My Darling, My Hamburger
is a young adult novel by Paul Zindel. The book follows four main characters, Liz, Sean, Dennis, and Maggie, as they struggle with romance, the decision to have sex, contraception, communication, and loneliness. Published in 1969, it is Zindel's second young adult novel. The quirky title would become a trademark of Zindel's, indicating a central theme in the book – the awkward nature of sex, love, communication, and obligation during the teenage years.
The book opens on two female friends, Maggie and Liz, as they walk to an assembly being held at their high school. During the assembly, Maggie is introduced to Dennis, who is sitting next to Sean Collins, the boy whom Liz is seeing. Liz suggests that Maggie get to know Dennis on a double date with her and Sean; Maggie finally agrees, despite thinking that Dennis is weird looking and kind of scrawny.
On the double date, the two couples go to the movies. Maggie hates both the movie and her company but feels obligated to go on another date with Dennis anyway. She, Liz, Sean, and Dennis end up at the beach. While Liz and Sean go down to the water to be intimate with each other, Maggie finds herself stuck in a car with Dennis. Dennis is clearly interested in Maggie, and he makes some moves before finally leaning in to kiss her. They start making out, but Maggie is so uncomfortable, she finally suggests they go get a hamburger. Later that night, Liz and Sean get into an argument, which Liz later reveals was about Sean pressuring her to have sex.
A third double date is canceled when Liz and Sean get into another fight, resulting in Liz and Maggie going out to a pub to eat together. Liz writes Sean a love letter, committing herself to him on a paper placemat, which she puts it in his mailbox. When he doesn't respond after a few weeks, Liz decides to go to a dance with Rod, who has a bad reputation but is incredibly handsome. At the dance, Rod tries to rape Liz, but Maggie saves the day when she gets in touch with Sean and he interrupts the couple before Liz is attacked.
Soon after this incident with Rod, Liz learns that she is pregnant. She can't afford an abortion, and she confides in Maggie to try to figure out what to do. Eventually, she tells Sean, and they decide to move to California to raise the baby. Nervous about this decision, Sean ends up asking his dad for advice for a “friend” who impregnated a girl he was dating. Sean's father, a traditional man, tells Sean to get rid of the girl or risk being held back for his entire life. Realizing his father is right, Sean gives Liz $300 for an abortion and tells her he doesn't want to see her again.
Maggie and Liz ask Rod for a ride to a doctor who can provide an abortion. Liz does well after the procedure and seems to be happy about the incident, but on the long drive home, Maggie realizes that Liz is bleeding profusely and runs to get Liz's mother. After that, Liz doesn't see Maggie again. Maggie learns that Liz is not graduating with their class, and when she calls Liz's house, her mother says that Liz never wants to speak with her again. Maggie is devastated and confused, realizing the strange way the present so quickly becomes the past. Maggie gives Dennis a goodbye kiss on graduation day, wishing him good luck in all his future endeavors.
Paul Zindel was a young adult author, playwright, and teacher. He wrote plays as a teenager and ultimately ended up teaching chemistry and physics at a high school in Staten Island, where he was from. He wrote dozens of novels, short stories, and screenplays during his lifetime, including the well-known Pigman
trilogy, The Zone Unknown
series, and many standalone novels. Many of his books were mysteries or had a mystery sub-plot, and they often dealt with teenagers who were grappling with loneliness, their individuality, and their desire to both live within and break the traditions of former generations. Zindel won a Pulitzer Prize for Drama, among other prestigious awards. He died in 2003.