The MTV Books Blog will close on October 31. Follow us to our new home at YA Outside the Lines on November 1!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

17 again

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”?


MssJos said...

I think this will be a cute movie too, though similarly I will be more interested in Matthew Perry than Zac Efron :)

It is an interesting concept, maybe that's why so many movies have explored it. Wow, if I could go back to being 17 the main thing I would change would be to stop worrying so much what everyone thought about me! Turns out, they weren't thinking about me at all! But worrying what everyone was thinking about them!

Jenny O'Connell said...

I loved the original Freaky Friday with Jodi Foster, and I loved the book.

I don't know that I'd go back to being 17 again, high school paled when compared to college - that I'd do all over again and again and again and again. Good times. I couldn't wait to be on my own (paid for by my parents, of course, that's the best way to do it).

Stephanie Kuehnert said...

Love love love this blog post! It hits the nail on the head of why I write YA fiction too and "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." SO TRUE!!!

If I could be seventeen again, I don't know how much I would do differently actually. I kind of feel like everything I did led to who I am today somehow. Sure there was a guy I shouldn't have dated (and wasted the next 8 years of my life on) and there were some emotional issues I should have dealt with better, but it all shaped me. I think I'd just like to chill with my seventeen year old self in the first apartment I ever got on my own and say, "hey, enjoy this and stop being so damn hard on yourself!"

nomad said...

after seeing 17 Again i think that Zac Efron might become the next big icon by which we define "male hotness"