Age 14: The “Right Age” for Current Events

It’s a tentative statement to make, but age fourteen seems about right, to me, for a reader to start learning about current events from their fiction.

Teenagers really should know more about events in the world than almost anyone. One would think that globegirlwith several phones, a tablet and a laptop constantly in tow, that they would be barking out current affairs and world trivia quickly enough to leave Anderson Cooper red-faced. We all know where we turn when we want data on the latest trends in fashion and entertainment, so why aren’t the most wired-in people on earth equally versed in global trends?

socialmedia

No Increase in Public Knowledge

The fact is, though, that they aren’t. According to Randi Mazella, as of 2014, there was “no increase in public knowledge” among this age-group Continue reading

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The “Right Age” for Current Events?

Continuing with my series, The Right Age for Young Readers, here is another short YA story to consider. As before, I invite comments about the ideal age range for content like this, introducing serious current events. I will base a follow-up post on these comments early next week.

In the meantime, be sure to catch my guest-post on Cow Pasture Chronicles, questioning why loud voices get all the attention.

 

Capital Letters

By K. Alan

“It isn’t a problem,” my mother kept telling me. “It’s an opportunity for us all: not just your father.”

Easy for her to say. The last time she’d left a friend forever, the wooly mammoths had only just frozen over. My friends were different; they were here now. Alex was here.

Mother pulled off her irritating routine of trying to pretend that she knew how I felt. “You’re getting to know Alex,” she commented, folding a sheet, “and that’s a shame. He really is a nice boy.”

“He’s a sizzler,” I pouted. “I’ll never meet anyone like him, never, ever again.”

foldedsheetInfuriatingly, this made her smile. She fought it, but even behind the sheet, I could see the creases of age and gloom crinkling away from around her eyes. “He’s a nice boy,” she repeated, folding the discussion into her pile of linens.

Normally, having my mother brand a boyfriend a ‘nice boy’ would have been enough to sanitize the passion right out of me, but Alex really sizzled. He had sizzled in school, he sizzled in the uniform he wore to work, and he would sizzle, especially, singing to me through our window. We had a neighbor—Mr. Franco—who didn’t quite agree at three in the morning, but even his threatening shouts couldn’t douse the flame that burned from my boyfriend, Alex.

My boyfriend. Not anymore. We moved, just like my mother and father wanted. It was always what they wanted; they never thought about how I felt. The only time I had with Alex now was FaceTime. His only serenades came through YouTube. Our entire relationship was starting to depend on SnapChat and Wi-Fi, and other words with two capital letters.

On the ninth morning, Skype sang that I had a call. My heart lifted, but it didn’t stay aloft for long.

Alex was saying terrible things.

“Alex,” I was shouting at his image, “I miss you!”

“It’s me, Amira,” he was shouting back. “I can see… but the networks are…”

“What is it?” Alex was in his uniform, so he must have been working, but I could only see rocks behind him. “Do you miss me too?” I asked, needing to hear that he did.

That wasn’t the question he answered, though. “It is good that… Hungary, now, Amira… father was smart.”

“No, Alex,” I pleaded, unable to bear the rejection. “Don’t say that. It’s terrible that I’m in Hungary, and I miss you so much. When I’m older—”

His voice interrupted me in broken pieces, each stabbing like a shard. “…fight… terrible… defend…”

That was the moment I gathered my pride, and gave him an ultimatum. “Alex, if you’re ending things, just say so.”

Still, he ignored me, but his voice sizzled as the connection cleared a little. “…was the Free Syrian Army… attacked Aleppo. We were deployed… in their control.”

That was when Alex stopped moving, and I saw the rocks behind him more clearly. Only they weren’t rocks: they were pieces of buildings. Other boys, uniformed like Alex, were dragging charred bodies from them.

“Tell your parents,” he finally said, as if he were in the room, “Mr. Franco is dead. …glad they took you out of Syria, Amira.”

Then, the nice boyfriend who still burns in my mind said his last words to me.

“I’m glad you’re safe.”

– What is the “Right Age” for these Words from K. Alan?

