When I was in high school, I expected it to be like a movie. I watched the greats - Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, Dirty Dancing, Lucas (OK, maybe they're not up there with Citizen Kane) - and I thought high school would be like that. I went through school thinking "If this were a movie, x, y and z would happen." And it wouldn't. It was mostly just boring and repetitive. No one got dunked in a toilet. The prom queen was exactly who you would have guessed would be prom queen back in Freshman year. I wasn't plucked from the (rather frightful) school play by a scout to be the next star of Broadway. It was high school. But I did hone some of my story skills - I found foreshadowing everywhere and knew there had to be a payoff for poor behavior.
But I always wondered about everyone else's high school experience. Were there people who lived like they were in a John Hughes film? Did people really meet the boy of their dreams at the Homecoming Dance? Did anyone get plucked from obscurity to be famous for what they did well? (remember, this was before reality television).
That's one of the reasons why I enjoyed reading the Dear Teen Me blog and now the anthology: Dear Teen Me: Authors Write Letters to Their Teen Selves. Comparison to my own letter. To my experience. But it rapidly became more than that. Sure, I saw similarities: Tom Angleberger's Buckaroo Banzai obsession struck mysteriously close to home. Miranda Kenneally's wish that she'd called the boy back. Caridad Ferrer's struggle with shy Jekyll and competitive, spotlight-craving Hyde.
And I read lots of differences. My high school was a relatively safe place. My life was even safer. Two parents with stable emotions and a dad with a good job. A sister who was even more of a brainiac than I was. Nothing like what some of these authors have gone through. These are stories that completely change you, my friends, and I daren't even mention them here because you need to read them in the author's words.
But one thing that stands out in all of these letters is the same thing that was posted on my Facebook page by an old school friend when I asked the question, "What would you say to your teen self if you could?"
It gets better.
This is why I've seen so many reviews saying teens should read this book. And why people say they wish they'd read it as a teenager.
Keep living. Keep loving. Keep dreaming.
It gets better.
Dear Teen Me is published by Zest Books, and available from Amazon, Indie Bound and Barnes&Noble.
Want to know more? Check out the Zest Books Dear Teen Me blog tour and check out the list of contributing authors.
And find out when Dear Teen Me will be near you - I'll be joining some of the authors in Corte Madera on Thursday the 15th and Berkeley on Friday the 16th.