Today I’m one of the hosts for the Dear Teen Me blog tour! Edited by E. Kristin Anderson and Miranda Kenneally, the book, based on the blog of the same name, is exactly what you’d expect from its title–people write letters to their teen selves. After many, many entries on their site from various YA authors, they turned 70 of the letters into this anthology from Zest Books, coming out October 30 (you can pre-order it from Amazon here, or you can ask your local independent bookstore to get a copy for you and a few more for their shelves).
I’m enjoying the book so far. I haven’t finished it, partly because it’s hard to finish pleasure books quickly these days, since I’m reading a million novels a week for school, and partly because this book isn’t one that you want to just race through. Kind of like with poetry, where I like to only read a couple poems at a time, maybe right before bed, this is a book you want to keep on your nightstand for awhile so that you can read pieces at a time. It’s something you want to absorb, to think about. And if you’re a writer, published or not, it’s probably something that will inspire you to do some journaling or come up with a new idea for a story. Also, this book is extra awesome because it’s glossy-paged and in full color. Win!
Earlier this month I blogged at Bookish Comforts about how I didn’t start watching Buffy, the Vampire Slayer until this January, which is a fair time after I was in high school. I am rarely happier than I am at the beginning of each school year (which is also around the time of my birthday and the Jewish new year, so it’s a time of reflection, change, and new beginnings) when I can breathe easily knowing that I am that much farther away from adolescence and high school. And yet here I am, studying the history and critical theory of children’s and YA literature, getting a second degree in library services to youth, and working at a children’s hospital. And, you know, watching television shows about teenhood and reading books about them. So what’s going on?
I think it’s actually that I remember so much of the angst, the hurt, the anger, the frustration, and the stagnation of middle and high school that I am a really passionate advocate for doing anything that will make a teenager’s life less full of those things. When I substitute taught at my old school, my favorite age group was the sixth graders, and I think it’s because I still have such a strong memory of being 12. Twelve is when you’re eager and expecting great things, and it’s also when your social structure turns on its head and all of a sudden it seems like you suck at everything. It’s when you’re navigating crushes and fashion and puberty and all of this awful, gross stuff, and your school thinks that it shouldn’t make it worse by actually teaching you things so that you can take your mind off of the fight you had with your best frenemy (I still have beef with the middle school system I went through, obvs). And then you get older and older and none of that confusion goes away (and dare I say it gets worse?) until high school graduation if you’re lucky, and until college graduation if you’re me.
I’m not over it. I probably never will be. That’s why I avoid many encounters with the people and things that I associate with high school (I doubt you’re reading, but since there are so few of you in my graduating class – 43, to be exact – I will say sorry, it’s not personal, and it’s not even all of you) and why I secretly think about them all the time and throw them into the stories I write. I don’t know if anything will ever be more meaningful as our own little in that moment I swear we were infinite times in parking lots and cars at night. I don’t know if I will ever feel okay about the deeply insulting things some boys said to me in what I suppose was an explanation (or not) for why I was not worth dating or publicly acknowledging. I don’t know if I will ever be capable of turning off the function inside my head that makes me act exactly the same way I acted when I was 16 anytime I spend time with people I knew then. I know that I will never NOT be awkward.
I love growing up. Love love love it. Always knew I would. I knew early on in adolescence that I wasn’t made for it – if there is such a thing as an inner age, or the time in your life that you are most you, for me it is definitely sometime around now. I knew that I would be good at being a twentysomething, that I would flit around to all corners of the earth whenever I wanted (and could find the funds, of course), that I would still be moody and awkward, that I would still be plugging away at my writing (at least sometimes), that I would be living in a city, probably on the East Coast, that I would be much better at being myself than I was back then. Those things are all true. I hate it when people tell me I look younger than I am, and I wish they would understand that that is in no way a compliment until you’re past 35. I hate associating myself with college, because even though I was only a teen for one of my three and a half years there, I felt much the same way until I was out. I like now, thanks.
If Dear Teen Me speaks to teens who feel as out of place as I did back then, power to them. Books certainly made my teen years feel as if I had people in my corner and as if I knew people like me. But I think it’s really for us, the survivors of teenhood, so that we know that we have people like us who are also here now.
Aaaaand, so as not to end this post with such a downer, I am announcing my first ever GIVEAWAY! Zest Books is kindly offering you this Dear Teen Me prize pack, and all you have to do is fill out the rafflecopter below to have a chance (or ten) to win!
edited way later: You can enter until November 12. The winner will be announced then!