Student Spotlight with Jennifer Yu

NEW ENGLAND: Jennifer Yu is a 19-year-old senior from Shrewsbury, Mass. An English major in the School of Arts and Sciences, Yu enrolled at Penn when she was 16 years old, having skipped two grades. “I never learned to write cursive,” she jokes. “It’s a bummer.”

PRESENT PERFECT: At first, Yu was pre-med before switching to economics. “I thought the [pre-med] stuff was interesting, but it was not something I could see myself doing,” she says. Midway through her sophomore year, she switched from economics to English. “I always knew that in a perfect universe, I would be an English major,” she says. “I think it took awhile for me to get over trying to do something else.”

YA AUTHOR: In June, Harlequin Teen purchased Yu’s debut young adult novel, which is tentatively titled “Four Weeks, Five People.” The book, which is slated for publication in 2017, tells the story of five psychologically troubled teenagers and the four weeks they spend at a wilderness therapy program. “It came very naturally to me, writing about these teenagers who are struggling with similar things that I struggled with and that my friends struggled with,” Yu says. “Those voices sort of came to me.”

COURSE CORRECTION: Yu, whose favorite book is “The Book Thief” by Markus Zusak, says she has written for fun throughout her life, but writing did not seem like a realistic career option, which is why she was originally pre-med. She began writing the first 10 pages of what would become “Four Weeks, Five People” during the summer after her freshman year, and says she “literally didn’t open the document again for two years” until she took Cinema Studies senior lecturer Kathy DeMarco Van Cleve’s “Writing for Children and Young Adults” course during her junior year. “I thought that was perfect for me because I love [young adult] literature,” Yu says. “It’s pretty much all I read.”

PENN CONNECTION: Yu continued working on the project while in the course, and after submitting 50-60 pages, DeMarco Van Cleve, an author and screenwriter, forwarded the pages to her literary agent, Laura Dail, who liked Yu’s work and said she was interested in reading the completed manuscript. After Yu finished it, she sent it Dail, who agreed to represent her. The book was submitted to different publishing houses in February and Yu received an offer for a two-book deal in June.

TO BE CONTINUED: Yu says she is not yet sure what she wants to do after she graduates. “I worked this past summer in Hollywood in management [at Grandview] and I loved that,” she says. “It was amazing.” She says she would also love to be a full-time writer. “It’s kind of up in the air,” she says.

Jennifer Yu