Posts tagged ‘lauren oliver’

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. 

January 30, 2012

what if you had to die again and again? and again…

I don’t really have a good parenting story for this book because I have toddler boys instead of teenage girls (says a small prayer of thanks). Toddler boys have their issues, but high school popularity contests, alcohol, sex, and suicide are not among them. I realize that’s a lot of weighty issues, but don’t let them turn you away from this book. Its’s weighty, but not in a preachy way. And not in an over-the-top way. Just in a very real, very honest way. It’s a very good story with very good writing, which at the end of the day, is a great way to spend some time.

Title: Before I fall
Author:
 Lauren Oliver
Genre: Fiction
Age: High School or Upper Middle School (but the topics are definitely high school rated)

After not really liking the first chapter (I was thinking, is anyone really THIS shallow?), I got into the book until it had such a hold on me I couldn’t put it down even though the baby has been keeping me up and I really needed to sleep. Here’s my two cents, and I think this would be a GREAT book for any teenage girl and her mom to read together. Even if you are at the point in your relationship where this main character is and you don’t talk much, just the shared reading experience would be great. As a mom (or a dad!) you would be sending the message to your daughter, that yes, you are up for topics like this, that you are willing to read about them and even talk about them, that you were a teenager once, too.

(Although please do not ask your child to read it and then give them any high-road morality lectures about alcohol or driving or sex. Trust me, the book speaks for itself. That is the beauty of it. If you have a close relationship with your kid, treasure that and talk to them about the characters, their lives, and their decisions. Let your teen lead the way with the discussion. Don’t push it.)

This book is really well-written. Told from the point of view of a popular high school girl who dies in a car crash and has to relive her last day over and over, it’s a beautiful story about life and the way we live it. It’s a great story about the lessons we learn along the way, by one girl who learned those lessons way too late. I was a little worried it was going to be too predictable–she starts out so shallow and obviously she is going to learn, change. But it wasn’t like that at all. For one, she learns lessons in a really honest, believable way. For two, what seems so shallow at first is explained so well in later chapters that depth is added to her character and she becomes so alive. Which is only somewhat ironic, given that she’s dead.

I think teenage girls would really relate to this book, even if they’ve never stepped into the popular circle or touched a cup of beer to their lips. This book is about growing up. It’s about finding out what’s important. It’s about the changes we make on purpose and the ones we don’t realize we’ve made until they are already a part of us. It really makes you think about how you live your life. In a good way.

From a parent perspective, here are two of my favorite observations, which you could talk about (or not) with your kids:

For page references purposes, I had a library-bound hardcover.

Page 225: It’s the weirdest thing. I’m popular–really popular–but I don’t have that many friends. What’s even weirder is that it’s the first time I’ve noticed.

Page 194: Here’s one of the things I learned that morning: if you cross a line and nothing happens, the line loses meaning. It’s like that old riddle about a tree falling in a forest and whether it makes a sound if there’s no one around to hear it. / You keep drawing a line farther and farther away, crossing it every time. That’s how people end up stepping off the edge of the earth. You’d be surprised at how easy it is to bust out of orbit, to spin out to a place where no one can touch you.

That second passage is a really good reminder for parents. It can be so hard to draw that line–and once drawn, to keep its meaning. When I worked as a principal, I saw so many parents struggling with it. But it’s so important, and this is why. Kids WANT that line, they crave that line, even if they could never, ever express it for themselves. I used to tell parents that, and they wouldn’t always believe me.

I remember hearing an NPR interview a long time ago with a woman who had once worked as a dominatrix. I don’t remember what she had turned herself into that landed her later on NPR, as that was likely less interesting. But this is exactly what she was talking about. She said she never had any boundaries growing up. So she just kept pushing and pushing, looking for the walls. She tried alcohol, she tried drugs, she tried stripping, and she just kept going. Unfortunately, I never found a polite way to share that story with parents, but I wish I could have–if that didn’t make them give their kids some boundaries, I don’t know what would. This book, might, though.