12-15: The “Right Age” for Body Image

Ever been annoyed by a teen drama?

brandon

Remember this guy? All that confidence, while he was in public school!

That is a safe question: if you are over the age of twenty, and have ever read or watched any fiction, then of course so-called “realistic” teen drama has annoyed you. There is something about the perfection of these high-schoolers—their polished, acne-free skin, their toned abs, their assured confidence—that distracts an audience from the angst they are supposed to be experiencing. Somehow, their popularity with their peers just makes an older viewer yawn over their battles with addiction and their quests for the perfect convertible. Remembering our own adolescence might make us want to ask why: why can’t more novels and films depict teen insecurity as it is?

Perhaps the reason is that it just hits too close to home.

Continue reading

The “Right Age” for Body Image?

This is the first entry in my series, The “Right Age” for Young Readers. In my quest to establish my YA fiction, I often find myself writing chapters or stories that I feel may be wrong for my target audience. I plan to post some very short fiction for young readers, like this piece, and gather comments about whom it might suit. Maybe you could even test it on your favorite young reader, to see if you are right. Early the following week, I will post thoughts about that issue.

In this case, I hope for some dialogue about the appropriate age to start directly addressing the issue of Body Image.

In the meantime, Don’t miss my recent guest-post at Cow Pasture Chronicles, where I pick on The Hunger Games again to explain my aversion to most use of Present Tense in YA fiction.

Stronger than Tissue

By K. Alan

The day my social life improved, all it took was a little tissue.

mirror_decoratedWell, to be honest, it took lots of tissue; nearly a whole roll had vanished by the time I finished spinning it into my fists and under my shirt. A little billowing around the buttons to hide any crumpling, and the girl in the mirror was happy. I was just like the other girls, now.

Continue reading

Past Prejudices: 3 biases that our writing could still improve.

ophelia

Get thee to a library…

Reading the classics can be as shocking as it is enlightening. Words that seemed perfectly innocent to the pantalooned authors of centuries past can, to our contemporary jeans, be insulting to us or to those whom we respect. Of course, this could—and often does—dissuade the average reader from these works. Take it from me: a teenager who doesn’t want to read Hamlet feels perfectly justified in citing Shakespeare’s choices to send girlfriends to nunneries and even Queens to the beds of their in-laws. Ew.

Of course, that average reader is being denied the joys of these stories, and that teenager… well, he’s just avoiding his homework. Continue reading

Constant Change

I apologize if you’ve seen this already. I posted it yesterday as a guest-post on Cow Pasture Chronicles. It’s another attempt to express what has been troubling me about the friction between creativity and social media, and so important to me that I decided I need it here, too. I hope Sheila doesn’t mind. 

oceanThe ocean is constantly changing.

It churns millions of gallons between continents every year, and each cupful of water on one beach could well have visited another. Enslaved to tidal forces even greater than itself, movement and change are essential to the ocean; they keep the life underneath it thriving, and sculpt the land between it. A still ocean, one imagines, would surely herald a dying world.

Of course, the ocean isn’t all that changes. Timber wheels evolve into rockets so powerful that they break the force of the very gravity holding that ocean here, so that we can watch a privileged few explore the distant force of those tides. Literature changes, from just a few men being watched playing women on a small wooden stage, to women directing masterpieces that are watched on screens worldwide. And communication changes, too, perhaps most of all; a single letter that was once an act of true devotion is now a daily expectation, to be read and discarded with a swipe.

All the while, the ocean keeps churning Continue reading

Humbled by Blogspace High

library

Who could ever ignore this guy?

With my previous post attracting exactly one visitor, my doubts about the purpose of blogging have reached overdrive. I know what publishers and agents say that the purpose is: to motivate them by making myself pre-famous (thus rendering their services moot). While it is always nice to see Tanya Cliff, having her make the only visit to one of my most heartfelt and soul-baring posts is making me feel rejected by more than just those agents. I’m feeling rejected by the process of blogging itself.

In fact, blogging is starting to remind me a lot of High School. Continue reading