Welcome to the Hippodilly Circus. Pull up a chair or a pair of stilts or a tiny car full of everyone you’ve ever met. All are welcome.
What is the Hippodilly Circus, you ask?
This site was founded because I am an avid reader of Young Adult fiction and a fan of teenagers in general. This may be because I have an adolescent sense of humor, because I’ve spent so much time with teenagers in my teaching career, or because I never really got over high school. Who knows? The fact is that I love to read YA. There wasn’t really any YA when I was a teenager in the olden days (the 80s), so reading it today is therapeutic and reassuring to me. When I think about why that is, my answer is that it reassures me that adolescence is difficult for everyone in very specific and individual ways.
YA is popular. There are loads of blogs, websites, and other media offering reviews and publicizing the superstar books and authors of YA. So, why start another?
- Because teenagers are undervalued and underappreciated by adults and consequently they tend to undervalue themselves.
- Because the “machine” sells teenagers images of perfection, normalcy, and happiness that are unattainable.
- Because stories of real teenagers battling through real struggles offer hope, comfort and escape that many teenagers don’t find anywhere else.
As this blog has developed, I have found that I am more compelled to share stories and issues that teenagers are living with and that they have a hard time speaking about, and an even harder time asking for or even getting help. There are many individuals, groups and organizations that advocate for children. There are very few who advocate for teenagers. Teens are overlooked and mostly expected to simply survive their adolescence and not get into any trouble. Their problems are serious and we ignore them. Teens are tricky and they are sometimes unpredictable. However, all of us adults are former teenagers and we can help to make sure that teens have support and have someone to listen to them and to get them help when they need it.
This has become my focus. Books can help.
Young Adult books that are raw and that ring true are overlooked and under-promoted by publishers. They often deal with subjects and behavior that is viewed as ‘inappropriate’ or ‘too challenging’ for teen readers to experience in a book. Knowing teenagers and having been one, I think that this is stupidity. Teens need coping skills – not content warning. They need more autonomy and choice in what they read. They don’t need anyone to tell them what they can and can’t handle. Guidance? Yes. Censorship? No.
Why is it called the Hippodilly Circus?
Circus because it has always been a place of refuge for people who feel outcast, misunderstood or not valued. The circus is a place where the outside ‘normal’ world can come to see freaks. It’s also the ‘big tent’ where freaks are welcome and able to support each other, support each other and form a community. Hippodilly – for a few reasons. 1) I love hippos. They kill more humans than any other animal in Africa each year. They kill because you pissed them off and they have territory they protect. I love that about them. 2) A hippodrome is the Roman circus. 3) It sounds like Piccadilly Circus and it’s fun to say.
So, here we are and we will talk about books which:
Honor that life is hard and our struggles are important.
Help us to celebrate our weirdness value other people’s weirdness.
Show that we don’t need to be ‘normal’ because nobody really is.
Show us that most people are doing the best they can and when we ask for help, offer our help, withhold judgment, listen to each other and make ourselves heard, we are less alone.
There aren’t any magic wands, manic pixie dreamgirls or guys, or other invented ‘fixes’ out there. We don’t need fixing. We need to be heard and to know that we’re OK.
*More voices are welcome! Any teens and former teens please submit any writing to the Circus to be published. We will only publish first names of teenagers. Please submit personal experiences with reading, teen issues and any other issues that you found important as a teenager or with your own teens or teens you know. Speaking out makes us all feel less alone.