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  • Jordan D. Smith

PHS Alum Publishes First Youth Novel

Teenager Andy Stevens is a bit of what you might call a loner. She likes books, and coffee, and quite; she’s an introvert in a world full of extroverts. To make matters worse, her mother ships her off to summer camp to make friends where everything and everyone is the polar opposite of her comfort zone. That is until she meets Lucas and a summer doomed to disaster turns into a summer of first love.

If that scenario sounds relatable, that’s what author Jessica (Smith) Foster is going for. In her premier novel for teen readers entitled Andy and the Extroverts, the 2005 PHS alum wanted to capture the difficulty in coming of age. The trying teenage years are about, “...learning to appreciate who you are…rather than trying to change yourself to fit into whatever mold you or other people think is best,” says Foster.

She would know, because her day job finds her steeped in the day to day lives of teenagers. She teaches language arts at Creekside Middle School in Zeeland, Michigan where she is a first hand observer of the trials and tribulations of teens growing up. Thinking about that experience of change, Foster reflects, “what I love most about [my main character] Andy is that she doesn't consider changing who she is even when surrounded by others who are the complete opposite of her.” That’s a message that is one that Foster hopes resonates with her readers.

While the story is fictional, it is one that Foster can relate to. Growing up in Portland she did not always know that she had what it takes to be an author or a teacher for that matter. She credits Westwood Elementary School teacher Maureen Marlette with inspiring her. Reflecting on her time in Mrs. Marlette’s fourth grade class, Foster says that, “she poured so much love and knowledge into me that year and really encouraged my love of books and writing. She put one of my poems on her wall and cheered me…teachers have such an ability to make students feel seen and special. She was that person for me, and I will never, never forget it.”

Foster also credits the Portland District Library as being especially influential in her formative years growing up in Portland. “The…library was a safe haven to me growing up. There is a kind of magic that settles into your bones when you walk into a library. It's a calmness, a relief that can't be put into words, Foster reflects, “my mom was a huge fan of libraries, and she took my sisters and me there whenever we had free time.” She points to her time in the library here in Portland for fostering that love of reading all types of books.

Foster’s book goes on sale on May 16th and is available from Amazon, Barnes and Noble,, and She is also working on having it for sale in brick and mortar bookstores in the Zeeland/Holland area. She hopes that her book may also be available for readers through some of her favorite libraries (Portland?) in the future. Foster is currently working on another young adult novel The Framing Game, a romance/mystery, set to publish later this year. To learn more about Foster's work, visit

PHOTO: Courtesy Jessica Foster


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