Tag: young adults

Teen Lit

So I’m resting this morning. My fibro pain has been so bad lately.  My ribcage is so swollen.  Tender to the touch.  I already made one QVC purchase and figured better get on my blog before I did anything I’d seriously regret!

I’ve been thinking about teen literature lately.  First off, is it just me or did this genre invent itself in the last 10 years? I can’ think of a single series that was popular when I was in high school 94-98.  I can think of things like Baby Sitters Club, Sweet Valley High or even RL Stine which was popular when I was in middle school but nothing in high school.  The only books I remember reading in high school were the one’s assigned to me at school.  I remember liking Arthur Miller plays, Silas Marner, Shakespeare (especially the sonnets) and To Kill a Mockingbird. Those were all books I read during school.

Surely I must have read something during summer break but I can’t think of anything? What are the 90’s teen lit books I’m forgetting? I didn’t really become excited about reading until college and then I veraciously ate up Jane Austen, Harry Potter, and other books.  I read the 4 major Jane Austen books (Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Persuasion and Emma) in a 6 week break I had in the winter of 99.

So, that’s my first thought.  Second, I wonder how helpful the teen lit genre is for actual teens.  Here are a few concerns.

1.  Even the best teen lit books, Harry Potter, Lightning Thief, Hunger Games, all portray characters who basically act like adults and are required to make adult decisions.  I like these books so quiet down but don’t you think this is true?  In the Twilight books Bella basically has to decide by the time she is 18 what she wants to do with her life in immortality.

A few weeks ago I saw a sign at the library saying “Teens: Do You Hate Cupid?  Are you down on Love?”.  I seem to be alone in finding this sign amazing.  Should teens really be worried about love, let alone be down on it?  If you think about Twilight and Harry Potter and Hunger Games all of the major female characters basically have to decide on their true loves as teenagers.  Plus, they all have to save their families, and in Harry’s case the whole world from ultimate evil.

Shouldn’t teens just be worried about getting a date to prom or learning to drive?  I have 2 teenage siblings and I think there is a lot of pressure on them to ‘succeed’ and to already know who you are.  I didn’t figure that out until college.  (It also doesn’t help that most teens are played by 30 year olds- ie Glee).

If you look at something from my generation for teens- Clueless.  Obviously the wealth and characters are over the top for comedy-sake but at the core its about making friends, fashion, crushes, learning to drive, dealing with teachers, parents and cliques, and trying to mature.  Even at the end Cher doesn’t fall in love for all time.  She says ” I am only 16, and this is California, not Kentucky.” (I love that movie btw)

2.  All of the books mentioned above feature characters that have a specific magical destiny.  Most of us just lead normal lives.  I think there is a lot of pressure to live some amazing dream life.  Then when you don’t know what you want to do or aren’t supremely talented at something you feel depressed.

Not all of us can be Michael Phelps and have a solo vision in life.  I think in the past the vision of teens was to have a family, live in nice house and be happy.  Now you have to do something impactful or at least be famous.

Teen movies show this.  I recently watched the movie Monte Carlo with teen queen Selena Gomez.  In the movie the Gomez character graduates from high school and goes to visit Paris with her 2 sisters.  The first 25 minutes are actually pretty good with a teen trying to get along with her 2 sisters and adjust post-high school while experiencing a new country.   Then they have to go make her switch identities with a socialite who looks just like her and live as this queen, pop star for the rest of the movie.  You see what I mean?  Just being a normal teen isn’t good enough. She had to be famous, amazing, rich, noticed to be happy.

3.  Most of these teen books are amazingly dark.  I think of Judy Blume, a teen lit of my era, her books trite as they might be involved teens and dealing with friendship, family, school troubles, parental divorce, girls dealing with their periods, and other real teen concerns.  Regardless, there is a lightness to her books that is appealing.

The Hunger Games is especially dark with brutal, violent, children-on-children combat.  Compellingly written as it may be, shouldn’t we a bit concerned that all this darkness is going to lead to dark, brooding teens?  A teen I know just said ‘I am depressed’.  With all this reading I don’t blame her!

I was not a big fan of Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli but at least it was light, positive and fun.  My friend and I were talking and agreed even the Goose Girl series by Shannon Hale is pretty dark.

I know you can make the argument that all fairy tales are dark but usually those were stories, not huge books (let alone series), and there was always a happy ending at the end.  Hunger Games didn’t even really give you that.

It’s like I said to my friend Forest Hartman on his review of Monte Carlo

“I don’t understand movies like Monte Carlo. Isn’t it enough of an adventure for a girl to go to Europe without her having to become a star at the same time? It sounds just like the dreaded Lizzie Mcguire movie of years ago that my little sister begged me to take her to.
I think you could make a very good movie about a teen experiencing Paris or Monte Carlo and maturing through art, music, fashion. Would that script be so much harder to write or so much less marketable? I dont think so”

He said:

“I think there’s also a lot of pressure on screenwriters to turn out formulaic material. Something inventive is often seen as risky and many producers are afraid to take risks. It’s simpler to take a star and put them in a rehashing of something that’s already been done because the project is seen as safe. Of course, that’s not always true because most Hollywood films lose money at the box office.”

