth, and forgiveness are just some of the issues involved... Reluctant readers may be the best audience to enjoy this fast ride through the period."

Bethesda Library Teen Galley Reader
“It seems nothing’s changed from the ‘60’s and present day. Purple Daze touches on all the issues that still are alive today, and show how badly people were affected by them. Filled with teen angst, heart break, love, racism, and much more, Purple Daze is a must read.”

Children's Literature - Denise Daley
It is 1965 and a group of friends are preparing for life beyond high school. Their stories are told in letters. Some are sent to each other and others are written as assignments for the teacher. Each letter reveals sentiments and feelings expected of teenagers living in the turbulent and changing times of 1965. Interspersed throughout the letters are short reports that tell of the events happening at the time. Many young men were burning their draft cards, Dr. King was marching for civil rights, and drugs such as LSD were being made in makeshift laboratories. Readers will better understand the friends' feelings and actions as they see how they are affected by these unsettling times. Readers will also get to know each of the six friends and will empathize with every one of them, especially as they lose their innocence and are forced into a chaotic and confusing society. This compelling novel is moving and evocative. The characters will live with the reader long after the book is finished. Reviewer: Denise Daley
VOYA - Judith A. Hayn
Six teens attend a Los Angeles suburban high school in 1965. Their stories interweave through poetic prose, free writing, and free verse. The Vietnam war, riots, civil rights battles, and protests combine with teen angst, young love, and rock and roll. Don's hippie parents tune in and out, while Cheryl, his college-bound girlfriend, tries to bond with her single mom. Mickey ditches his alcoholic dad for the Navy, and his discarded girlfriend, Ziggy, seeks comfort in meaningless sex and drugs. Phil is drafted and sent to 'Nam, while his girl, Nancy, moves on to feminist stances and independence. Letters from Phil and Mickey to Cheryl provide powerful, realistic images of the war that dominated the decade and ripped apart their friendships. A brief time line begins and ends the book, along with a historical chronology. Shahan captures the tension and desperation of 1960s young people who were caught up in the events while highlighting the chaos with song lyrics. Purple Daze will enable young adults to identity on a personal level with The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien (Houghton Mifflin, 1990), which is often included in curriculum lists. Reviewer: Judith A. Hayn
School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up—This novel-in-verse features snapshots of the turbulence of 1965 as caught in both a wide angle and telephoto lens. It not only follows the lives of several southern California teenagers through the young folks' own poetry, journal entries, and letters, but it also focuses on the bigger picture: Vietnam, Civil Rights, Malcolm X, LSD, pot, war protest, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, and feminism. History lessons in third-person prose are sprinkled throughout the more human scale of poetry depicting teen musings and angst, but no segment fills more than a page, making the book perfect for short attention spans. From the three dating couples who populate and pen the poems, some central characters emerge. Ziggy, the easy chick who sleeps with her boyfriend, Mickey, barely survives his absence when he joins the Navy. Cheryl won't put out for her stateside guy, Don, and is actually the perfect wartime pen pal for the other two military teens: Mickey aboard the USS Hermitage and especially Phil, who is drafted to soldier in Nam and whose letters will evoke sympathy. Infidelity, abortion, friendship, grief, personal growth, and forgiveness are just some of the issues involved. While the poetry is neither particularly lyrical nor deft, it does manage to communicate story. Reluctant readers may be the best audience to enjoy this fast ride through the period.—Suzanne Gordon, Lanier High School, Sugar Hill, GA

Product Details

Running Press Book Publishers
Publication date:
Edition description:
First Trade Paper Edition
Product dimensions:
5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.60(d)
Age Range:
14 Years

Read an Excerpt

Purple Daze

By Sherry Shahan

Running Press Kids

Copyright © 2012 Sherry Shahan
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780762446094


Ms. Hawkes asks us to come up
with ideas we'd like to research,
because she thinks we should spend
more time in the library.

"It doesn't have to be long," she says.
"Any ideas?"

Cheryl raises her hand. "How about
interesting quotes?"

Don nods. "Yeah, about war?"

Today we're peeling and eating roasted
chestnuts because we're reading Hemingway's
memoir A Moveable Feast.

Ms. Hawkes talks with her mouth full.
"Can you be more specific?"

Nancy folds up in her chair.
"Is old guys dreaming up wars so
our brothers and boyfriends get shot
specific enough?"


Dear Cheryl,

5th Week in Hell

Thanks, doll
for the pics of roses—
I can almost smell them.

I'm lying on an army cot at my outpost.
Every breath, I suck in a battalion of bugs.
Damn insects. It's raining and they decided
to come in here where it's dry.

Last night I about got plugged writing
a letter using this same flashlight.

A sniper saw it.

That would be a helluva way to sign off—
with a big glob of guts.

Your friend, Phil

P.S. I got a nasty paper cut licking
the flap of Nancy's envelope.
Only one letter so far.
What's up?


Excerpted from Purple Daze by Sherry Shahan Copyright © 2012 by Sherry Shahan. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Sherry Shahan is both an author and a photo illustrator. She has written more than 30 children's and YA books in her lifetime, including the bestselling Alaskan-based adventure, Frozen Stiff. Sherry loves to travel which has been an inspiration for many of her books. When she isn't riding through Africa on horseback or on dogsleds in Alaska, you will probably find her dancing whether it be on ice-capped mountains or in dance contests.

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Purple Daze 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
BooksWithBite More than 1 year ago
Take me back in time baby and give me the ride of my life! This book is super easy, super fast to read. It is told from six different point of views. It was either in a poem form, letter, or just thoughts. There was lots of information about what is going on in there time. There was president's speeches, war drafts, civil rights laws, birth's and death's of important people who played an important role in our history. The whole drama of these six people made for a great story. All of their lives intertwined with the war, music, and laws, made you feel like you were really in the sixties. The reader got to see a great insight to how things really were back then. All of the six people stories were amazingly told with good writing.