Every year, around this time, many of America’s high school students start turning their thoughts to one thing: prom.

Prom is a legendary night of gowns, tuxedos, photographs, limousines, coursages, spiked punch, romance, late-night hotel parties, and figuring out where in the world you are when you wake up the next morning. (If you don’t believe me, read Brian Sloan’s A Really Nice Prom Mess.)

At least, that’s what I’ve heard. I never went to prom, but I sure did hear lots of stories about it. Some may have been real, some may have been imagined, but it was all fascinating.

It turns out that trumped up prom stories go as far back as prom itself. The first proms were held in Philly in the 1920s and quickly emerged as the definitive status event for high schoolers who were growing up after World War I, in a land filled with more accessible technology (automobiles and radios), increased prosperity, and a public sentiment that resented immigrants.

In fact, one newspaper headline stated “If You Don’t Like This, Go Back to the Country Where You Came From.” Along with baseball & apple pie, prom became a national past time and a way for immigrant teens project an “American” identity. National newspapers and radio programs were a big part of this. The second they caught wind of the new phenomenon, they started promoting proms as one of the most important events in a teen’s life. Juicy stories from proms were immediately published in teen magazines, and it wasn’t long before the first “guidebook” for prom was published, in the early 1930s.

To this day, proms are still big business, and their stories (as well as all their social implications) will define America’s cultural identity for another generation. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t make prom your own at your library.

For instance, you can make a creative display with a fake mirrored ball–which you can make by gluing sequens to a small foam ball–and have teens “party plan” your display (selected titles are below). You might also find a nice outreach opportunity by volunteering to chaperone any local “alternative” proms (such as those which might be sponsored by your local GLSEN chapter).

You can also do what the NYPL library has done and hold your own alternative prom, where anybody who might feel alienated from the prom at their own shool, as well as any local home or cyberschoolers, can find a fun place to dance and create their own memories. The NYPL posted lots of information and video on their LGBT blog, which you can glean for your own event.


BuzzFree Prom – sponsored by MADD, this program is for teens willing to go sober on prom night, in exchange for a card you can use for discounts to your favorite stores.

Lambda Legal: What LGBTQ Youth Need to Know – Do you feel like your school’s prom is discriminating against you because of your sexual or gender identity? Check out this Q&A to see what’s within your legal power to stop them.

My Prom Style – from the people that bring you Cosmo Girl & Seventeen comes a site dedicated to the fashion, make up, and social cues you need to know about today’s prom.

Prom Night – it may not look like much, but this prom site offers good, no-nonsense information for ladies and gentlemen alike.

Stuck at Prom – If you and your date build your outfit out of duct tape, you could win a $3000 scholarship. Even if you decide to go the cloth route, check it out for the pictures alone.


Anderson, Laurie Halse

Ash doesn’t want anything to do with senior prom, but when a teacher steals the school’s prom fund and her best friend (the prom organizer) turns to her for help, Ash decides to save the day.


Cirrone, Dorian
Prom Kings and Drama Queens

When Emily is forced to choose between a new relationship with her dream guy and planning an alternative prom, all of her values are called into question.


Levithan, David and Daniel Ehrenhaft
21 Proms

This anthology of 21 prom stories is filled with as much dancing, drinking, and debauchery as it is about the quiet, fringe moments that make life really special.


Medina, Nico
Fat Hoochie Prom Queen

The large, boisterous Margarita challenges her stuck up former friend (and now enemy) Bridget Benson to a prom queen contest. How will Margarita size up to the competition?


Nelson, Blake
Prom Anonymous

Laura, Jace, and Chloe are three best friends on a prom mission. Will they survive finding dates, dresses, shoes, manicures, hairstyles, and limos long enough to actually go?


Preble, Laura
Prom Queen Geeks

Becca is the self-proclaimed “Queen Geek” at her high school. When she decides to cement her status by starting her own alternative prom, her best friend Shelby must decide whether to support Becca or go with her boyfriend to the traditional prom.


Prom Nights from Hell

Featuring author superstars like Meg Cabot and Stephenie Meyer, this anthology of short stories takes the rose-colored glasses off prom and shows it for the demonic, monster-infested hellpit it truly is.


Wood, Maryrose
How I Found the Perfect Dress

Morgan is a sixteen-year-old half-goddess whose earthly concerns (i.e., junior prom) take a backseat to when she must save her love Colin from a fairy curse.

~Joseph Wilk
Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh – Teen

About Joseph Wilk

I'm a teen library assistant with the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh's Main location. Here, I'm the graphic novel and music librarian in addition to running anime, music, LGBTQ, incarcerated youth, and video programming. I'm happy to serve YALSA as a blogger, member of the Teen Tech Week committee, and as chair of the Music Interest Group. Otherwise, you can find me in da club.

2 Thoughts on “Prom Stories + Alternative Prom Hosting

  1. Kate P on April 17, 2009 at 3:51 pm said:

    Thank you for the suggestions–I’m passing them on to my YA readers here at the library!

  2. It’s going to be very hard for me not to just copy your post, word-for-word, to my library blog! Thanks so much for all these awesome resources.

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