Isn’t it funny that what is seen as inventive is a story about a normal girl, experiencing normal things?  Ever since Harry Potter everyone has been trying to be the next Harry Potter.  I get that.

How about we make the next big thing- the anti- Harry Potter?  Maybe I will just have to write a book about the kind of teen I was.  I’ve never read a book like that.  Hmmmm

Anyway, I must admit at the end of this that I am not a huge fantasy fan, never have been, so maybe I am biased to begin with but what do you think of my 3 points on teen lit?  I’m sure my sister will have something to say because she is much more well read in the genre than I am.

Finally, can we agree no more books on werewolves or vampires? I was looking at audible teen and it seemed like every book was about one or the other.


Yesterday I read an article that astonished me and I just had to share it with all of you.    It is entitled “Young Adults Feel Empowered by Debt” and it talks about a new wave of young adults that “actually feel empowered by their credit card and education debts.”  This is garnered from a study done by the journal of “Social Science Research”.

This article shocked me because I have always been petrified of debt.  In fact, part of the reason I went to University of Phoenix for my graduate school was I knew I could work while I studied; thus, allowing me to pay for most of my schooling and living expenses concurrent with my education.  I was lucky to have some family support but even if it had been solely left to me I would not have gone into very much debt because I was working at the same time.

I have also never bought property or driven a new car mostly because I am scared to death of being held down by the obligation of debt.  People tell me all the time that I’m ‘throwing money away on rent’ but at least it isn’t a noose around my neck that could hang me if things go badly (both personally or with the economy at large).   I have known so many people saddled with mortgages they can’t get rid of  from homes that will not sell.

In admitting my reservations about debt I also admit that in some ways it is a weakness.  I know there are risks and investments worth taking,  but I cautiously chose not to.  I also gratefully acknowledge the many blessings I’ve had along the way which have helped me avoid debt.

That said- I can’t imagine someone having the attitude of some in this article or the study at large. “Young adults wear their debt like a new tattoo”.   I can’t imagine being proud of  or feeling empowered by debt.  To me it is a bizarre reaction.

Another good article on the topic says that credit card debt is particularly tempting for young adults (considered in this study to be 18-35, so I still count!) because it allows them, if only temporarily, to experience a more exciting, full life.

“Buying things is a way to alleviate [a feeling of powerlessness]” says Rucker. “It might be only temporary, and so I continue to buy and that’s how I accrue debt. When consumers feel powerless, they spend in ways that help them accumulate power or at least the psychological feeling of power.”

I think there is an attractiveness to credit card debt because it solves problems quickly.  Want to look more professional, charge it.  Want to take a memorable trip, charge it.    The problem comes when all of that charging piles up.

The third article I listed gives the following example:

Jason Eichacker, 31, of San Jose, Calif., for example, used debt throughout his 20’s to help finance expenses that helped move him closer to his goals. “When I needed professional looking clothes or textbooks, I just put it on my card,” says Eichacker. To justify it, he told himself, “‘You know what, I’m going to make good money. I’ll be able to pay it off pretty quick.'”

Unfortunately, Eichacker’s habit of using credit to finance his aspirational lifestyle later spiraled out of control when he opened his own business and used business and personal credit cards to purchase what he needed. “When the business foundered, I had to declare bankruptcy,” says Eichacker. He now receives collection calls almost daily and his personal relationships have suffered as a result of his wrecked credit history.

Eichacker admits that self-esteem issues and an early concern with status and control over reaching his goals were at the root of his behavior. “It gets down to the picture in my mind of how I was supposed to look like,” says Eichacker. “I was more concerned with that than I was about how my credit would be down the line.”

I know that certain debt is unavoidable but shouldn’t it be looked at as a necessary evil, not an empowering gift?   A large reason we are in such a financial mess as a country is too many people were “using credit to finance his [or her] aspirational lifestyle”.  People aspired to bigger homes than they could afford, impractical degrees they will not see much value from, new cars they don’t need and wardrobes that they couldn’t pay for.

As Eichacker experienced, I fear many will find what empowers them one minute, robs them of future minutes.

I personally think part of the fault lies with our government.  Have not many in Washington made the case for empowering debt?  That spending when we have no money ‘stimulates’ the economy; thereby, making things better and making the obligation of more debt a good thing?  Is this not another way of saying debt empowers the economy?

Indeed, many are making such an argument right now in the debt ceiling debate.  If it is so great for our nation than why not incur tons of debt in our individual lives as well?   The truth is it that it is bad for our country and it is bad for individuals.

Think I’m exaggerating?  Take a look at http://www.usdebtclock.org/.   Also, look at the interest owed of over 3 trillion dollars and growing!  Think of all the good we could do with that 3 trillion if we weren’t in debt.

I don’t think anyone should feel empowered by debt.  Yes, it is a necessary evil for some but it is not a free check to pay later on.  It carries with it many burdens and problems which must be fully anticipated before the debt is incurred.   What do you all think?  Are you empowered by debt?