The Emotional Rollercoaster
I didn’t fully understand the importance of the sometimes over the top emotions teenagers display. From extreme joy, to tears, to raging, screaming fury. It used to make me roll my eyes and tune out, until I started to piece together why it happens.
Once I started mentoring on a high school robotics team and made a point of truly listening to the teens on the team, did I figure out what it was all about.
Order out of chaos
As you read in many of the most popular YA books, when the world is in chaos, teens channel their anger, fear and frustration into figuring out how to make the world better. How to take the feeling of being powerless and take action to create the world as they feel it should be.
Teens in real life are no different. Their emotions, yes in part fueled by hormones, but not totally so, are a reaction to the world around them not conforming to what they expect.
And to make matters worse, soon they will have to find their place in that imperfect world and will be expected to participate and contribute, all the while conforming to the patterns they see around them. Patterns they’ve grown up with but question whenever they can.
Let it out
There is value in giving voice to the swirling frustrations, fears and emotions, even if only to let off the steam and find some peace. Sometimes it’s necessary to find where the boundaries are or who you can trust.
If you blow up and yell at your dad will he still take you to practice tomorrow? If you break down and cry your eyes out in front of your best friend, will she tell others what happened and embarrass you forever?
Should you keep that one secret, even if it’s wrong?
Up until about twenty or maybe 25 years ago, the YA stories were as they are now; teens struggling with a situation they didn’t see a way out of other than to reluctantly grow up. (Yes, an oversimplification.) Unrequited love, dangerous adventures, questionable relationships, etc.
What’s changed is that now the stories have a different kind of protagonist.
I think it may have all started with Harry Potter. The outsider who takes all his anger, frustration, pain and love, and fights for a better future. He doesn’t seem to accept defeat though. But in classic hero mythos, he is reluctant to take on the tasks bestowed on him.
From him we move on to Katness Everdeen and others who refuse to stand by and merely kick at the world.
The heroes we see in YA books now use the full rollercoaster of their teen emotions to insist on change. While they are still having hopeless crushes, loving – sometimes the wrong person – as if their lives depend on it, fighting for a place in the world, having big messy ugly-cry breakdowns and forging relationships they can depend on.
Real life catches up to fiction and I can’t help but wonder if the young people who are now taking to the streets and social media to demand a safer, more just society, were also, in some small way, inspired by the heroes of their books and movies.
Stories matter, they help us make sense of our world and help us to know we are not alone in what we feel. And that it’s okay to have those big emotions.
Writing is a way of life and when not working on a book or story – or maybe a translation – Lynn Hooghiemstra visits the real world to work as a marketing writer. She’s happiest surrounded by animals, books, paper and pens. She has a YA thriller finding its way in the world “Out in the Dark” under pen name Nicola Adams. And under her own name, a historical fiction featuring a 16-yr old girl trying to figure out life in WWII occupied Europe, “Tales from the Fountain Pen”.