I’m a little ticked off.
Odds are that when I tell this story, about 80% of you will think that it’s a very stupid reason to be ticked off. I know this. But I’m going to tell you anyway, because it’s a big deal to me.
So I was at the bookstore, trying to kill some time while my hopelessly late friend waded through Mumbai traffic (thanks Metro!) I was perusing through this massive shelf for Young Fiction. About every five minutes, an interestingly titled novel would catch my eye, and I would eagerly pull it out and proceed to read the blurb at the back. Thirty seconds later, I would return it to its place on the shelf, more disappointed than I was when I saw the Mona Lisa (I’m sorry, it’s a beautiful painting, but it’s a A4 size thing behind a bulletproof glass so massive it could protect the entire population of Switzerland. Including the cows.) Eventually, my friend made it, only to find me fuming in the far corner of the store, regaling myself with an Asterix comic.
“You look mad,” he said, looking at me fearfully. “Am I that late?”
“It’s not that,” I replied in a huff. “I couldn’t find a good book anywhere.”
“I’m not surprised,” he laughed. “You’re an eighty – year – old woman in a sixteen – year – old’s T – shirt.”
“You stole that joke from The Big Bang Theory,” I pointed out, unimpressed.
“That may well be, but it’s true, isn’t it?”
“Whatever, let’s just go to the arcade.”
Now, I know that you think I’m in denial, but I swear it’s not that. It’s not like I can’t find a good teen fiction novel because I’m a grandma. I play video games and listen to my music too loud and stay up late on school nights just like everyone else. I’m misunderstood and persecuted just like everyone else. I’m uncertain and still discovering myself, just like everyone else.
The reason I can’t find a teenage novel I like, is because I can’t relate to anything in them.
Now, I know what you’re going to say. “Come on girl, you’re basically a mass of raging hormones at your most impulsive. The question is, what struggle can’t you relate to?”
Allow me to answer this in detail. And for this purpose, I present to you:
Teen Fiction: The Recipe
By: A girl who reads 20th century relics and doesn’t like Divergent (again, I’m sorry, please don’t hurt me.)
One high school girl with bleak prospects and abstract wisdom (can also use hyper intelligent inexperienced girl with unconventional beauty)
One high school boy with a zest for life and apocalyptic love for the girl (can also use a juvenile delinquent glorified as a bad boy who reforms for the girl)
One unrealistic bet/ incident/ decision (the kind that would ordinarily get you arrested and send your parents into a coma)
One villain (circumstances, mean people, society, take your pick)
One wild ride in which they discover love, friendship and the meaning of life (whatever that is)
Blend together with facts and side characters to taste.
Serve with a catchy profound title and garnish with a haunting blurb.
This is just off the top of my head.
Now here’s my problem.
First of all, when do these teenagers have the time for escapism and a journey of self – actualization? I’m too busy. I’m trying to study for the SAT and get As. I’m trying to juggle a social life and work on the school play. I’m trying to beat my own high score in Just Dance 2017 here. If I run off into the wild blue yonder for a few days, I will end up homeless, friendless and flabby when I get back.
Not to mention, my mom will FREAK OUT.
I’m serious, she won’t let me back into the house. I don’t even go to the bathroom before informing her of my whereabouts. She hasn’t even given me the go ahead for cheap coffee shops, let alone some misguided crusade.
Third of all, I live in India. Even if I was to embark on some crazy adventure, where am I going to go? Nitin Vada Pav wallah? Or perhaps to that really shady chickoo orchard where rabid mongrels prowls in the undergrowth? Or better yet, that dilapidated bridge just off the highway.
Plus, these teenagers have cars and part – time jobs. I’m not old enough to drive yet and have just about enough cash on hand for the rickshaw. And I doubt the rickshaw wallah is going to be very keen on dropping me off at some random picturesque location where the sun kisses the ocean, or whatever. He’ll probably grumble that there’s too much traffic in that direction and drive off before I can argue.
Lastly, the way they describe love in those books? I don’t believe in that. Love is different for me, but that’s another story. Either way, all that talk about ‘I have loved you since I was nine’ just goes over my head. And since that’s about 75% of the book, essentially the entire work is just words strung into sentences to me.
Yes, shun me, throw rocks at me, I have failed as a stereotypical teenager. But I still have hope, that one day I’ll come across a raw and alive novel, something that was written for someone like me. My dad always tells me that a good book never tells you anything new. It just brings to the surface things you didn’t know were a part of you.
And I’ll keep looking for the novel that’ll do it for me.
I might even take a crack at writing it one of these days.
If I could ever find the time 😉