Teen Tales is a weekly feature connecting the YA experience with YA literature.
What is it about being a teen that makes EVERY. SINGLE. THING. exaggeratedly more excruciating? A snide comment at school made me cry later that night. A second glance from a cute boy sent me into ecstasy. Failing to complete a math problem elicited tears of agonized frustration.
A lot of people roll their eyes and blame hormones. Which, I grant you, probably play a part. But I think there's more to it than that. Teens are at a point in life where they're developing their sense of identity. We looked at the world, and ourselves, with more open eyes. So of course, we took everything around us personally, because our focus was ourselves.
That snide comment didn't just mean that girl was mean or in a bad mood, it meant I might be the person she accused me of being. The glance from the cute boy must mean he was in love with me, and therefore I should be in love with him. The failed math problem meant I was a failure. At the time, those things struck right to the heart of the fragile self I was trying to create.
And because I was so deep in developing that self, it was hard to see anyone else-- which led to the "no one understands" syndrome. In fact, as a teenage poet, I once vented my anguish on paper. Behold:
Loneliness do not depart, stay another day.
Loneliness my only friend, do not go away.
No one understands me, nor do they even try.
They just leave me all alone, even if I were to cry.
So all alone I'll sit, until my days will end.
Loneliness do not depart, loneliness my only friend.
I smile a little when I read this now, because it expresses a slightly ridiculous concept. I was not alone; I had an incredibly supportive system of family and friends.
But the thing is, I remember writing that poem. I remember sitting on my bed with the pink blanket and feeling so desperately sad and lonely that I cried onto the paper as I wrote. It seems overly emotional now, but at the moment, it was very real. And for that reason, I find it hard to laugh at myself.
Literature in general is meant to be a vicarious, cathartic experience, allowing us to feel things we wouldn't normally feel in the course of everyday life. In YA fiction, with YA protagonists who feel everything so keenly, there is more opportunity to take the reader along for a torturous, heart-wrenching, and hopefully soul-healing ride. That is, as long as we authors both remember those emotions, and do our best at expressing them in our fiction.
So, my friends, what are your most emotional teen memories? What YA books have you read that took you through emotional hell and back out again? What emotional firestorms do the characters in your own writing have to deal with, and how do you get those emotions across?