Teenage Wasteland


One particular December, while I was reading “Valley of the Dolls”, I started descending into sadness. I was confused by what was prompting my despondency and blamed winter. Around the last couple of chapters, I finally realized that my emotions were reflecting the destruction of the characters in the book; I had become emotionally bonded to their depression. I forced myself to finish the book as fast as possible (at the time I didn’t believe in leaving a book unfinished) and filed away the fact that apparently a book had total control over my moods.

…And then I took a Young Adult Fiction Intensive Course. For this particular class we were expected to read five YA novels a week; the expectations was that by the end of the semester we would have a thorough understanding of the genre. My understanding is as follows: the YA novel is all the emotional chaos of puberty with zero emotional balance, reasoning, or sanity.

As someone who is easily influenced by books, I had zero emotional balance, reasoning, and sanity. When the desire to use black eyeliner ONLY on my lower eyelid resurfaced, I should have probably realized I was in the “Valley” again….

After one book, I had to force myself to remember that being a homeless teenager is NOT a desirable form of freedom. I didn’t notice when TakingBack Sunday and AFI were once again blasting through my speakers or that “Eleanor and Park” and “The Fault in Our Stars” are NOT actually idealistic romances but actually horribly depressing and slightly masochistic. I was falling in love in the morning and crying in angst and heartbreak in the evening. At the time I had only a vague notion that maybe it was the books… It seemed much more logical that the world was out to get me and I needed a tattoo to tell it that I regretted NOTHING. I was an emotional extreme but (unlike being an actual teenager surrounded by other teenagers) no one else around me was.

In May, the semester ended: as did 6 different romantic messes, 4 boxes of tissues (not of which had been used due to illness or allergies), as well as my interest in ever binge reading YA fiction EVER again. Thank God I barely had time to myself after work and homework because I was never actually able to schedule any tattoos or piercings.

I guess sometimes it takes descending into the valley 76 times before being able to acknowledge that my vulnerability to become emotionally manipulated by a good book isn’t going away anytime soon… but emotional phases do!! Sometimes people are sharing similar experiences AND sometimes you’re alone; reading books and blasting Blink-182. So here’s to moments of emotional instability and hopefully only having to live through the chaos of puberty once.