I've read a lot of great books since I was a kid: the Beverly Cleary books, the Great Brain series, Roald Dahl's stuff, Anne of Green Gables and the Trixie Belden series, just to name a few. These are books I can still pick up, even now, and find myself laughing out loud. They're CLEAN — there are no swear words, no mature scenes, no video game violence. But they all have one more thing in common: they're at least thirty years old.
For some reason, I've noticed a frightening trend in the transition between kids' books and teen books. There's WAY too much violence, too much sex, too much filthy language and too much boozing and drugs to fit in a 200-page novel (because, let's face it, most teens don't want to read anymore, so the books are getting smaller and smaller). And there aren't many contemporary books I would recommend to any of my sister's 17-year-old friends.
People argue that the world is changing, that teens are growing up faster and so they need heavier books to "help them deal." In some ways, this is true, but it's also true that teens are growing up faster because there are way too many books and magazines that suggest that they're "doing it wrong" if they aren't dressing more maturely, dating, trying drugs and hanging out with people that are older than them.
My sister brought home a book from the library and, curious to read another teen book, I started reading it and couldn't put it down. I'm really not sure why. In some ways, I identified with the main character, who was a perfectionist with a boyfriend that expected her to be perfect. I got the author's point: be who you are and stop worrying about being flawless, because you're never going to be. But the main character's way of dealing with her mom's expectation was to go out drinking with her friends and to break her mom's rules, which sends the wrong kind of message to girls.
You know what? It's OK to be the girl that just hangs out with her family on the weekends while everyone else gets drunk. It's OK to want to get good grades and to have goals. It's OK if you don't get married or have a serious relationship before you hit 25.
I guess I'm just tired of reading another teen book where the heroine who has high standards "finds herself" by losing her morals. And I think I just figured out what I'm about to do — write the kind of teen book that I would like to read, one that's not preachy or out to prove something, but one that I think most teens would identify with, because there are way too many books out there that tell them they're never good enough. It's time for a change.