I sometimes wish that I could whisper to myself through time. I wish I could send myself-at-16 a hug, and say, "It will be okay," or maybe "Honestly, you might be in love with him, but it never WILL work out, for reasons that won't make sense for another 10 years" or "In 30 years when you discover this thing called Facebook you will discover you had more actual friends than you think you do, some of whom you are barely noticing in school." I expect most adults feel the same way, no matter what their childhood or teenage years were like.
That's the inspiration behind this sometimes uncomfortable, sometimes wonderful, sometimes just-okay book. It's a collection of letters that 70 Young Adult authors (mostly novelists but a few other creators such as a cartoonist and poet) wrote to their teenage selves. While the letters-to-me are obviously personal, they are also vignettes into the lives of teenagers EVERYwhere, most of whom feel they have an awful challenge to overcome or feel like an absolute dork. (Or maybe that's just those of us who became writers.)
I admit that I'm only halfway through reading this book, but I don't want to rush myself, and I can already tell you how cool it is.
The letters usually two or three pages long, so -- like a collection of short stories -- one might be inspiring to read, and the next one merely good. Because the authors are, well, AUTHORS, most of the letters are articulate and well written, sharing enough back-story so that you and I can understand what the author is talking about. It might be an author telling his teen self that it'd be a good idea to admit to himself that he's gay, or another author explaining that her self-image isn't what the other kids actually think of her. Or... well, it's 70 different stories, most of which have a happy ending (assuming you believe "Now I am a published author" is a happy ending, as well as "eventually you will find someone who appreciates you as you are"). I do find it inspiring reading, anyway, or at least worthwhile to soak up (true) short stories about how someone yanked herself out of a terrible start. (Because some of them are terrible indeed.)
Although I have read several YA novels, I'm not really familiar with these authors. As much as I like the book, I bet I'd like it a lot more if I'd read their work. (In some cases I'm going to go out of my way to look for these writers, since each letter ends with a short current biography, what the author has written, and a photo of teen-self.)
The one thing I am NOT sure of is what a teenager would think of Dear Teen Me. I know it's meaningful to me as an adult because most of us wish we could change at least one decision. But would it help an angst-ridden 15-year-old (and honestly, aren't they all?) recognize that even those he admires had a hard time? I don't have that many teenagers in my life anymore, and only one upon whom I'd like to shove some life direction ("Listen to me: Make up your own mind!" Well no, that won't cut it) and I just can't guess whether giving her this book would be a welcome gift or a reason for a deep sigh of exasperation and put-upon eye-rolling. But heck, get it for yourself, and then pass it on to the kid if your nearby teenager seems open to the idea. (And let me know how it goes, too. I'm curious.)