The teen years are a time of learning about yourself and others. And they’re a crazy time of noticing differences you never realized existed, of trying to fit in while still being yourself, and of hating the things that keep you from fitting in.
When you realize you’re different—and, just a little secret, we’re ALL different—especially as a teen, it can be tough to find that balance. And sometimes you wish you could just be someone else, because then life would be so much easier.
Many of my young adult novels have teenage characters who are in some ways very different from their peers, and who are trying to find a way to be true to themselves while still being accepted. From my Reality Shift series, in which fourteen-year-old Shanna Bailey struggles to cope with abuse at home and bullying at school for reasons she doesn’t understand, to The Dark Lines series in which Blake Walker and his friends try to accept their psychic powers, and to my contemporary novels in which teenagers come to terms with things ranging from refusing to have sex until adulthood to being gay or bisexual, nearly all of my characters are trying in one way or another to accept themselves.
I was a teenager once, even though my kids don’t always believe it, and I remember those times of being made to feel “weird” and “less” because I wasn’t like everyone else. But what was “everyone else” like? We are all individuals, whether we’re straight, gay, or bisexual; whether our gender and body match or not; whether we play sports and party or sit at home and read and write stories.
Three of my most recent novels deal with very different teenagers learning to accept who they are. In Nail Polish and Feathers, a contemporary novel released in August from Harmony Ink Press, sixteen-year-old Evan Granger has one dream: to become a drag queen. Despite bullying and opposition from his parents and school staff, Evan dresses in feminine clothing and wears nail polish to school. And when bullies assault him, he refuses to let them keep him down.
In Opening Up, a contemporary released in September from Featherweight Press, V.J. Josephson is hiding his homosexuality from his family because of fears of intolerance from his mother, plus the recent depression of his cousin Jamey. But when V.J. finds his first boyfriend, he can’t hide anymore.
And in Where No One Knows, an urban fantasy novel out today (October 18) from Musa Publishing, Kellan McKee has had enough trouble coping with puberty as a transgender boy, meaning his body is female but as far as he’s concerned, he’s a guy. He has far more difficulty dealing with his psychic powers—especially when his pyrokinetic power causes him to set fire to a man who’s trying to assault him, leading to Kellan’s mother throwing him out of their home to find his own way to safety.
All three boys struggle to accept who they are and to be accepted by the important people in their lives. And all of them succeed. Being a teenager is never easy, but accepting yourself for all your weirdness and differences and awesomeness is the best gift you can give yourself.