Monday, August 9, 2010

To Make Less Tense

This was hung  on one of the walls in a home where my family and I were staying last week.  We were on a little vacation in the Blue Ridge Mountains, and I took a picture of it because it's good for me to remember what the definition of "relax" is.  Of course, knowing the definition and actually doing it are two different things.

One thing I did to aide in my relaxation was bring along a Sarah Dessen book.  I first read one of her books a few years ago when I was pregnant with my first daughter, Hadley.  I had a terrible cold and was afraid to take anything for it (due to the pregnancy), so to try to keep my mind off of being sick, I picked up This Lullaby and had no problem entering the young adult world.   I like Sarah Dessen books because I can pick out characters that remind me of friends I had when I was in high school.  I also like that she captures the pleasant moments of growing up even in the midst of teenage drama, however real or serious the drama is.  The other thing I enjoy about her books is that the adults in them are more then one dimension.  They have their own story to tell and while they're not perfect, she shows, empathetically, that they love their children.

Anyway, the book I took along was Along for the Ride.  The main character, Auden, doesn't sleep at night.  This started when she realized her parents began to fight when she and her brother went to sleep.  So to try and prevent them from fighting, she wouldn't go to sleep.  Her parents end up splitting up, but Auden still can't sleep at night, and decides that while she can't control relationships - friends, parents, boyfriends, etc. - she can control academics.  So she throws herself into that world.  I think she understands she's missing out on experiences, like having a best friend, but she decides it's safer to invest in academics then it is to invest in making friends.

I read these YA books now with my girls in mind.  It used to be that I'd enter into the teenage world and wax nostalgic about my own high school life.  I still do that, but if a story resonates with me, I'll file it away and hope that perhaps one day Hadley and Harper will enjoy and learn from the stories they read.

For example, I hope they don't have the problem of not being able to sleep, especially because they're trying to find something that is controllable or reliable.  But if they struggle with something, I hope they can take a story like Along for the Ride and see that even though making friends, having boyfriends, finding your way in the world is scary, it's also quite exciting.

Auden becomes friends with a girl named Maggie, someone who Auden assumes is shallow and only cares about fashion and boys.  But Maggie is smart and funny, and I think Auden likes her effervescence.  The point where Maggie and Auden become friends, Auden is having a rough time with her mom and Maggie sits with her for a bit.  Auden says, "It was all new to me, from that second on.  But clearly, she'd been there before.  It was obvious in the easy way she shrugged off her bag, letting it fall with a thump onto the sand, before sitting down beside me.  She didn't pull me close for a big bonding hug, or offer up some saccharine words of comfort, both of which would have sent me running for sure.  Instead, she gave me nothing but her company, realizing even before I did that this, in fact, was just what I needed."

I can't relate to Auden's issues with her parents, but I understand her feelings of being hurt and hesitant to make friends.  Maggie reminded me of my best friend in high school.  When I met her junior high, I was confused about how to go about making friends.  The ones I'd had the past 12 years didn't seem super interested in hanging out with me anymore (they were proabably going through the same middle school stuff most of us go through), so when Celena walked up to me one afternoon at lunch I remember being flustered and unsure of what to say.  But it wasn't long before she and I were laughing together and being worried about saying something stupid, or whether I was cool enough for her became a distant memory. 

If Hadley or Harper ever read Along for the Ride, I am sure they'll get wrapped up in the love story between Auden and Eli.  It's sweet, and if they must hang out with boys, I hope that they find interesting ones to spend their time with.  I thought Eli was interesting.  And while I won't blame them for getting swept away with the love story, I hope they can relate to the friendship Auden and Maggie have as well.  Learning how to relax is very hard, and so is making a great friend.  But once you learn how to do it, once you find another kindred spirit, life becomes quite pleasant.


  1. You have captured what we all seem to find a little bit later in life - our friends, our true friends with which you have that connection are the people who sustain us when that is all we can rely on. This post makes me want to call all of those true friends and find a time to relax with them!!!

  2. You know, I read a lot of YA books but I've never really thought of them in that way before. I guess because our own experiences inform the way we read and, well, I don't have daughters and I don't expect my boys will ever be interested in YA romances or stories of female friendship. (Maybe they will be. Who knows.) So I read them mostly for myself. It's sweet that you read these with your girls in mind.

    Have you read anything by Suzanne Colasanti? I think you would like her books if you like Sara Dessen. I went on a Colasanti reading binge earlier this summer.