Archive for ‘12 – 18: Young Adult’

May 13, 2014

Dystopian Fantasy: The End of the World as We Know it

Dystopian Fantasy: The End of the World as We Know It
by Katherine Higgs-Coulthard38-FE3-KathyHiggs-Coulthard

Hunger Games
Divergent
The Maze Runner
Ender’s Game

What do these books have in common?

a) They’re great books that offer an exciting read.
b) Preteens, tweens, and teens love them.
c) They either have or will soon be made into movies.
d) They are dystopian novels.
e) All of the above.

The answer is e) All of the above!

Books like Hunger Games and Divergent are introducing today’s generation to dystopian fiction. While many adults may not recognize the label “dystopian,” it’s not new. Remember reading Louis Lowry’s The Giver or Stephen King/Richard Bachman’s Running Man back in the 90’s? In fact, a brief Google search will uncover dystopian stories dating back to the 18th Century! But what does “dystopian” mean? The opposite of utopian, dystopian stories take place in a society where people are severely oppressed or live in fear. Usually they take place in an altered reality or a future version of our world where the government wields heavy-handed power.

Dystopian stories draw in middle grade to young adult readers because they offer many of the same features fairy tales offer to younger readers: They show that the world is a dangerous place where people are not always what they seem, but where creativity, intellect, and perseverance can prevail.

If you have a child ages 10 and up, you’ve probably seen them carrying around a copy of Hunger Games or Divergent. But there are more great dystopian books out there than just the blockbusters. Check out these:

 

13th reality

Title: The 13th Reality
Author: James Dashner
Genre: middle grade

 

Title: City of Embercity of ember
Author:
Jeanne Duprau
Genre: middle grade

 

 

Among the HiddenTitle: Among the Hidden
Author: Margaret Peterson Haddix
Genre: middle grade

 

 

Title: The UgliesThe Uglies
Author: Scott Westerfield
Genre: y/a

 

Add to the list! What dystopian novels have your family discovered?

August 23, 2013

Be someone else. Then understand them.

We know books can take us places. We know they can introduce us to new people. But we often overlook the fact that they allow us to be  someone else. Not just to meet them, gaze into their life for a day. But actually to walk in their shoes, see through their eyes. Meet new people through the lens of the new person we suddenly find ourselves being. And the trend of first person narrators makes this even more possible.

I have a secret hatred for first person narrators because I often think you lose a lot without seeing the whole picture. However, when done right, they do lend a sense of immediacy and intimacy that you cannot get any other way.

piggyTitle: Piggy (originally “Big” in Dutch)
Author: Mireille Geus
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Age: Late elementary, Middle

Piggy is a new best friend (of sorts) to the “different” and “special” Dizzy. Or Lizzy, as the autistic girl is not really ever called. The book unfolds as Dizzy, used to being left out of pretty much everything, suddenly finds herself in a tight, and sometimes intense, friendship with the new girl in school. The friendship spirals out of control as the story is told both in the present (in which Dizzie finds herself in a LOT of trouble) and the past (in which Dizzie tells the story as the trouble unfolds).

Is it unfair to say that the book reminds me of a few others (The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time and Out of my Mind) because of the special-needs status of the narrator? Perhaps. But like those two books, this story brings us one step closer to understanding someone that those more neurotypical readers might have a hard time understanding.

Let me be clear: this book didn’t do well (at least in the states–it was translated from Dutch). I bought it for $1 on one of those outdoor racks at the bookstore. But I liked this book. It was a fast and fun read with a good story and good characters. It’s short and nothing completely unexpected, but good nevertheless. It would be a great read for any kid just because it’s a good story, but I like that it will give those readers a closer understanding of someone different from them. If your child is struggling to understand a classmate or get along with a new potential friend, this would be all the more appropriate for them. Definitely read the book along with them and help them to notice how Dizzy reacts to the world around her and how that makes her different. How does it help her or hurt her at different points in the story? This book will help readers carry these images back to school where they can use them to forge a better understanding of their peers.

