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.

There was no time to admire my reflection, though; I had annexed the bathroom long enough, and my Dad would be storming it any minute. It wouldn’t be easy getting past him with a forest of three-ply swaying in my blouse.

“Gotta go, Pops,” I skirted him out the front door. “Love ya like Trix.”

On the bus, a denim jacket kept my startling development from causing too many cardiac incidents, but the school nurse was waiting outside her office, radar pinging for incursions of students who might have problems. “Hello, Brooke.” Something spiking her voice grappled me toward her, where I stood with arms tight. “Have you changed something?”

“Changed, Miss Campbell?” To fill time, I asked a rhetorical question. “What could change overnight?”

She let a smile invade her face, and sent me cryptically on my way. “Only you, Brooke,” she said. “Nobody else changed today.”

It was only at my locker that I was ready for the big revelation. Surrounded by chests I had envied yesterday, I tugged my jacket down my arms, then did a slow, catwalk-spin to let the other girls glimpse my smuggled bounty of Cottonelle.

Instead, a boy nearly plundered my heartbeat.

“Hi, Brooke.”

It wasn’t just any boy, either: it was Lucas, whose eyes had devoured me in dreams, and now were devouring my chest right here in this hallway. It was one of those moments when my older sister, Julie, would have told a dude that her ‘eyes are up here.’ I couldn’t do that, I knew, because my eyes would be as full of crap as my bra was of paper.

“Hi, Lucas.”

“See you at the pool,” he offered, staggering backward away from me.

The pool! My mind drowned in the word, spiking above it to gasp for air. I had forgotten the swim meet!

Ignoring the changes in my prestige and my shirt, I sprinted back to Miss Campbell. She had once excused me from P.E. when I had a headache; I just needed to fake another.

I had forgotten her radar, though, and my words lit it up with each fib I told.

“I think you’ll be fine,” she kept smiling, “once you’re in your swimming suit.”

She smiled me right out of her office, and her smile kept shoving me as I skulked into the change-room. I had no choice, now; I had flushed enough toilets to know what water did to tissue. If I was going to shrink, it would be on my terms, so I unloaded my cargo and carried it, white tails of it fluttering, to the garbage can.

Only the garbage can was full. Heaping over it, already, was ten or twenty bra-loads of tissue. Miss Campbell was right; I was the only one who had changed this particular day.

This was the day that a whole lot of tissue improved my social life.

– What is the right age-group for these Words from K. Alan?

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11 thoughts on “The “Right Age” for Body Image?

  1. This is light and funny and I enjoyed it. It is great for young adult fiction except for a couple of phrases that are “too old” for the character to think. I’m referring to the likes of “it wouldn’t be easy getting past him with a forest of three ply swaying in my blouse.” Looking forward to reading more…….😄

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    • It depends on the age, I think. If the subject matter is appropriate for age twelve, for example, then the language is definitely too advanced. This is where I have trouble; marrying up the right content with the right style for the right target age.

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