The Teenage Landscape

I am constantly wondering what I’m going to write next. This seems to be the bane of existence for most writers, because as much as we love what we have just finished, there is always the question: Well, is that it?

This tends to nag me when I’m between projects. Mind you, “between projects” means a novel is coming out, i.e. Dare Me, and a draft of another is written. So it’s not as if I’m whiling away my time, but on the flip side, just because something’s complete doesn’t mean it’s any good. Hence the incessant push to Always Be Working.

I’m fortunate to have in insider’s view, and all of my work is a mix of my impressions of teen life, combined with my emotional memory of being an adolescent. I’ve barely met my classes for the year and already I’m blown away by the “cast of characters” before me and the issues they already bring to the table. This year, like all the others, certain activity will consistently emerge (the daredevil behavior in Dare Me), or a particular image will present itself (the hoodies in Tap Out), and my mind will get racing. Then I’ll use bits and pieces of it all to create an impression as full-bodied as I can make it. And off I’ll go with a process that works.

Now, however, Dare Me will soon be out, and readers and critics will have their interpretations about how I present the teenage landscape. Say what they will, but I think this comment nails it: “This book is signature Devine: Intense. Gripping. Honest.”

That is my purpose. I tell stories that are usually a bit dark, are typically intense in nature, but always, always try to present some truth. Not necessarily a truth I want, but one I see and understand. That last point is what gets me yelled at. In my work I try to be a mirror instead of a design. And some people do not like what they see.

That’s all right. Because I’m still going to write with honesty. I’m going to pay attention to my students. I’m going to ask questions about their lives, have conversations with the very demographic I write for. There’s a universal desire in wanting your story told. I do the best I can for the countless ones I hear.

I’m glad to be back at work, for a multitude of reasons, but many of them have to do with being allowed to engage with today’s teens. Their lives are so different from what I knew back in the 90s, but in so many ways they are the same. And if I continue to examine that distinction, I’ll always have an answer for that nagging question.

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