August 2, 2013

the secrets of parenting with books

This was a YA book I could NOT put down. I think EVERY SINGLE parent needs to read it right now. And most teens, too. I chose this book for its title and cover. This might make me shallow, but it totally worked. Because Aristotle and Dante DO discover the secrets of the universe, or at least some of them, and they do it in a really realistically teen way.

aristotleanddanteTitle: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe
Author
: Benjamin Alire Sáenz
Genre: Fiction, Realistic Fiction
Age: 12 and up

And the cool thing about the parents? Well for starters, they aren’t dead! When is the last time you read a kids’ book where the parents were still alive? Still thinking about that one? Exactly. ALL FOUR parents are involved, and all, despite various issues they might have, are phenomenal role models, or at least doing their best. (And not in a cheesy, role-your-eyes I can’t believe my mom is making me read this book kind of way. Not that your kid would EVER roll his eyes…)

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe is a compelling story about two teenage boys. Both are Mexican-American, which is already an identity with which they struggle, in different ways. And both are discovering sexuality, and again, they discover their own in really different ways. Aristotle is rough around the edges, completely silent inside and out (which makes him a really unique 1st person narrator–he doesn’t understand himself well enough to tell you all the details). Dante is more refined, more talkative, inquisitive. He wants to save the dead bird in the street.

Aristotle and Dante become fast friends and what happens next is nothing less than the story of all boys who grow up. It will, in particular, speak to those teenage boys who are finding out that their own sexuality might be different than the status quo, but I believe this is a book whose teenage angst will speak to all of us: gay, straight, young, and old.

And like I said, this is a book for parents. If you are having a hard time talking with your kids about growing up, having friends, or being gay, please read this book. Give it to your kids to read. And, like Ari’s father, sit down at the kitchen table one day and just start to talk. You might be surprised where it gets you.

If all books were like this, EVERYONE would read kids’ books, everyone would read with their kids, and this blog would be totally irrelevant.

And you don’t have to take MY word for it. This book won the Michael J. Printz Award, the Stonewall Book Award, and the Pura Belpré Award. Seriously. It has three medals on the cover.

If you like this one, I would suggest: Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher, The Absolutely True Story of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie, and An Abundance of Katherines by John Green. All are great coming-of-age boy stories with a real MC and real problems in a real world.

July 8, 2013

Need some science with your watermelon?

I have never tired to make my love for science a secret. Except in high school, and then I actually hated it so there was no secret, just a catastrophic misunderstanding that was luckily remedied by some more creative teachers in college. But that’s another story for another time. Right now, I want to talk about how you can get your kids to love science, too, because, really there is nothing NOT to love. And while most parents know to keep up on reading over the summer, and many also do some math or writing, not everyone thinks about science.

So today I’m linking to an article I wrote for ParentMap magazine in Seattle. It talks about how to bring science to your kid, whether that kid is scientifically, artistically, linguistically, or anything other-istically inclined. So go ahead and click on the link below.

Turn Cooking and Collecting Into Summer Science Fun!

And then, depending on which part you (and your child) likes best, head to the kitchen or the backyard or the library. And let the science learning begin!

Some of the books mentioned in that article can also be found on this blog. LIke Swirl by Swirl, Forest Has A Song, and Autumn Winifred Oliver Does Things Different.

June 3, 2013

Putting Down Roots

kathy headshotHi! I’m so excited to introduce Kathy Higgs-Coultard, who is a new contributing writer for The Family That Reads Together. This post is great timing for me as my son and I just planted our first garden; we will see how THAT goes. Kathy’s writing will be featured on the 2nd Monday of each month. Kathy’s contributions will mainly focus on the traditions, (mis)adventures, and discoveries she’s experienced while raising her four children to be voracious readers and writers. You can read more about Kathy at our about the authors page or visit her at Write with Kathy.

