My current WIP is a young adult novel, which for those of you who aren't up on writer talk, means its a teen book. In many ways, writing a teen book is much harder for me than writing an adult book. Heck, writing a teen book was hard for me when I was a teen. When I was younger, all of my books were "adult" books. Those were the sorts of books I read and the sorts of books I wanted to write.
Middle grade I understand. Adult I comprehend. Teen? Umm...not so much. And there is one very good reason for this.
I was an unusually strange teenager.
How? Well, let's take one small fact that made me hugely different from the supposedly average American teen. When I was a teenager I believed my parents had my best interests at heart, that they were more experienced and wiser than me, and that I should listen to them. I could have been called many things as a teen but disobedient was not one of them.
And strangely enough, most of my friends were the same. Perhaps they weren't as obedient to the extreme that I was (if I recall correctly, one of my friends did lie about going to that concert that one time and pulled a classic "I'm spending the night at so-and-so's house" trick. But that's really the only example of disobedience I can think of).
However, since I was so obedient, I can't recall a single time my parents said no to me when I asked to do something. I had no curfew because I so rarely went out, and when I did go out if the event required that I couldn't be back until three in the morning my parents understood. I was trustworthy. I wasn't going to get into trouble.
Because you can get into sooo much trouble at a LOTR movie marathon.
So when some people read my WIP they respond, "Teenagers don't behave this way." To which my response is always, "Uh, I was a teenager four years ago....", followed by, "Do you believe that because that's what TV tells you how a teenager should behave or because you know teenagers who behave that way?"
I suppose because of my strangeness there are a couple of teenagers stereotypes that really really frustrate me, because I've seen no evidence of these stereotypes in my life.
1. Every fifteen-year-old girl is fretting about her first kiss--because it has to happen by the time you're sixteen. Umm...yeah. I didn't date in high school. Out of a friend group of around eight girls, only two dated in high school. I have friends who are college graduates who still haven't dated. So yeah. I'm fairly certain this isn't as big a deal as books/movies make it out to be. And please, please, please do not "update" this by saying every high schooler is worried about their "first time" having sex. Because this is absolutely not true. Some are, sure, but NO ONE I was friends with was. It's hard to worry about sex when you've never even held a boy's hand, and we were all highly logical. The risks did not outweigh the benefits.
2. Teenage boys are incapable of rational/logical thought when confronted with a hot girl. I never once saw this. Ever. My teenage guy friends were highly logical. My favorite example is that one of my friends was offered by his girlfriend, sex as a way to celebrate their six month anniversary. Not only did my male friend turn her down, he broke up with her. He recognized that sex in high school is not always the most wise decision. He was thinking with his brain...and not so much other body parts.
3. Algebra sucks. Please. Can we move past this? Algebra is EASY. And before you "update" this to make it "calculus sucks", can we please recall that Calculus is in fact EASIER than Algebra? If you want to complain about matrix multiplication, be my guest. You want to complain about all those stupid trig tricks you have to memorize? Go ahead. But calculus? Algebra? Really? Really???? Can we move beyond 1980?
4. Popularity. Every belief you hold about popularity is wrong. A) Not everyone wants to be popular. B) If you went to a large school like I did "popularity" is literally impossible. The odds of seven thousand students all knowing the same five are ridiculous. C) Beautiful, mean, hot girls are not the popular ones. Ever. All the girls I know who got elected to popular things were in fact really nice. Beautiful, yes, still true, but definitely the nicest people ever. Meanness is a straight track to being hated. Teens aren't stupid. D) Being a nerd doesn't mean you can't be popular. I was Captain of the Woodwind Section, Captain of the Quiz Bowl Team, President of Latin Club, and Founder and President of our chapter of the Science National Honor Society. And I was elected to prom court. So yeah. Take that supposed social norms. Basically, all of this is to say that the '80s were a long time ago. The Breakfast Club is no longer true. Get over it.
So these are just a few of the stereotypes that bother me and that I didn't see reflected in my years of high school, oh so long ago (2001-2005). Anyone else out there have stereotypes that really annoy them? Anyone else realize that teens aren't just emotion driven creatures of hormone?