The Nash family is close-knit. Tom is a popular teacher, father of two teens: Eli, a hockey star and girl magnet, and his sister Deenie, a diligent student. Their seeming stability, however, is thrown into chaos when Deenie's best friend is struck by a terrifying, unexplained seizure in class. Rumors of a hazardous outbreak spread through the family, school and community.
As hysteria and contagion swell, a series of tightly held secrets emerges, threatening to unravel friendships, families and the town's fragile idea of security. -- Little, Brown
A few Mondays ago, I reviewed a terrific book called THE FEVER by Megan Abbott. I absolutely loved this novel and consider it one of the best books I've read this year! It was both well written and suspenseful, and I've pretty much come to expect that from a Megan Abbott book.
I am so excited that Ms. Abbott agreed to write a guest post for my blog. If you've read her last few novels, then you already know that she "gets" teenage girls. That was especially apparent in THE FEVER. I think this essay is insightful and gives you a glimpse into why!
Recently, I was writing a piece related to The Fever for the Huffington Post. The subject was the way social media may have the potential to function as a contagion, spreading everything from bad feelings to a case of mass hysteria—particularly among teens, who spend so much time online. In researching the piece, I interviewed Delinah Hurwitz, a California State University at Northridge professor of psychology, and she talked about the vulnerable space of adolescence.
“Kids are living in a full-blown secret world 24/7,” she said. “Parents are far more separated from their kids than they know. They think, my daughter’s on a sports team, her grades are good, she’s a cheerleader. What they don’t know is they have this other secret world and without fully developed faculties to deal with being in there alone”
Hurwitz meant both the secret world online, but also the secret world adolescents always occupy. This truth-of-adolescence has many ramifications in The Fever, but I’d like to talk a little bit here about the less-troubling side of adolescence secrecy. About how critical in can be to becoming yourself, to growing up.
I remember, in writing my last book, Dare Me, the moment I decided that parents would not truly appear in the book because it’s a first-person novel from the point of view of a teenage girl for whom her peer world is everything, and her parents know nothing.
I was not exactly that kind of teenager. I was closer to Deenie in The Fever in that I really liked my parents and cared about their opinions. At the same time, I definitely had a “secret world,” both with my close friends, with whom I shared code words, confidences, adventures, and with my own self—the books I devoured and the old movies I loved—but books and movies and thoughts and ideas that I kept to myself. It was my way of figuring out the world, adulthood, the complexities of love, desire and ambition, of who I wanted to be.
Last week, while on book tour, I spent two days with my family in Michigan. And, as always on book tour, I end up buying large quantities of books. I asked my parents if they could mail my latest stack (selections included E. Lockhart, some vintage pulps, a scary book about Aleister Crowley) to my New York apartment for me.
A few days ago, back home, I received the box in the mail and, tucked in between my purchases, was a book I hadn’t seen in more than twenty years.
It was one of my old lock-and-key diaries, its cover a delirious patchwork pattern, its pages gold-edged (boy, do I remember how glamorous that gold foil seemed to me—I think in half of my novels a character comes upon a book with gilted pages).
Holding the volume in my hands, I remembered my mom saying she'd found some of my old things. I guessed she'd popped it into the box, figuring I'd want it.
And I did.
But I couldn't open it.
I didn't dare.
I felt like to open it would be becoming an intruder into something private, secret. Yes, it was my own diary. But also, it wasn't anymore.
It was the diary-the private property and private thoughts-of that girl. That bookish, yearning, dreamer of a girl, and she deserved to keep her secrets.
Fingering the cover, I noted that the lock had been unlocked.
And I snapped it shut.
How about you all? Do you ever revisit your childhood or teen diaries or other writings?
(And thank you, Julie!)
|Photo credit: Drew Reilly|
Giveaway alert: I have a copy of THE FEVER to share with one lucky reader. To enter, just fill out the form below before July 20th at 11:59 p.m. EST. I will randomly select and notify the winner the following day. This contest is open to those of you with U.S. addresses only. Good luck!