Happy Book Birthday Meredith & Kelsey
My Freshman Year & Other Unnatural Disasters
by Meredith Zeitlin
Meredith Zeitlin is a writer and voiceover artist who lives in Brooklyn with two adorable feline roommates. She also writes a column for Ladygunn Magazine, changes her hair color every few months, and has many fancy pairs of spectacles. In case you’re wondering whether any of Kelsey’s experiences are based on Meredith’s own, the answer is NO WAY. When she was fourteen, Meredith looked and behaved perfectly at all times, was never in a single embarrassing situation, and always rode to school on her very own unicorn.
HOW TO CHANNEL YOUR INNER TEENHere's the thing... I never actually got rid of my Inner Teen. (Seriously, who am I kidding? My inner second-grader and cranky toddler are still living large inside this so-called grown-up shell, too.) I'd like to think I'm slightly less sullen than I was as an actual teenager, and I've certainly figured out that the SATs are a total scam, but I still like the same stuff I did then, for the most part. Writing in the voice of a teenager is just writing in my own voice, really. I write as though I'm just talking to myself – because, in the immediate sense, I am.
Which either means that I'm incredibly immature and should get some help... or that many authors make the mistake of writing “down” to teens and kids. I don't think they do it on purpose, of course. It's just so tempting to mull over how much you've grown up over the years, and how mature you are, and then assume that someone who's 8 or 13 or 17 couldn't possibly relate to all the things you want to write about.
And in my opinion, that's just not true. If you really think about what you were like as a teen, I think you'll find you were EXACTLY THE SAME PERSON. Of course, having many more experiences means you make different choices in your adult life. But the inner voice, the YOU that lives inside your brain, is still the same person. You just know a lot more things and have (hopefully) learned from a lot more mistakes. And that's really important to remember, because I was always very aware of the times I was glaringly treated as “younger” growing up by adults who'd forgotten about that inner voice, and it made me nuts. So making sure I never dumb anything down in my writing is a HUGE deal to me.
There were several times my editor told me to change a plot point or take out a multi-syllabic word because a young reader might not understand it. I told her that if a kid didn't know the word, she could look it up or go ask someone. That's how I learned stuff. And nowadays, kids don't even have to lug the giant 50-pound dictionary off the top shelf! There's google.com and a million websites teeming with answers about everything under the sun. All the more reason for authors to put as much potentially new and interesting stuff in a book as they can.
Of course, while teens can certainly – and often should – read books that are intended for adults, I do think that YA lit is different in a key way. Not every teen is ready to read about every subject at the same time, and there should be books available that hold off on more “intense” subject matter – or describe them in a less intense way. For example, there's plenty of talk about sex and drinking in “Freshman Year...” but nothing remotely explicit. It's just not that kind of book. And I think that's an important distinction – hopefully 15 year olds who aren't emotionally ready to read about sex (or whatever) will not feel uncomfortable, and the ones who are will enjoy the book for other reasons.That said, one's inner teen must be nurtured, because s/he is very sensitive and needs oodles of attention! Luckily, there are lots of things that help. I'm still close friends with many of my friends from high school – and before! Most of the characters in the book are named for them, actually. And I still watch cartoons and and dye my hair funny colors and read YA and eat lots of candy and sleep later than I should and wear obnoxious t-shirts – some of which I've owned for a very, very long time. Walk the walk, right?
I know, I know... grow up. Well, I can't HELP IT. God, you're so MEAN! I'm going to my room and never coming out! SO. THERE.
How do you guys nurture your Inner Teen? Are you taking good care of him/her???
Bet you want to read her book now don't ya??? Yeah, I bet she's a lot of fun! Meredith look me up if you ever head South! We need to have some fun! Sleep over! Thanks so much for visiting!
My review of Freshman Year & Other Unnatural Disasters will be on the blog tomorrow. Please stop by and read my thoughts. But you already know how much fun this book is!
Thanks you Meredith for visiting today and sharing your thoughts. I honestly don't know how I nurture my inner teen. Maybe act silly with my own teen. I'm really not a grown up yet. I don't know that I ever will be one. I tried it once but didn't like it!