Putting Down Roots

I have never been much of a gardener.  I think the problem stems from my love/hate relationship with plants—I love them, they hate me. No matter how much care and attention I give a plant, it always dies. So when we decided to transplant our four children from Forest Hills–a subdivision dominated by pachysandra, myrtle, and impatiens, to a new home on two acres of wooded property, I panicked. Especially when Laura (then six) announced, “Now we can finally have a garden.” Her face was so bright and hopeful, I did what any good mom would do. I lied. “Yes, sweetie,” I said, “a garden. We can do that.”

To my defense, I did not intend it to be a lie. Laura and I researched plants and chose those best suited to shady areas. We fertilized. We watered. We prayed. We really, really tried. But the hostas we used as a border along the back of the yard were nibbled down to nubs. The tulips we planted in a mulch bed were gnawed to nothing. And the purple azeala Laura loved withered to barren sticks when some creature burrowed under it. “Why does everything I love die?” Laura asked.

I knew how she felt. I’d begun to wonder if maybe Mother Nature herself hated me. It was possible that she still held a grudge from that time I cut every bud off my grandmother’s rosebush and used them to frost a mud pie. Maybe Mother Nature had sicced her forest friends on our garden.

Then, in the serendipitous way things always seem to happen, I came upon one of my favorite childhood stories while leading a book drive. “I loved this book,” I told Laura, showing her the cover of Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH. She liberated it from the pile and insisted we begin reading it that night.

Night after night we worried over Mrs. Frisby’s plight to move her sick child before the farmer could plow up her home. When we got to the part where Mrs. Frisby goes to visit the rats living under the rosebush, Laura jumped up and yelled, “That’s what happened to the azeala!” To test her theory, she set up an observation station by the picture window overlooking the backyard. It took a few weeks of on and off again observing for us to learn that it wasn’t rats living under our azeala, but hosta-eating rabbits. We also discovered that deer enjoy a tulip or two in the evening. Most impressive were the variety of birds flitting through to snag berries off the wild bushes at the wood’s edge. We even spied a family of wild turkeys, although they seemed more interested in using our yard as a shortcut to somewhere else than a feeding ground.

“We need to go back to the garden guy,” Laura announced when we talked about her findings. I nodded. Tim would be able to give us tips on protecting our garden from our furry friends. But Laura shook her head. “No! We need to find out what other animals eat and plant that, too! Maybe we could see opossums, and raccoons, and unicorns.”

Oh my.

mrsfrisbyTitle: Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH
Author: Robert C. O’Brien
Genre: Adventure, Science Fiction
Ages: Listening 5 yrs and up; Independent 8 and up

1972 Newbery Medal Winner. Although some older books do not capture the attention of today’s children, this book pulled my kids right in and held them enthralled as they worried for Timothy’s health and Mrs. Frisby’s safety. Side note: O’Brien’s daughter wrote two sequels to this book.

touchabutterflyTitle: Touch a Butterfly: Wildlife Gardening with Kids
Author: April Pulley Sayre
Genre: Nonfiction
Ages: Adult

Beautiful—in photos and lyrical language, April invites parents to create nature adventures in our own yards. From helping readers understand the necessary components of a habitat to providing advice on how to build a low maintenance, sustainable environment for wildlife, April encourages all to approach wildlife gardening with confidence and to include their children in the adventure.

What about you? Do you have gardening attempts to share? Successful or otherwise?

May 11, 2013

it’s not easy to get out of the Easy

outoftheeasyHere’s the first sentence.

My mother’s a prostitute.

Not how your average YA book begins. But keep reading. Here’s the rest of the paragraph:

Not the filthy, streetwalking kind. She’s actually quite pretty, fairly well-spoken, and has lovely clothes. But she sleeps with men for money or gifts, and according to the dictionary, that makes her a prostitute.

Don’t you love that voice? That character? And don’t you want to read more? I did. Thus begins the story of Josie, a seventeen-year-old protagonist with one very strong desire: to leave behind everything she knows and get out of New Orleans. Or as the title says it, “Out of the Easy”.

