How many times have you looked back on your teenage years and cringed, wishing you could offer your younger self some guidance? This book of nearly 70 letters by top young adult authors— including bestselling writers Lauren Oliver, Ellen Hopkins, and Nancy Holder— does just that, and today’s teens will benefit.
For those who know me, I never ever ever read non-fiction. And all the way until three weeks ago, I had not the slightest inclination of ever breaking that rule.
But, you know, when I saw this book with all the familiar names of authors like Jess Rothenberg (The Catastrophic History of You and Me), Jessica Spotswood (Born Wicked) and Nancy Holder (who wrote so so many dear novels in the Once Upon a Time series), I suddenly had that impossible urge to know what insecurities they had as a teen like myself and what life they led during that awkward phase of adolescence.
Did they have crushes on totally dorky guys?
Did they embarrass themselves constantly like all teenagers do?
Had they ever done something bad? Or naughty?
You bet they did.
And I don't regret for a single moment for picking this book up. Authors aren't gods/goddesses. No matter where they stand today, no matter how confident and witty and glamorous they are now, no matter how very much they appear to have been equally amazing teens-- they have all been that gangly teenager who was at a loss of words, the girl whose cheeks turned pink when her crush simply looked in her way, the boy who got bullied, that teenager who had been left out and wanted to cry. Each and every single one of them.
But, ultimately, they all found strength in writing.
This is a book that I won't want to fly through, simply because I want to slowly savor its goodness, its honesty and its truths. Every single letter in this book (and there are many) all provide a reassuring insight from an adult who has been through the ups and downs of life and can say with the confidence of one who is looking in hindsight that whatever difficulties we are facing as a teen won't last forever.
There's Jessica Corra, who forever remembers the time when a teacher in her school told her to "try the library" when she had wanted to transfer to a public school out of loneliness. And that changed her life. She tells her teen self that "What is important is that you listened to someone and grabbed the lifeline you needed. Asking for help when you need it isn't weakness; neither is accepting help when you don't think you do. Don't be afraid to do that, again and again."
The letter by Heather Davis almost made me cry. She talked about her mother who would leave their family again and again.
"Dear Teen Me,
Over time, her appearances confuse your understanding of what it means to love and be loved. You begin to accept that words don't have to match actions. That sometimes love is a thing bargained for with silence. You start to crave that kind of love, which is a devaluing and insidious one. This craving will stick with you for years. It's something you'll have to learn to overcome.
Keep doing your best. Right now, your little sisters need you. And, I promise you, even if it's many years from now, someday you will know real love. The kind where words match actions. The kind that doesn't leave you hanging. The kind that never lets you go."
The letters are also inspiring, in particular one by Kersten Hamilton. She says,
"It starts with a litter of puppies. They're three days old, and their mother is dead. Everyone says you should drown them because they're going to die anyway without a mama dog to feed them. That's what they say. You're thirteen, but you gave up listening to what people said years ago. You've learned to think for yourself. You don't trust adults.
The fact is, we can't know what the future holds, because it doesn't exist yet-- it doesn't exist until we create it. No matter where you start, and no matter where you are today, you can dream a new tomorrow. Your parents can't stop you. You can create it through the choices you make (like the choice to save a puppy). If you have no adult to trust as a child, choose to become an adult that children can trust."
These letters-- some are so adorable and funny that they will make you laugh involuntarily, some are really thought-provoking, giving you new strength to face the trials and tribulations of teenage life.
Dear Teen Me is like Chicken Soup for teens. Quoting our dear editors,
"This book is for you. For the loners, the stoners, the freaks and the geeks, the head cheerleaders and the kids eating lunch in the library, the starting lineup, the benchwarmers, the glee club, and the marching band. This book is for everyone who has ever felt alone or misunderstood, for everyone who dreads prom and also for every teen in the homecoming court. For the wimps, the Goths, the jocks. This book is for you.
We hope you love it."
Yes, we do. :)
Source: ARC from Zest Books for review purposes as part of blog tour.
E. Kristin Anderson, in addition to co-editing Dear Teen Me and co-creating its eponymous website, is a writer and poet who has been published in dozens of literary journals. She is also an assistant editor at Hunger Mountain for their YA and Children's section.
Miranda Kenneally is the author of the contemporary YA novels Catching Jordan, Stealing Parker (just published), and Things I Can't Forget (Spring 2013). Miranda is also the co-editor, with E. Kristin Anderson, of Dear Teen Me: Authors Write Letters to Their Teen Selves (Zest Books), and is co-creator of the Dear Teen Me website.
Zest Books is an award-winning publisher of smart and edgy titles that focus on the colorful chaos of teen life. These nonfiction books cover timely topics in creative ways by incorporating solid life advice, practical how-to instruction, and humorous commentary. Zest Books’ catalogue includes 97 Things to Do Before You Finish High School, Where’s My Stuff: The Ultimate Teen Organizing Guide, and Scandalous! 50 Shocking Events You Should Know About So You Can Impress Your Friends. In Fall 2012, Zest Books launches a new line of memoirs and first-person accounts, and Dear Teen Me is the first book in this new line.
Zest Books is distributed by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Learn more at www.zestbooks.net.
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Hi I'm Sel - connoisseur of love stories, romantic and lover of green tea, weird music and words that can make me cry.
I'm 16 and dreaming big.
Life can be stunning when you choose to live it that way :-)
I am in no way monetarily compensated or bribed for any word on this site. All books reviewed were either bought with money (from my own pocket) or provided as a review copy from publishers. Consequentially, all criticisms or praises were written in accordance to the material's perceived merit. Each review has a source which states where I obtained it from.