All Info About Teen Reading

A companion blog to All Info About Teen Reading

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Summer I Never Had

I recently read Keeping The Moon by Sarah Dessen, and it was a great book, but it started me thinking about a major theme in teen books. The main character, Colie, is left behind by her infomercial-star fitness-guru mother when she goes on a tour of Europe, and Colie is forced to spend the summer with her aunt. Thus begins the summer that changes everything and with the help of an interesting cast of characters, she comes to terms with herself and realizes that she has something special to offer the world. I’ve always been a sucker for these kinds of stories, even those that aren’t written nearly as well as Keeping The Moon (even members of The Baby-Sitter's Clubhad special summers), but I’m left feeling cheated. Why did I never have a life-transforming summer?


In book after book a young female character is torn away from her daily life (family vacation, summer camp, etc.) and this new locale gives her a chance to blossom. She finds new friends, guys start drooling over her, she has a monumental summer romance as hot as the summer sun that bronzes her body and returns to school in the fall a changed person. Does anyone really have experiences like this? Did I just not hang out with the right people?


What were summers in high school like for me? Sitting around the house, reading, watching TV, baby-sitting a friend’s younger brother and occasionally doing something with my friends. And where did I travel? Every summer I was required to spend two weeks in Southern Illinois visiting my parents’ family, where a big Saturday is driving to Paducah, Kentucky to go to the Super Wal-Mart. The people closest to my age were two female cousins who were seven and ten years younger than I was. I can only take so much hide-and-go-seek, and it’s completely their fault that I saw Kazaam (Shaq as a rapping genie – that’s all you really need to know).


I went to two camp-like experiences during my high school years. One was a church-sponsored leadership camp, and while it was fun and I met some cool people, I never kept in touch with any of them afterwards, and I didn’t return with a Diocesan Youth Leadership Camp-boyfriend. I also attended the American Legion Auxiliary’s Girls’ State. The lack of guys at the camp was, I believe, supposed to empower us and allow us to focus on building a model government instead of flirting, but I think it just made everyone cranky. I ended up in a “city” of girls who didn’t really care about the program. Not that I was unnaturally excited to create a fake city council, but I was at least willing to go along with it, and it was certainly a more interesting way of learning about governmental issues than in my high school’s Political Behavior class. The counselors kept us under lock and key, and if I remember correctly, someone in our “city” stole from someone else. I suppose those were important summer events, but not quite in the way I was thinking.


So what would my more realistic big important summer novel look like? A teenage girl would spend the summer between tenth and eleventh grade at a mildly interesting baby-sitting job, sit around the house a lot, read some books, and watch lots of syndicated television. She’d attend driver’s training classes and exit with passable driving skills. On weekends, she might see a movie with friends then return to someone’s house, watch another movie on video and watch people play video games. On extra special days, ping-pong would be involved. Then she would spend a couple of weeks visiting family in an unexciting locale, counting down the days until she could return to cable TV.


Doesn’t exactly scream bestseller, does it? Maybe I should just leave young adult literature to the professionals.

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