I loved this book. It had everything I want: fast-moving plot, lots of action and drama, strong characters with strong desires, and great writing. Some of the great characters include Josie, the main character who cleans the brothel and works in a bookstore, her two guy friends (the bookish one and the cool one), her mother (a tragic and not very nice character), the colorful madam of the house who looks after Josie, and many, many others who come in and out and fill beautiful and dark roles.

Despite the setting, and the opening lines, this book is pretty PG-rated. We are talking some mild kisses and one almost-groping scene…lightyears away from Twilight, for example. I know there are some people who will say “what’s a prostitute doing in a YA book”? But those people probably haven’t read YA in about 50 years, and they likely don’t know many teens.

Most teens will relate to this character’s desire to get away from anything and everything they’ve always known. Of course, most teens do this in more of a figurative sense–with behavior (and a lot of “whatever”s). But the idea is the same, the pull to be in charge of their own life, to set out and make their mark. Another way to say it comes from David Copperfield, in a line oft-quoted in this book: “Whether I turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show.”

Reading this book with your kid would be a great foray into those questions. You might not be able to directly ask your teen what they want to change in their lives (but if you are, awesome!). But you could start with a hypothetical. If they could get in that car with Josie and drive anywhere they wanted, where would they go? What would they want to do when they got there? And go back to that quote from David Copperfield. If they learn it as the quote from Out of the Easy, so be it. It’s something every teen should think about, and this book will make them do just that.

outoftheeasyTitle: Out of the Easy
Author: Ruta Sepetys
Age: 12 and up
Genre: Historical Fiction

April 10, 2013

Fast-paced mythological fun

Rick Riordan, author of the mega-smash hit series about Percy Jackson and the Olympians, almost makes my days in the Junior Classical League cool again. (In case you missed JCL while you were off doing something more normal like cheerleading, it was a competition where you could recite Latin poems, play ancient-Roman-based trivia games, and wear togas.) I said almost, okay?

I’m into the Kane Chronicles right now, a trilogy that follows a brother and sister team as they try to learn their family’s ancient Egyptian magic and save their father. The books are told in the first person from both Carter’s (the nerdier, grew-up-homeschooled-and-on-the-run-with-archaeologist-dad, darker-skinned brother) and Sadie’s (the hipper, cooler, sometimes-braver and fairer-skinned sister) point of view. You can meet these kids here. And you can learn more about their family’s magic here. And if you really need to, you can play some Egyptian games here.

As always, I’d encourage you to read these with your kids! This one is an easy assignment, because you are going to love it and before you know it, you’ll be done and off looking for some more Riordan ancient civilization fun.

After you do, you can talk about one of the fun ideas in this book, a secret name. Everyone has one and knowing someone else’s gives you complete control over them. Sadie controls the God Set because she knows his secret name (Evil Day). Tere’s a great moment in the book where she needs to guess her brother Carter’s secret name, something she can do because she knows him so well. Why not discuss your secret names around the family dinner table? Or in a classroom? Kids could come up with names for themselves or friends, tapping into their best qualities or highest ambitions. What better way to get close to your child than to know their mythologically secret name?

serpents-shadowTitle: Kane Chronicles: The Red Pyramid, The Throne of Fire, The Serpent’s Shadow
Author:
Rick Riordan
Genre:
Fantasy
Age Group:
Middle School kids

This book would be great for:

– reluctant boy readers (it’s big, but fast-paced and action-packed)
– anyone into mythology or ancient Egypt
– anyone studying mythology in school
– readers looking for mixed-race main characters (I’ve had many parents ask about this before: their race is not an issue in the book, just a fact about them, which is nice)
– anyone who likes a LOT of action (sometimes I find myself needing to catch my breath!)

