Today's Tune: Silver Lining
If you're on Twitter, you should absolutely post 130-character Halloween microfiction along with the hashtag #hallowfic. Do it do it do it. I WILL MAKE THIS A THING.
"Isn't this too deep for teenagers?"
"Wow, that's dark. I don't know if teens are this dark."
"This makes me think a lot. I don't think teens want to think this much."
"I thought YA literature was supposed to be, you know, light. Easy to read."
Do any of these questions or statements sound familiar to you? They've become very familiar to me over the past year.
Granted, my writing edges toward the dark and heavy (murder, depression, drug use, pain), so it's not an incredibly surprising reaction. Even so, I've never once sat back and thought, "Hmm, actually, this is TOO rough for my audience." I'm very mindful of the variety of teen experience, and very often draw on my own teenage years for the scenes I write.
And here's the thing: I wasn't an especially unhappy youth. Outwardly, I was well-off and well-adjusted. Just your average kid - nothing too horrifying in my past, relatively naive/"innocent," decent high school experience. Very little that would indicate that in reality I was a storm of emotion.
My life certainly wasn't the image of suffering, but no more was it a rosy sunrise. I was a quiet introvert who choked back feelings of rejection, hurt, rage, and terror. I am absolutely positive I wasn't alone, though I often felt that way.
I found escape by finding the darkness inside my mind and heart reflected on the pages of books. No, my parents weren't dead and no one wanted to murder my friends. But darkness in YA isn't about reality - it's about having an outlet for the stormy feelings of being a teenager.
Since I've been showing my work, I've had the strange experience of people telling me they had no idea such darkness could come out of me. On the outside, I'm an optimistic, bright-color-wearing, happy-go-lucky blond. That's who I am, but only in part. There's also a part of me I often keep locked away, where I hide all my wounds, all my pain, all my suffering - a lot of it from my teen years. And that place is somehow always accessed when I write.
Maybe it's subconscious self-therapy. Maybe it's just what makes most sense to me when I write for teens - I'm writing to my own teenage self. I'm not sure. But what I am sure of is that I'm writing for teens, and there are teens out there who understand where I'm coming from.
Even though I've come to expect it now, I'm always surprised when I come across people who seem to think teenagers aren't deep, dark, or pained. That they don't want to think. I'm not sure if their teen years really were a breeze, or if they can't remember that adolescence really kind of sucks. Everything hurts, physically and emotionally. Overthinking is par for the course.
Sure, as adults, we can look back and see exactly how we overreacted, or how that thing we thought would be the end of the world was really no big deal. And it's easy to write off present-day teenagers as silly, frothy and melodramatic.
But it is not so. Those feelings aren't any less real now than they were then. When my high school crush rejected me? I was destroyed. When my parents divorced? Gutted. When my best friend got new friends and left me behind? The pain was so cutting I could barely breathe. I'd react differently now, but it's only because my skin's gotten tougher. Every time something similar happens in my adult life, some small part of my mind remembers. I shut it away immediately, but I remember.
"Teenager" is not some overreaching umbrella term. Teenagers are as varied as adults. Some are shallow, some are deep. Their literature should be as varied and complex as they are. Mine just happens to reflect their darkness alongside their light.
Because that's me - light cutting through dark, reminding me of the way. And everything I went through to get here.