We had arranged a book swap at school and, in between classes, the volunteers were talking about the classics we had read as kids. The children’s books were easy to review… things like Nancy Drew or Little House on the Prairie. But when we got to the high school level we all had different favorites.
It’s now clear I always leaned toward a British sensibility. The Importance of Being Ernest, Pride and Prejudice, even the Canterbury Tales were all favorites of mine- but American writers not as much. Many of the women were re-reading some of the classics because of The Great Gatsby coming out as a new movie. “What about Steinbeck?” asked one. “Oh, or Virginia Woolf?” said another. East of Eden by Steinbeck was a top choice for someone and a bottom for another. Everyone agreed, though, that J.D. Salinger fell flat compared to our memory of it as a teenager.
We wondered aloud why something would appeal so strongly to us at that age and came up with the teenage angst theory in the overhear.
As a writer it made me think; how do young adult authors write something that is true to who they are as adults, but is also relatable to a teenager or twenty something? The phases we go through in our lives are unique, not just in situation, but in tone. Even if I wanted to write for this age I am not sure I could pull it off… I don’t think I could have even when I was a high schooler.
I am glad to say, even on it’s worst day, my life was never angst ridden enough to match Salinger.