So, what is your secret name? And if you have this conversation with your kids, let me know how it goes! Or don’t, if it’s a secret…

March 7, 2013

You can’t put the kids in a cardboard box, but you can call on Neville, Boomer, and Big Ernie

We did it last summer. The neighbors are doing it this summer. It’s as American as apple pie and the Fourth of July: the long distance move. The snow might still be on the ground, but I can hear the birds chirping, and they aren’t the only ones looking for a new nest. I can tell by the posts on my neighborhood moms’ group that many human families will soon be following suit. (***Note to people who aren’t moving soon: just skip the next part and read the bit about “Neville”, a great picture book. Then go back to Facebook and thank the heavens you don’t have to move.)

Let’s be honest, nobody likes moving. But let’s be honest again, I only thought I knew how hard moving was when my husband and I moved from the east coast to the Pacific Northwest. And then from the Pacific Northwest to the South. But I didn’t know, not until we moved from the South to the Midwest. It wasn’t the locations that mattered so much, but the cargo: we now had two kids. Things were about to get interesting.

And what do I do when things with my kids get interesting? That’s right, I buy books. Here are some that were awesomely helpful during that time:

neville

Title: Neville
Author: Norton Juster
Illustrator: G. Brian Karas

Neville was our absolute favorite. It was recommended by a fellow children’s book lover in Nashville. Unlike the others mentioned here, it’s not meant as a how-to on moving, but just a great picture book that happens to be about a kid who just moved. A young boy ventures out into his new neighborhood fairly certain that his mom is WRONG when she hints that he might make friends just by walking down the street. But what happens when he stands on the corner and yells “NEVILLE!” at the top of his lungs? Well, you’ll have to read it to find out. I’d recommend this one even if you aren’t moving.

berenstainbearsmovingday

Title: Berenstain’s Bears Moving Day
Authors/Illustrators: Stan and Jan Berenstain

Berenstain Bears’ Moving Day. Some people like these famous bears, some people don’t. And while I understand that they are long and a little preachy, especially by today’s trendy and zen-like picture books, I happen to love the Berenstein bears. And my kids do, too. They tell it like it is, and as long as you agree, they are the way to go. I think this one is an especially good one and definitely useful for a kid who is moving. Brother Bear is sad to leave his cave and his friends, but he learns to love his new tree house (the one we all know and love from other Berenstein Bear books) and find new friends.

boomersbigday

Title: Boomer’s Big Day
Author: Constance W. McGeorge
Illustrator: Mary Whyte

Boomer’s Big Day might be my favorite, especially for the littlest set (2 and up). Boomer is a dog and the family doesn’t really play a major role at all in the story, which I think is nice–it really hits that kid-centric point of view where everything revolves around their world, they aren’t getting enough information, and they are trying to figure it out for themselves. Boomer’s troubles start when he can’t understand why he isn’t getting his morning walk, escalate when his favorite toys are boxed up, but disappear when he sees…his new backyard!

bigerniesnewhome

Title: Big Ernie’s New Home
Authors/Ilustrators: Teresa and Whitney Martin

Big Ernie’s New Home also uses an animal as the point-of-view character, although Big Ernie (a cat) has a friend (Little Henry) who is going through the move right beside him. A little more prose than Boomer, so it might be better for a slightly older crowd (4 and up perhaps) or littler ones who can sit through a story. (It’s not long by any means, but I guess it seems that way in comparison with other books–picture books are getting shorter and shorter every year. One thing I liked about Big Ernie is that it doesn’t make the assumption that the kid is moving to a better place, which some of the books do. It’s a different place (in this case Santa Fe) and doesn’t describe the new house.

