Wednesday, November 21, 2012

review: dear teen me

Edited by E. Kristin Anderson
Zest Books
(ARC from ALA Annual)
I'll admit that I rarely read every entry in anthologies; I'm much more likely to skip around, reading the stories that catch my interest and skipping over the others.

I made an exception for Dear Teen Me, a collection of letters from YA authors to their teenage selves. And while I love (love!) the idea behind this book, the actual product didn't blow me away. While there were some letters that were more powerful, interesting, or inspiring than others (I definitely have a few favorites), the book itself has an odd sort of feeling and after thinking about it I've decided that the book itself is just a little bit... off. The letters are personal letters from the authors to their past selves, but they're also writing for an audience, which makes everything a little different. For one thing you have to explain things to an audience that you never have to explain to yourself. For another thing I often felt that the letters were, in some cases, less honest and unguarded because of being written for an audience. (I mean, I don't know if they actually are less honest, but that's how I felt reading some of them.)

But, like I said, there were definitely some stand-outs and also a good amount of diversity in the letters. And when I say diversity I mean that while some letters are full of advice from the future, others are a telling of a memorable event that happened in their teen years. And while many of the letters blended together for me, there are some that really stand out. Jessica Burkhardt. Sarah Ockler. Hannah Moskowitz. Robin Benway. Sara Zarr. Ellen Hopkins. So while I didn't love the book, it's worth checking out just to see which essays will end up being stand-outs to you.

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