One of the hardest things about being a teen is the feeling that you don’t fit in. Everyone else seems to have it all figured out. I was the only girl in my high school whose hair was unruly, had a curve-free body, said stupid things to guys, and sat at home on Friday and Saturday nights. Instead of sleeping I’d lie awake agonizing over every social blunder and wondering why I was so different from the rest of the girls.
After high school I became friends with one of those savvy girls I’d envied. As if natural blond hair, blue eyes, and a traffic-stopping figure weren’t enough, she was a cheerleader who dated the cutest, most longed-for guys. One day when I told her how much I had admired her poise and popularity, she said, “It didn’t feel that way. I always thought I didn’t really fit in.”
So it is with our YA protagonists. If they have a confident, trouble-free existence there’s no story. Story grows around characters that feel different, uncomfortable, and isolated from the “inner circle.”
In my novel Fairest of Them All, aspiring teen actress Oribella cuts herself off from the high school experience to concentrate on her career. Her consuming obsession with her own interests puts her on the fringe of high school society. Until she develops alopecia and she’s forced to make a change.
Life on the fringe can be humorous too. Laurel in A & L Do Summer is fed up with being outside the popular crowd. She decides that she and bestie Aspen will devote their summer to being noticed. They are, just not in ways she intended.
YA characters grapple with insecurity, awkwardness, being on the outside--feelings teens deal with every day. Sometimes the way our protagonists handle their problems can make teens’ real problems seem a little more manageable. Maybe my angst-ridden years in high school were worth it.