Teen Tales: Freedom and the failure it opens you up to

Aug 22, 2011

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?

19 comments:

Jess said...

I completely agree with that. Wonderful post. My parents give me quite a bit of freedom which is both awesome... and sometimes scary.
In my novel though... My characters aren't that deep yet. Especially the supporting characters. They're pretty flat. So I'm working on that.

Shelly said...

Great anology. Loved this post! So true about teens and freedom.

Jessie Humphries said...

I stole my moms van for a joyride to 7-11 when I was 13. The thing I wasnt expecting was to drive past my dad on the way there. OOOps...sometimes we take freedom for granted!

Angie Cothran said...

I had not thought of this--brilliant :) I'm going to keep it in mind as I write.

Cynthia said...

Life is a journey, it's great when everything is new. It's also nice to master things once in a while too. LOL How I remembe those days!

Kittie Howard said...

Angie's right - this is a brilliant post! Sometimes, when I think back to being a teen I have to laugh at myself - I thought I was sooooo grownup - LOL! But, life is a journey - I'm still learning - sometimes still pushing freedom's limits - love how you tied all this together, Shallee!

Abby said...

I think I want to block out my own teenage years. Sometimes I can't believe the things I did, but somehow I made it through safely. It's nothing short of a miracle. But I love delving into a good book and getting wrapped up into the challenges, failures and achievements of others. We can all relate and it's fun!

& said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Emy Shin said...

Sorry, wrong account!

This is such a thought-provoking post. I never thought about it that way before -- but with freedom does come with the possibility of failures. And the YA protagonists will also have to face these things.

Jenny S. Morris said...

My parents gave me a lot of freedom when I was a teenager,I guess when you get to #6 you're tired. I have been shy about writing characters too young, but I am reworking my 1st MS and turned the clock back so my MC is 15. I have thought ALOT about freedom for her, and how much her mom is going to give her, and what she will do with it. I have a feeling my MC will create freedom, where her mom won't readily give it to her. We'll see...
Love your post.

Jenny S. Morris said...

My parents gave me a lot of freedom when I was a teenager,I guess when you get to #6 you're tired. I have been shy about writing characters too young, but I am reworking my 1st MS and turned the clock back so my MC is 15. I have thought ALOT about freedom for her, and how much her mom is going to give her, and what she will do with it. I have a feeling my MC will create freedom, where her mom won't readily give it to her. We'll see...
Love your post.

linda said...

Ooh... great point that sometimes getting exactly what you wish for (freedom, in this case) isn't all you thought it'd be. Love your point that it's both exciting and scary!

Chantele Sedgwick said...

You always have the best posts. Seriously. I never ran into another car, but I did run into our garage door. That was tons of fun. Especially when I had to tell my parents! LOL

Rachna Chhabria said...

Liked the post a lot. My MG characters are currently battling lot of frustration and disappointment. But,I think,its necessary for them to grow and learn from it.

Kari Marie said...

Great post! I also had that stick-shift stop sign moment except it was my dad who was ordering me out of the car. He also gave up and traded the stick in for an automatic a month later. :) Good times.

David Powers King said...

Oh yes. Yes, yes! When I was dropped off at college and saw my parents drive away, I felt immensely free. It didn't take long to figure out that I was going to have a mini breakdown. The real world. It's a shock. I've applied such experiences with my characters. Makes for good writing. :)

Melissa Hurst said...

Great post! I had my share of fear with freedom when I was a teen. I should definitely give some of those fears to my characters:)

ali cross said...

Is it wrong that I was laughing at you? Well, not totally laughing, because I did feel a smidgen of "aww" for you too . . . but mostly laughing because that's what we can do about crazy experiences from the past, right? :D

And as for my characters ... I *think* I do. *shrug* I hope so!

Gail Shepherd said...

Fear, failure and frustration. Definitely the three-headed dog of teendom. I remember it well. : )
Great post.

 
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