Whew, this is a draining post to write!
But, with Book 2 coming out in the very near future, I think the time is right to put this post out into the world.
In Book 1, Taylor deals with a lot of really tough, difficult situations and decisions. While most young readers who’ve downloaded the book and read it (thanks!) are lucky enough to have not dealt with parents who grapple with addiction, or to have lost a parent as young as Taylor’s mom, I think there are a lot of parts of the book that feel very familiar to many kids (girls and boys) in junior high, high school, and college. Everyone, and I do mean everyone, finds themselves at some point in their life being pressured to do something that either doesn’t feel right, or that just straight up feels wrong, but everyone else is doing it and therefore, it’s not as easy as it should be to say, “Smell ya later guys, this isn’t my game.”
I, for one, wish this kind of peer pressure could have been left behind in high school along with cheerleader uniform envy and algebra II homework. But even now as an adult, I often find myself in situations where someone else’s expectation of me makes me very uncomfortable.
I was pretty fortunate in that before I went to boarding school, I was a huge nerd. I mean, colossal nerd. Knowing what to do with boys was not exactly a time-consuming problem for me, because boys stayed away from me like I was the plague. At boarding school, it’s probably safe to assume I said fewer than ten words to boys for the entire four years I was away from home. However, boarding school was a red zone for peer pressure. It was there that I learned how hard it is to defend your own boundaries. Whether it was sneaking off campus to do something forbidden late at night with other girls, drinking in someone’s dorm room, or even just joining in on picking on a girl in the dining hall or gym class who everyone else was teasing… I became very familiar with the gross feeling of having done something I didn’t really want to do, and not being able to take it back. By the time I got to college, when there were finally boys around with whom I could interact, I really knew who I was, and it was a lot easier for me to say “no” to things I didn’t really want to do.
In setting out to create The Treadwell Academy books, I wanted to tell stories about girls who had the very same real problems that a lot of teens have, and maybe add a layer of glamour to the presentation because my own high school experience involved a lot (a LOT) of jealousy of the girls around me who had more material things than I did. So, that said, in case it isn’t abundantly obvious, I’m not a psychiatrist. Throughout all of these books, I tell the story of one girl’s decisions and the outcome of those decisions. Sometimes readers will approve of the choices the main characters make, and sometimes they won’t.
A number of parents have brought up my handling of topics like drinking and the pressure to have sex in reviews they’ve written of Book 1 on iTunes, and I actually really appreciate that a lot. I think parents of teens should know what teens are reading, and should talk to kids about topics like the ones I cover in my books. I think there is an enormous, overwhelming amount of pressure on today’s teenagers to be cool, be rich, be gorgeous, be wild, and it’s just so hard to really figure out who you are with so many mixed messages on TV, in magazines, at school, and yes… in books. I read a lot. YA fiction and grown-up fiction. Non-fiction and boring advertising industry guide books. And you know what? There simply aren’t that many modern books out there that present high school experiences the way they really are (sans vampires, sans murder mysteries, sans spy agencies, etc.).
So, in the next two Treadwell books, I’m going to be addressing topics including eating disorders, sexual abuse, religion, and of course, more cat fights with friends and arguments with parents. My publisher is going to list the themes covered in the books in the book description on iTunes and in online stores, so you guys know what you’re getting yourselves into before you download just in case any of those themes offend you. While it’s absolutely not my intent to suggest to any reader how they should live their own lives, I also feel as a writer that it’s crucial to explore these themes because I know that readers even as young as 11 and 12 are facing these issues. More than anything with this series of books, it’s my goal to let young (and not-so-young) readers know that they’re not alone in their actions or in their feelings.
Long, serious blog post… over! Now, how about that Eli Manning? I love him! New York! New York!