Tuesday, July 2, 2013

What I Learned About Teens at One Direction


 What do these names have in common?

 If you thought of the band, One Direction, you would be right.

I recently attended their concert with one of my daughters. My older daughter was already going that night with friends. On the day of the concert, my 13-year-old and I got the opportunity to go when two family members asked us when their friends had to back out. I'll admit I wasn't exactly looking forward to it, but I knew it meant a lot to M (you should see her 1D poster plastered walls!). I anticipated spending two long hours, quite possibly in the rain, with 19,000 screaming teen girls. Hearing loss was a definite possibly as was a wet, sticky car ride home. 

I couldn't have been more wrong.

Though dark storm clouds loomed in the direction of the outdoor stadium, the clouds passed and it never did rain. When the sun went down, twinkling stars appeared in the sky. It was a beautiful night for an outdoor concert. I'd like to share three mini observations/experiences at the concert that occurred that night.

In our aisle, my daughter stood on my right and a girl I didn't know to my left. As you can imagine, there was a lot of screaming when the boys came on the stage, when they began singing a new song, and when they stopped to talk with the audience. But for the most part, the audience quieted down or sang along during the performance. At one point near the beginning of the concert, the girl to my left turned to me and said, "Am I bothering you? I'm so sorry if I'm singing too loud." Is that not the sweetest thing? I responded, "You're not bothering me at all. Don't worry about it, please! Have fun!" I was so impressed with her consideration of me, a tag-a-long mom, a complete stranger. I was also impressed that this adorable girl knew every single word of every song (even the cover of Blondie's, One Way or Another)!

The next happened after the show was over. The crowd was exiting along a walkway, a mass wall of people heading for the parking lot. It wasn't a fast moving crowd, but you did have to stay close your companions or you could easily become separated. A girl in front of us dropped her 1D t-shirt as the crowd kept moving forward. Another girl to our side scooped the t-shirt up and gave to the grateful girl who had dropped it. A simple act of kindness that spoke volumes.

And lastly, I just wanted to comment on the energy of the audience. Yes, they were loud, but not obnoxious or rude. They danced and sang with an exuberant joy for the band they loved, and even though I'm old enough to be Louis's mother, I enjoyed every moment. (What?)

One thing I believe is essential when writing young adult contemporary literature is an authentic voice. Some authors nail this: Laurie Halse Anderson, Sara Zarr, and Gayle Forman. Sometimes, I think adults forget that being a teen does not necessarily equal snarky, self-centeredness, rudeness or moodiness. Or else they forget that adults can be this way, too. Teens are kind, considerate, joyful, witty, and caring. Two books that I read this year were good, but would have been so much better with less snark and sarcasm. Not that those characteristics are necessarily bad, but balance is important. I find that the more I write, the more authentic I want my teens to act and speak. It's not enough to try and remember what it was like to be a teen, or write how we think a teen might act. Spending time with teens and/or observing them is key. Lucky for me, I live with three (and one on her way in a few years).

Who are your favorite young adult contemporay authors? Or, what is your favorite boy band?