Allison's Book Bag

Posts Tagged ‘Best of Teen Writings 2010

Imagine three boxes being delivered to your door, weighing in at a total of twenty-two pounds. Now imagine that those boxes contain over twenty thousand entries for a student contest. This is what happened to Jared Dummit, 2009 Portfolio Gold Scholarship Award Recipient in the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards contest and editor of The Best Teen Writings 0f 2010. It took Dummit ten hours per day for three weeks to read all the selections. The end result? An anthology weighing less than a pound and numbering close to three hundred pages of well-written stories, articles, and poems. The collection was published by The Alliance of Young Artists and Writers, distributed free to educational organizations throughout the United States, and makes the third of the Best Teen Writings which I’ll review.

In my two earlier reviews, I started off by describing the physical format of the Best Teen Writing books, which seems to improve each time. Each anthology is still an 8×5 paperback with newspaper gray pages. However, with the 2010 anthology, the type is larger and more readable. Moreover, at the start of each new selection, an author note is provided and mode is identified. As for that mode, it continues to become more diverse. Besides the typical story, article, and poem, there are also flash fiction, personal essay, and persuasive essay. A few pieces of science fiction and of humor are also included. Obviously, despite the awards being around since 1923, every year the Alliance of Young Artists and Writers find newer and better ways to showcase upcoming authors.

Now the time has come to talk of content. Each year seems to offer up a different focus. In 2008, my favorite selections were multicultural ones. In 2009, several pieces were about or written by those with special needs. And in 2010? Social issues seem to be the emphasis. Some of the topics covered are most often associated with adolescence, although not exclusive to that age: anorexia, conformity, pregnancy, and suicide. Others are more universal and have been around for years such as war, unemployment, old age, and divorce. While others are surprisingly modern, exploring  topics I haven’t seen in previous years of the Best Teen Writings, such as bullying, homosexuality, and technology. Except for a rare exception, I had to remind myself that these literary outpourings were being written by teens or those still in or barely out of high school.

While the 2010 anthology seems over all darker in tone, and I found fewer favorites, the selections are just as well-written and thought-provoking as in previous years. Consider this visually-rich phrase, used to describe a waitress: “Porcupine hair, throaty voice, skin like peeling stucco”. Or this description of a convenience store: “fluorescent lollipop purgatory”.  Consider the maturity of this conclusion about a relationship which the narrator knows can’t last but allow to happen anyway: “I need you to love me the way that only you do. Ignorant of imperfections and ready to forgive. The way that I love you. We are willfully ignorant.” Or this reflective statement in a personal memoir of a young person who grew as a writer when she visited Ukraine: “These are them that I will never know, the women on green stools, the ones that if I ever see again, I want to understand that I am sorry for not seeing their faces.” By this statement, the author means that she wishes she had taken time to slow down and get to know the individual behind the mass of faces.

Should you pick up a copy of The Best of Teen Writings 2010, one of my favorites was Reminders. The author wrote the piece to share the way in which she dealt with an early tragedy in her life, that of a cousin committing suicide. She shares parent reactions, but narrates from the viewpoint of a young girl. The story brought tears to my eyes. On the opposite spectrum was Our ifFuture, a satirical look at how our lives are being influenced by technology. I wish I’d read it before my digital writing course ended. Adults who feel compelled to embrace technology with open arms for the sake of future generations might be surprised at how complex some of that future generation feels the issue is.

Best Teen Writing of 2010 took me back to a time in my own life where I often felt more open to question, explore, and share every and any issue. As such it both challenged me as a writer, but also delighted me as a reader. I’m eager to read the 2011 collection, which I’ll review here next week, and will be the last of the ones I currently own.

My rating? Read it: Borrow from your library or a friend. It’s worth your time.

How would you rate this book?

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