Recently I attended a birthday bash (and I mean BASH!) for a very good friend of mine. And somewhere in the midst of all the laughter, small talk, and fun, someone asked if I chose to write teen fiction because I have such fond memories of high school.
To which I instinctively balked. “God no. It was horrible! I mean, you couldn’t pay me to go back!” This was followed by vehement head shaking and possibly even a dramatic shudder or two.
And then my husband looked at me, nudged me in the arm, and said, “Um, honey, but are being paid to go back.”
So maybe he’s right. In fact, I guess it’s pretty obvious he is. And now that it was out there, spoken like a fact, it got me wondering just exactly what I was thinking when I chose to make my living writing about a time in my life which I didn’t particularly enjoy, and at times, actually found quite painful. I mean, since graduation I’d done so many other things, lived in so many other places, so what could be the reason for all this? Am I a masochist?
Because now that I find myself smack dab in the middle of the inevitable piling up of years between then and now, I can finally look back on those times and view certain events with far more clarity, and much more objectivity than I ever could’ve mustered up before. And the simple truth is, that those years shape and inform you in more ways than you think, and that the adult you later become owes a huge debt to the person you were back then.
Whether you hated high school (like me) and tend to use that time as a catalyst to get the heck out and carve a more suitable place for yourself somewhere else, or you look back at it fondly, (hard for me to believe but these people do exist) and strive to recreate that feeling wherever you go from there, there’s simply no denying that those years make an impact, and are not easily forgotten.
Last year brought the untimely death of my husband’s twin brother, who’d battled pancreatic cancer for a year and a half, (and to whom I’ve also dedicated my third novel, Laguna Cove, as well as to the son and daughter he so sadly left behind). And while I won’t even attempt to find the words to describe this completely devastating time, I will say that when news of his passing reached a group of their former junior high school friends, they sprang into action, organizing an impromptu memorial in Richard’s memory.
I held my husband’s hand as we walked into the house where several of his old friends waited, where we flipped through old photos, skimmed over yearbooks, ate hot pizza, drank red wine, laughed at fond memories, and eventually released a stream of red balloons, watching as they drifted off into the evening sky, bidding a silent farewell.
Some of these people drove a long distance, some even boarded an airplane just so they could be there. For us, the trip was a mere hour and forty-five minutes up the 405. And as I sat beside my husband, leaning into his shoulder, listening to old stories, told by a diverse group of junior high school friends who hadn’t seen each other in the thirty years that had passed, I thought about my own old circle of friends, and how even though we may not speak all that often, I’m happy to say that quite a few of them are still in my life.
I guess I write teen fiction because it’s the last time you feel so protected yet yearn to be free, you want to fit in but long to find your true self, you hate waking up for school but fear the day when you’ll no longer have to, and you are truly on the verge of so many exciting new “firsts” that you’re in such a hurry to check off, yet you’re also aware that once you do, it’s hard to go back.
But I also write teen fiction to honor the memory of the person I was then, as well as the friends who stood beside me, and who were far more important than I realized at the time.
A few days ago, my husband received a phone call from an old summer camp buddy he hadn’t heard from in years. Apparently this guy had been reminiscing about his old group of tight knit friends, and was planning a reunion so they can all get together again.
By the time my husband hung up, he’d already RSVP’d.
Alyson NoÃ«l “Laguna Cove” a new novel by Alyson Noel www.alysonnoel.com www.myspace.com/alysonnoel www.alysonnoel.blogspot.com