Title: Usborne First Experiences: Moving House
Author: Anne Civardi
Illustrator: Stephen Cartwright

Usborne First Experiences: Moving House was a nice short read, factual but with a story about a family. This family is moving across town, so they are able to visit their house before they move. (This was not the case with us, and as a result my son didn’t request this one as much and I didn’t pick it up as much). The book also includes details about how their new house is getting painted and new carpets before they move in, and compares the old house, which is an attached row house, to the new house, a large stand-alone home. If those facts match up, or at least don’t conflict with your story too much, this–while not great literature–is a nice, quick book that’s easy to understand. I think there is also a sticker book that goes with this, so that could be good, too. Especially if you have a long car ride built into your move.

themovingbook

Title: The Moving Book: A Kids’ Survival Guide
Author: Gabriel Davis
Illustrator: Sue Dennen

The Moving Book: A Kids’ Survival Guide was great, and would have been even better had I taken more time to help my son fill out the answers. Part scrapbook, part tutorial on how to move, and part planner for your new town, this book will help calm kids’ anxieties by making them part of the process. I love the way it asks them to find things they are looking forward to doing in their new town. And it has ideas for saying goodbye to friends and keeping in touch.

If you are moving this Spring or Summer, good luck! Give your kids some concrete ideas. The Wizard of Why asked a thousand times how his bed was possibly going to fit into a truck, so we googled it and found pictures of a bed going into a moving truck. I cannot tell you how much that helped! Plus, when are truck pictures a bad idea? Find a map of the city you are moving to and make some definite plans: is there a children’s museum you can go to? Find pictures on the web and show your kids. Or an art museum or a movie theatre…anything that gives them something to look forward to and convinces them that you are moving them to an actual place on the planet Earth with fellow human beings–and not to whatever dimension of outer space their toddler mind is imagining.

November 24, 2012

You ain’t slick and I ain’t stupid

To quote a movie I cannot stand, this book had me at “hello” and held onto me all the way to goodbye. After a wonderful, family-filled, post-Thanksgiving day yesterday, complete with family, a workout, a walk in the snow, and an after-dinner movie, we joked about crashing the Michigan frat parties that were likely just starting up as we trodded off to bed, the hour still in the single digits. But if I’m not staying up for parties anymore (yeah, right, ’cause I used to all the time…) there is one thing that will keep my light on, and Like Sisters on the Homefront, a 1996 Coretta Scott King Honor Book by Rita Williams-Garcia, meant I didn’t turn it off until about one o’clock this morning.

Sisters grabs you from the first page, when Gayle’s mother, hearing the bathroom door too many times in a row, immediately knows something is up. And immediately knows what that something is. Gayle’s voice rings and sings through perfect prose as the defiant 14-year-old is dragged to an abortion clinic by her mother and then sent away from her beloved New York City to live with relatives down south. Gayle already has one child, a baby who comes with her on the journey, and is indeed with her every moment of the day. Gayle struggles mightily against her God-fearing, Jesus-worshipping family, but even as you know what’s coming, or think you know, this book will have you turning the pages quickly.

Whether you fall for Gayle immediately (like “Great” does, the family matriarch who lies dying in her bed and shares life-changing stories of the past with her) or whether it takes you some time to warm up to her (like her cousin “Cookie” who can belt out the Lord’s music like nobody’s music, might depend on who you are and where you’ve been. But that you will fall in love for her I have no doubt. True, this book deals with adult themes–a very young girl is a mother, and on top of that, she’s experiencing the pains of abortion throughout much of the story. But this isn’t pain for pain’s sake. This book feels real. You meet these characters so intimately, you will ultimately feel like your mother sent you down South to live with them. Some mothers might shy away from a book like this, but to the extent that it’s appropriate for me to do so, I would discourage that. This book is filled with positive messages, the good kind that are honest, learned the hard way, and rooted in a messy but caring family.

Title: Like Sisters on the Homefront
Author: Rita Williams-Garcia
Genre: Fiction
Age: 7th grade and up

If you read this book with your daughter, there are a lot of good conversations you could have at the end. (Hint: one of them does NOT start out with the phrase “and that’s why you shouldn’t have sex until you are 35!”) 🙂 But Gayle has been using sex to get something she doesn’t have anywhere else. What is it? And why doesn’t she have it. Gayle talks about about the baby’s daddy and her latest boyfriend, but we don’t see them at all in the book. Why not? Ask your daughter about it. What is the difference between Gayle and Cookie when Cookie finally admits her own crush? And what happens that fateful night when Cookie rushes to the car? What is Cookie thinking and why does what happens next happen?

