Monday, September 27, 2010

Experiences in Adolescent Literature or Why Haven't I Grown Up Yet?

This semester I decided to enroll in CSU's Adolescent Literature course. This has been an interesting experience because:
a- Adolescent Literature is generally (always) easier to consume than Chaucer or Keats.
b- We get to revisit at least one book from our own adolescence.
c- This class will consume all of my free reading time until finals are over in December.

The reading is easy, but nonetheless time consuming. In addition to the 13 predetermined books assigned, we are required to read an additional 3000 pages of adolescent books of our choosing.

So don't be surprised if every blog post between now and December 17 is talking about adolescent books. And don't be surprised if you come into the store one day and I'm throwing a fit because Jimmy texted Janie, but she IMed me that she didn't like him, and no one sat by me on the bus ride to school, and my parents don't understand me AND NO ONE EVER WILL EVER EVER. Just kidding.

I am beginning to realize, though, that there is still a lot of teen left in me. I didn't expect to enjoy the books we've been assigned as much as I have. The last one, in particular, struck a chord within me. Black Box by Julie Schumacher was beautifully and dramatically written, ideal for any teen, especially girls. This book tells the story of Elena, whose older sister Dora is placed in the hospital's psychiatric ward after an attempted suicide. Elena struggles with how to tell people at school where Dora is, how to keep her own life in balance after her family's upheaval, and ultimately feels responsible for "saving" her sister. I was surprised to find that I was crying by the time I finished. Recently my younger sister has had to deal with problems that no one should have to handle, and I related to Elena's sense of helplessness and inner-conflicts.

Black Box isn't the only one of these books that has touched something within me. The others have either reached the child-like part of my soul that I had been neglecting or made me consider that maybe I'm not as grown up as I like to believe. The issues handled in Schumacher's book reached me at the age of 21, and I think the message would have still reached me if I were thirty years older. We are not all as wise and mature as we like to pretend. Often we feel like outcasts, misunderstood by those closest to us, and many other emotions usually deemed "teenage." I shunned these books before because I assumed that I had learned everything there was for an adolescent to learn, but I am still vulnerable to the world. While these books may be simply written or have a 16-year-old protagonist, they still offer solace, advice, and most importantly, permission to admit that maybe I'm not as grown up as I appear to be.

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