I look forward to seeing the movie 17 Again, though admittedly, I’ll be watching Thomas Lennon instead of Zac Efron (if you’ve read Going Too Far, you know how I love Reno 911). However, the plot, in which a man is transformed into a teenager, reminds me of quite a few movies that have come before it: 13 Going on 30, which goes in the opposite direction; Freaky Friday version 1 with Jodie Foster and version 2 with Lindsay Lohan, in which mom and teen magically trade bodies (the original novel by Mary Rodgers is excellent, and so is the sequel, A Billion for Boris); and even Never Been Kissed, in which a reporter poses as a teenager to get the scoop on Kids Today.
On the one hand, I don’t know what the big deal is. I become 17 again every day for work, when I call up the ghost of my teenage self to write a YA novel in her point of view.
On the other hand, yeah, I do understand the big deal. My husband and I dated for a few months when we were 17, then broke up. We didn’t see each other for 12 years, then ran into each other at a gas station when we were both home visiting our parents. A year and a half later we eloped to Hawaii. I think we both wonder sometimes how our twenties would have been different if we hadn’t messed up what we had when we were 17.
In addition, I wish I had relaxed and enjoyed my high school experience more instead of being in such a rush to get to college. I wish I’d tried harder to get along with my parents. I wish I’d never worn leg warmers.
And I wish I’d taken a more direct path to my career as a writer. I think most people look back on their twenties and teens and see that they could have edited out a few years of time wasted in fruitless pursuits, whether work-related or love-related. They fantasize about giving their teen selves advice, or even reliving their teen years with their thirtysomething knowledge.
But I remember being 17 like it was yesterday. If I offered that chick the wisdom and experience of my advanced years, she would not listen.
Maybe that’s why I find writing and reading YA novels so fascinating. There is no better crucible for love, intrigue and drama than the forced proximity of the American high school, wherein the students will never be more attractive than they are right now, more physically fit, or less encumbered by adult pressures such as work, kids, and ex-spouses. They are beautiful and vibrant and full of possibilities, and double-plus-stubborn. As John says in Going Too Far, “You can’t tell a seventeen-year-old anything. They think they’re immortal. They don’t listen. Seventeen-year-olds have to see it for themselves,” and that’s what makes a YA novel.
If you’re out of high school, what is your biggest regret? What would you go back and fix if you were Zac Efron? And if you’re still a teen, do you think you’ll look back on your high school experience and think “time of my life” or “fail”?