Former McDaniel graduate student returns to school to discuss first YA novel

Jacob deNobel
Contact ReporterCarroll County Times

When author Jared Reck began his debut young adult novel, “A Short History of the Girl Next Door,” he kept the fact he was writing it to himself, not wanting to discuss a project he thought might not ever be finished and would almost certainly never be published.

Four years later, Reck will come to McDaniel College to discuss his newly published book, the young adult novel industry and his plans for the future. Reck, who lives in Hanover, Pennsylvania, and teaches middle school language arts in the Spring Grove School District there, earned his graduate certificate from McDaniel’s Writing for Children and Young Adults program.

He will give a talk and sign copies of the book at 7 p.m. Sept. 27 in the McDaniel lounge. The book, recommended for readers ages 12 and up, is due for release the previous day.

“A Short History of the Girl Next Door” follows high-schooler Matt Wainwright and his unrequited crush on the girl next door. Though the premise could describe any number of young adult stories, Reck said he sought to tell this novel in a distinct and unique way, avoiding the cliches readers are familiar with.

Soon after finishing his manuscript, Reck achieved what is nearly unheard of for a first-time author, landing a six-figure deal with publisher Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, the publishing house behind young adult successes “Wonder” and “The Book Thief.”

“When I started, I really didn’t believe that it would ever be published,” Reck said. “That was the dream, but I did my research and knew that your chances are really slim.”

Reck said throughout the process, he was his own toughest critic, but was given support from his wife, editors and even his eighth-grade students, with whom he would test out ideas and passages.

“A room full of eighth-graders is more than willing to be honest with you,” Reck said. “My goal is to make them laugh. If I share a line or an idea or passage during a writing exercise and the whole room laughs, then I know that line works. If I get crickets, I know I have to rewrite.”

Reck said it was working with his students as writers that first inspired him to start the novel. Growing up, he had always written in classroom settings but never saw himself as an author. Sharing ideas and teaching others, he said, changed all that, as he was inspired by some of the great young adult literature he read in the classroom.

Reck said the majority of the book was written during summer breaks between school years, but the impetus to actually finish the draft came when he enrolled in McDaniel’s graduate program.

The main character, Matt, is largely based off of Reck’s own experiences and interests in high school. He said he pulls ideas from everywhere, but largely from his own life.

Reck has already finished book two, after two years of writing, and is in the early stages of working on his third book.

Growing up, Reck said his major goal with writing was putting out something weird and making others laugh. Today, he said, his goals haven’t changed much.

“I love books that can make me laugh, but I really love books that can make me laugh and rip my guts out,” Reck said. “I want to feel something. I want to finish a book and be torn apart. I hope that anybody that reads it laughs at it, but I secretly hope it devastates them.”

If you go

What: Jared Reck author talk and book signing

Where: McDaniel Lounge, 2 College Hill, Westminster

When: 7 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 27

Cost: Free, copies of Reck’s first novel “A Short History of the Girl Next Door” will be available for purchase

More information:


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