Teen Tales is a weekly feature connecting the YA experience with YA literature.
I was a young 'un in high school-- my birthday was in the summer, so sophomore year I had to sit and sigh while all my friends got their driver's licenses before I did. But come July 17th, I was in the DMV, baby! Keys! Freedom! A sporty little...er, gigantic tank of a suburban my parents wouldn't let me drive friends in.
They did, however, let me drive it to the local gym for a job interview two weeks after my birthday (Job! Money! Freedom!). As I pulled the tank/suburban into a parking space, there was a horrible, jolting crunch.
Yeah. I crashed into a parked car. One so new, it still had the little paper thingy instead of a license plate. #UltimateShalleeFail
I had no idea what to do when a guy climbed out of that car looking ready to pummel me. He took pity on me when he saw the abject fear on my face, and kindly called the cops and my parents on his cell phone. It was a good thing he knew what to do, because all I could do was grip the steering wheel and gasp "yes" and "no" through my tears.
Because here's the thing about freedom when you're a teenager. It's new and exciting and...new. And you don't always know what to do with it, so it's as scary as it is exciting-- especially when something goes wrong and you don't know how to handle it because it's new. And it leads to extreme frustration when your dad then refuses to let you drive the suburban and tries to teach you to drive his stick-shift and you get stuck at a stop sign and have to switch him places and a guy driving past is LAUGHING HIS $*&# HEAD OFF at you.
The simple fact of the matter is, freedom opens you up to failure, which is both frightening and frustrating. And it's one thing I love about YA fiction. The characters try things with their freedom. Sometimes they fail. But if it's done right, you have ultimate sympathy for that failure, even when it's their own darn fault, because you've been there. Maybe you're still there. You get it, and you still love them even when they do completely idiotic things because you know that failure just opens the door for another opportunity for success.
So, my friends, do your YA characters find fear, frustration, and failure along with their freedom? Did you, as a teenager?