Friday, November 12, 2010

Books I Really Could've Used as a Teenager

When I was 18, something bad happened. It didn’t happen to me, and I didn’t even know the girl who got raped, but after the fact, I felt I could’ve done something to stop what had happened.

I DID blow the whistle. I did tell some “authority figures” that I thought something was wrong with this man. They waved me off, saying “He’s worked here a long time, Miranda. He knows what he’s doing.”

Something felt off, but I trusted the “authority figures,” and another girl paid the price.

I’m still not totally over it. In a way, I feel like I seriously messed up that girl's life. If only I'd spoken louder. 

In fact, the experience turned me into a crazy whistle blower. I almost always confront my bosses, my colleagues, my friends, my family over anything. Generally, I tell people what I think, no holds barred. And yeah, it causes me problems, but I’d rather the truth be out there than have someone get hurt again.

A couple months ago, I wanted to write about this to support Laurie Halse Anderson and her book SPEAK, but I couldn’t garner the courage.

Then I read Lisa Desrocher’s PERSONAL DEMONS. While reading, I kept thinking: I have a lot in common with this character (Frannie blamed herself for some bad stuff that had happened). As an outsider, I kept thinking, “It’s not your fault, Frannie! It’s okay to feel happy again.”

And then I started wishing I’d had this book when I was 18. I bet it would’ve helped me through what happened. Maybe I could’ve worked to forgive myself, and not felt guilty and depressed for a long time.

Nowadays there’s a much better selection of YA books at the library than ten years ago, when I was a teenager. Of course I had Judy Blume and Phyllis Reynolds Naylor, but I honestly can’t remember reading much else featuring real teenage girls.

On a “lighter” note, I wish I’d had Susane Colasanti’s books WHEN IT HAPPENS and WAITING FOR YOU. In both books, the main characters are involved with guys who are super cute, but aren’t quite right for them. But the characters begin considering nice guys (who might not have been the hottest guys in school).

At my high school, if you didn’t have a hot boyfriend, you were a nobody. Really. And I actually believed 
that was important. Looking back, I think about the nice guys I turned down. I could’ve had nice, fun boyfriends, but I believed “reputation” was more important than happiness. So I dated jerks.


And from a “girl power” perspective, I wish I’d had books like GRACELING and THE HUNGER GAMES. I remember watching movies like Star Wars and seeing Luke Skywalker dream of doing big things – joining the rebels. I remember watching Star Trek: The Next Generation and seeing Wesley Crusher want to drive the Enterprise. I read HARRY POTTER and 1984 and SHILOH and A CONNECTICUT YANKEE IN KING ARTHUR’S COURT and THE ONCE AND FUTURE KING.

All boys!

Where were the girls? I honestly can’t remember reading many books featuring strong girls. Can you guys?

What book(s) do you wish you’d had as a teenager?

Or did you have the books you needed to understand who you were becoming?


Cholisose said...

There were always Tamora Pierce's medieval/fantasy novels (since the 80s at least), most all of which star YA girls becoming knights and whatnot. You might like those if you haven't checked them out yet.

E. Kristin Anderson said...

I loved this when you told me you were going to post it and I love it extra now that you put it up on the nets. So awesome, Miranda. And I, too, wish I'd had more YA when I was a teen. That is why we are making even more awesome YA now.

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