Jacquelyn Eubanks, the 16-year-old who was a finalist in a USABookNews.com contest, plans to release the sequel to her award-winning novel in August. The Christian teen shared her thoughts on teen literature, a sexualized culture, and her ideal time period – the 1950s – with The Christian Post on Thursday.
Eubanks' first novel, The Last Summer, was selected as Award-Winning Finalist in USABookNews.com's "Best New E-book: Fiction" category last November. The book also reached #1 on the Amazon best-seller list in the categories "Hot New Releases," "Children's Sports and Recreation," "Children's Baseball," and "Christian Historical Fiction."
The novel tells of a girl named Charlie in "a small town in a valley in the Appalachian mountains," growing up in the 1950s. The novel touches on the historical themes of segregation, the Cold War, and the aftermath of World War II.
It also deals with women's roles in the 1950s. "You were expected as a woman to be a caregiver, a housewife, to be able to cook and to clean and do laundry and be a servant to your husband," Eubanks told The Christian Post.
"There's nothing wrong with that," she admitted. "But they were not welcome to have any jobs other than, like, teachers or nurses." Eubanks prefers the freedom women enjoy today.
This theme plays out in the novel. "Because the protagonist wants to be a baseball player and is rather a tomboy, she has a struggle with her mother and the other girls in the town because they all act like perfect young ladies," Eubanks said.
"Throughout the novel, she has to rely on her faith to get her through some challenges," the author explained. "She finds out her grandfather is very sick and…she has to move away from her hometown."
Charlie proves "a very loyal character." The protagonist "loves her family very much and enjoys spending time with them," and "she is always there for her friends."
In The Last Time, the second in a series of four full-length novels, Charlie moves to New York. "She has to adjust to living in a new town, going to a new, all-girls school, which is a trouble for her because she doesn't get along with girls very well."
The girls' bullying further tests Charlie's faith. "She has to rely on her faith to stay strong and get her through that time, and rather than retaliating to the cruelty she faces from the other girls, she responds with kindness and love towards the girls."
Not to spoil too much, the Lord blesses her kindness. "In the end of the book, she ends up being able to make friends because she acted with kindness to so many people," Eubanks said.
Despite her disagreement with the 1950s gender roles, the author considered it an ideal period. "Faith was sound most places," she remarked. "Most people attended church on a daily basis," there was "a larger sense of community and people were together. There was less crime."
"I really, really wish that we could go back to that." Eubanks' own experience in the suburbs of Detroit taught her the value of these things.
The deterioration of this great Midwestern city left a mark on her. "Jackie has witnessed it firsthand in our own neighborhood," said her mother, Kathy. A nearby house "had become a drug house, essentially. So my husband and I had been worried about the safety of our girls."
"It can serve as an example of what might happen if we don't work together as a community, if we don't obey the law and do honest, moral things," Eubanks said, showing a wisdom beyond her years.
She writes her books to encourage others. "Do small, good things, we can set the world on fire and really be able to make this world a better place."
In the teenage world around her, books like these are lacking. "I think there's so much more to life than supernatural creatures and sex," she said. Reading books like Twilight "leaves you empty, and is all superficial."
"I want to write real literature that appeals to the intellect and the soul," she said. "If there was someone that would step up to the plate and write a book that has meaning, and makes you examine your conscience and look deep inside your heart and soul, those books would thrive because there's nothing like them out there."
For one of her friend's families, "fantasy almost became, like, their religion," Eubanks said. "They adopted it because of all the supernatural elements – because such miraculous things happen in fantasy books…it gave them the sense that there's something greater than humanity out there."
"But it doesn't actually prove anything," she added, pointing to the strength of her own faith in God through Jesus Christ.
"I really would like to go to an all-girls Christian college, so I can focus on my faith and academics," she said.
Boys get in the way, "because they don't want a girl to be just a friend – they're looking for a girlfriend." Eubanks said she doesn't "want to have a boyfriend at this point in time. I don't feel like I'm ready for that and I'm waiting for the right person to come along."
"I think that society does put a lot of pressure on people that they're not supposed to be single," she said. "It ends up causing so many conflicts."
She acknowledged the natural desire for romance, but added that "God is the only thing that can fill that void, and people my age don't understand that."