If you’re not ready for the romantic/sexual side of the conversation, this book has a lot more to offer about family and history. Why is everyone so keen to hear the “Telling” before Great passes away? What does it mean to know one’s own history and why does that matter? There’s a wonderful passage where Great tells Gayle she should never be angry at another African because they could be family, separated by slavery, time, and geography. Isn’t that something we could all learn?

The last line in this book is still whispering itself softly between my ears. The imagery of the scene is dancing in my mind, even after a good night’s sleep, even after a morning with my own family, who I appreciate through the lens of this newly-read book, resting on my brain, now a part of me.

As Gayle often says, she “ain’t stupid”. But that doesn’t mean she has nothing to learn.

And that’s why we read.

October 18, 2012

What if someone ELSE could tell your teen it’s going to be okay?

Title: Dear Teen Me
Editors: E. Kristin Anderson and Miranda Kenneally
Genre: Nonfiction
Age: Upper Middle and High School

Want a great book to read with your teens? Instead of having YOU tell them that things will get better, that they will grow up, that it IS possible to learn from what seem like totally awful life-ending experiences, they can hear it in this book from some of their favorite YA authors. These letters, which the authors wrote to their teen selves, are honest, funny, devastating, and ultimately redeeming. This is a great book for any family that reads together. And if your teen will tolerate it, tell them what you would tell your own teen self if you had the chance. But be honest. Teens can smell a liar faster than a vampire can sniff out a pretty girl.

One author writes about finding a knife in the toolshed. At first she’s surprised there is no blood, then she’s surprised by her parents’ reactions. Ilsa Bick, author of Draw the Dark and Ashes, turns this abrupt and powerful memory from her childhood into an equally powerful lesson for kids today about the mistake her parents were making and how she (and her readers) can learn a different lesson than the one that was being taught to her at the time.

Mark Bieschke, who is the managing editor of the San Francisco Bay Guardian and author of The Ultimate LGBT Guide for Teens writes about the night the stole his mom’s car to sneak to a tiny Detroit nightclub. “That night is going to change your life. And no, it’s not because on your way back you make an illegal left-hand turn into the police chief’s personal car…”

Embarrasing moments have their role of course. Geoff Herbach (author of Stupid Fast and Nothing Special) starts his letter with “Humiliation and hilarity are closely linked, my little friend. Don’t lie there in bed, your guts churning, as you replay the terrible scene. I’m glad your shirt stuck to the floor.” He then recounts a hilarious break-dancing-gone-bad story. He ends his essay with these wise words: “Don’t beat yourself up, okay? Just relax. Keep dancing by the highway, you splendid little dork.”

Stacey Jay, who wrote Juliet Immortal and Romeo Redeemed, tells it straight. “Misery is misery. I wish I could say that the world will be shiny and wonderful when you’re grown up, but I can’t, because it won’t.” But she does talk about how things get better, and how the really strong friendships that she had as a teenager save her life and then some. She asks her teen self to give them a hug. “From both of us.”

Laura Ellen gives her teenage self some devastating news about the future of her eyesight. But she also has advice on how to stand up to herself when others won’t. And she ends with this always-applicable advice “P.S. PLEASE stop pretending you don’t know the answers in math class! It’s okay to be smarter than the boys. Really. They’ll get over it.” Laua Ellen’s first book, which comes from her experience with legal blindness, has just been released. It’s a teen thriller called Blind Spot.

This is one for the adults too. You’ll find yourself reminiscing about your own funny or awkward or painful or humiliating pasts. Okay, so maybe it’s not for everyone. 🙂

If you had to write a letter to your own teen self, what would you say? Tell me in the comments.