YA Authors Say It Better Than I Possibly Could

I really believe that YA books save people. There are so many books I’ve read in my 30s and 40s that have hit me in the gut and made me realize, tearfully in many cases, that I was never alone when I was a teenager or young adult.  I thought I was the only one who felt stupid, weird, misunderstood and unseen. I didn’t have a tragic adolescence. I had friends, boyfriends and didn’t suffer abuse. However, I felt terrible about myself and my circumstances much of the time. Even more painful, I felt alone as if nobody could understand or even wanted to. Nobody really listened to me because we were all trying so hard to be heard that we didn’t have time to listen to each other. Now that I am older and have teenage children, I’ve found YA books that say what I felt so clearly that it’s like a punch in the gut followed by a flood of appreciation from my teenage self. I find myself overwhelmed by the relief of hearing someone else say what I felt. I can feel the teenager in me relax and suffer less as I realize I was never alone.

I honestly feel that the therapeutic value of this experience is enormous.  I never went to therapy as a teen. I wanted to and my mother threatened me with it, but we never went. In the eighties, there was still a big stigma about therapy and for my family it probably wouldn’t have ever happened. My dad was a high ranking Air Force Officer and I don’t know if he’d have had the time or the desire to attend therapy or allow us to go.  Reading these books has given me book friends who understand and share my pain. It’s one of the reasons I keep reading them.

Laurie Halse Anderson is one of the best out there writing YA books. She is fantastic. Reading her book ‘Speak’ in graduate school cut me open.  I felt like someone reached inside and found my feelings and put them into this deeply moving book. It’s such an important book and gives voice to anyone who was sexually assaulted or ignored when they needed help. When she came to Politics and Prose last year to talk about her newest book ‘The Impossible Knife of Memory’, I made sure I was there. She’s a fantastic speaker and she “gets” teenagers in an honest and compassionate way. She is never condescending. I asked her to sign my copy of the new book with an inscription to my classes. She wrote, “To Ms. Lively’s Class: Because books help when life sucks.”  It’s the perfect message and it’s undeniably true.

Here’s an interview with Laurie Halse Anderson from Buzzfeed that shows her understanding of teens, YA books and the pain of adolescence better than I could.

Laurie Halse Anderson Interview :

Another Buzzfeed story (Is that what you call the content on Buzzfeed, stories?) this time featuring the undeniable power and brilliance of JK Rowling.  She interacts with her fans sparingly on twitter and other places and when she does, the power of her words, acts and of Harry Potter tend to overwhelm those with whom she interacts personally. I am in no way prepared to talk about what Harry Potter and JK Rowling have meant to me and my family and couldn’t do it justice if I tried right now, so I will leave JK Rowling and her lovely relationship with a young man speak for me and likely many others.

JK  Rowling’s Beautiful Letter to a Fan 

Keep reading Young Adult books. They can heal your teenage self by showing you that you are not now and never were alone. If you’re a teenager now reading this, just know that all of your parents and teachers were once just like you and struggling to figure out what to do with themselves. Most of us still are from time to time.



Calling all Teens and Former Teens! Join the Circus today!

Hello!  I have been doing some heavy lifting – brain wise and mulling how best to organize this blog.  I definitely want to create a community of teens and former teens who can share their experiences, struggles and triumphs on these pages to build connections.  As any good host knows though, just saying, “Do whatever you want!” or “Anything you want to do would be just fine!” is a terrible way to invite people. It’s just too vague and really doesn’t encourage anyone to take action…

So…. Here’s a specific invitation!

To create a proper circus, you need some circus acts, so that’s what we’re going to start here.  Posts will be filed into categories to fill out our circus and have a show that will include as many people as possible.  Posts can be written reflections, poems, links to events or artwork that fits in the categories. There’s also a category for that which cannot be categorized.  I think we have it covered, but if you have other ideas, please share them in the comments below.

Cue the calliope and here are the new Hippodilly Circus “Acts”!

Lion Tamer = Stories of mean girls, bullies, other social pressures.

Clown Car = Stories of stupid people who try to define teenagers as “less than”


Tightrope Walking = Stories of negotiating identity and the expectations of parents, teachers or friends.


Ring Master = Stories of the struggle with balancing demands of school, home and social lives.


Joining the Circus = Stories of feeling outcast and/or finding your tribe.


Flying Trapeze = Stories of falling in and out of love.


Side Show = Stories without category.

and I just learned from the PBS site, which presented a show called “Circus” – that

Jackpots = Tall tales about life under the big top To “cut up Jackpots” is to tell these stories

Again, comments and suggestions may be posted below.

If you want to submit writing, artwork or what have you… email hippodillycircus@gmail.com