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Inspired by Dear Teen Me: Authors Write Letters to Their Teen Selves, edited by E. Kristen Anderson and Miranda Kenneally, I decided to write my own “Dear Teen Me” letter. Read, enjoy,  and then post your own “Dear Teen Me” letter.

You once found hope from a character in a television show who said, “Life gets better after high school.” I don’t remember that show now, but you should hold onto that line. You don’t think any guy will ever like you, but one day will be married to man whose sole goal in life is to make you happy. You hate being a B student, as if somehow being second best makes you stupid, but one day will have a Masters in Education. You don’t have a lot of friends, and you won’t in years to come, but the ones you have will be true ones who will stick with you in your darkest moments. You feel alone partly because the rest of your classmates have moms while you are growing up motherless, but will come to have a step-mom and in-laws who deeply care about you. You feel isolated from your father, and often feel that you can’t turn to him, but you will become closer than you can imagine, communicating daily through email and weekly through phone calls and letters. As you can see, life will get better for you after high school.

You will continue to face sorrows. Life will never be all rainbows. You need to be okay with the rain. In your twenties, your neighbors will give you a dog who will become your best friend. You will get him when he’s ten and he will only live another three years. It will take you months to move forward after his death, but you will and even develop a passion for rescue animals. You and your husband will have two of them. Beauty can rise from sorrow. Just before your thirties, your grandparents on your mom’s side will die. They’ll never know that you’ll eventually find love. You’ll always miss them but, you’ll determine that no matter where you live, you’ll always make time for family. Sorrow doesn’t need to diminish you. It can change your life for the better. If you let it.

You will continue to struggle. That doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with you. No one gets it right the first time. And sometimes the best things only come to those who wait. You’ll be thirty before the man of your dreams comes along and forty before he finally proposes to you. Yes, I know you’re doing the math and thinking that’s a terribly long time, but I promise you that he will be worth the wait. You’re also going to flounder in your twenties with trying to find the right career. You’ll eventually dabble with graphic design and then spend seven years in web design. Job cutbacks will require you to start all over again, which will lead you to teaching. You’ll never regret your design years, but you’re also going to love being in the education field.

Here’s where I need to encourage you: Have more faith in yourself. After college, you’ll have a chance to make good on your dream to become a published writer. You’ll win a writing contest, have three articles published, and even receive a personal rejection on a story. Okay, rejection sounds bad, but it will be good that the editor will take time to explain his reasons. That will mean he sees promise in your fiction. If only I could encourage you to see more promise in yourself, perhaps you wouldn’t lose a decade of writing to frustration and insecurity. From age twenty-five to thirty-five, you won’t even keep a journal. Thankfully you will not allow yourself to give up on obtaining your Graduate Record Examinations (GRE). You will cry a lot during all that math prep, and will fight a lot with your boyfriend as he attempts to tutor you. If you were to give up, your teaching career would end before it started. Some days you’ll be strong; other days you’ll be weak. Those fluctuating emotions are all part of being human, not a reflection on your brain or personality. It’s okay to feel sad and to reach out to others for help. We’re all in this together.

You need to accept yourself for who you are, because that’s how life will get better for you after high school. You’ll learn to turn to God, even when you have doubts. You’ll start to admit your struggles to your family, knowing that they’re not going to reject you. You’ll figure out how to apologize to friends, which will help you keep them. And you’ll decide that sometimes a bad day is only temporary, meaning it’ll pass and tomorrow there will be a rainbow. And in the meantime, doesn’t the rain look pretty on the flowers? In other words, life can be good. If you work at it.

“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 the prom and also for every teen in the homecoming court.”

Dear Teen Me: Authors Write Letters to Their Teen Selves is for past and present teens who felt like they were in the darkest depths of a pit. It is also for anyone who grew up aspiring to become a published writer. In Dear Teen Me, you’ll find close to seventy letters written by published authors to their teen selves.

We all have our idols. For some it’s movie stars or athletes. For me, it’s authors. I devour every and all author biographies I can find. My favorite types of authors, of course, are those who write for children and young adults. For that reason, events like the Plum Creek Children’s Literacy Festival feel like heaven. And naturally when I received an email earlier this fall inviting me to participate in the Dear Teen Me virtual book tour, I instantly responded “Yes!” without even checking my calendar. Then as soon as my copy of Dear Teen Me arrived, I put aside other obligations and read the book’s almost two hundred pages in one evening. If young adult authors are your idols, you’ll love Dear Teen Me from Zest Books.

Edited by E. Kristen Anderson and Miranda Kenneally, Dear Teen Me began as a website where authors shared their experiences with teens so that “teens would know that they are not alone, and that they are cared for, and that there are adults who remember what it’s like to be a teen.” The two editors began posting letters on the site in 2010. Almost immediately, they began receiving notes from other authors who wanted to participate. Readers were appreciative, saying that the letters reflected their experiences. One year later, Anderson and Kenneally were invited by Zest Books to compile the web site’s letters in a book, which I am now reviewing for you.

My one disappointment is that most of the featured authors are unknown to me. Yet that didn’t stop me from savoring each letter. Even if the authors aren’t J.K. Rowling or Stephanie Meyers, they view the world through a writer’s eyes, using words to make sense of the world, communicate their thoughts, and gain the spotlight. And so I still felt elated to read Dear Teen Me, in the way others might feel dizzy over pop star gossip or heady over fantasy sports scores.

The Breakfast Club

The Breakfast Club (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As for those of you don’t feel the least bit faint when reading about authors, well, the beauty of Dear Teen Me is its wealth of wisdom. The letters cover not only almost every kind of teen experience, they also offer a diverse range of perspectives. Do you remember how in Breakfast Club, five students from diverse walks of life become friends? The Brain, the Athlete, the Princess, the Criminal, and the Basket Case learn to see beyond their differences, and realize that they are more than labels. And the reality is that within every one of us is a brain, and an athlete, and a princess, and a criminal, and a basket case. In the same way, by the time you finish reading all the letters in Dear Teen Me, you’ll feel as if you can relate to all those so-called strangers who grew up around you–and surround you still. We are not so alone in the world as we think, and editors E. Kristen Anderson and Miranda Kenneally have created a book that proves it.

My rating? Bag it: Carry it with you. Make it a top priority to read.

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