Terrific Teen Tuesday – Gabby Douglas

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I wasn’t going to go Olympic for this week’s Terrific Teen. Goodness knows there are enough terrific teens competing in London right now and they all deserve accolades. But I’m not really that into sports so I was going to avoid jumping on the band wagon.

But who could resist 16-year-old Gabby Douglas? She shares my first name, for starters (we Gabrielles like to stick together) and dang it all, she’s just a cute as a button; she lit up the Olympic venue with her smile. She’s a trailblazer for African American gymnasts and for women of color too, which always gets my vote.

On ya, Gabby. You deserve your gold. You’re terrific.

Terrific Teen Tuesday – Stay Out of School!

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A project Yoonseo might work on. A 3D printer. One of the coolest things ever.

This might just be my favorite Terrific Teen Tuesday ever. Toronto area teen Yoonseo Kang graduated high school with a spot at the prestigious Univerity of Toronto awaiting him. Instead he decided to go live on a farm in the USA learning and developing ways of building farm and factory equipment from scratch. Crazy? Possibly, but the officials of the Thiel Fellowship didn’t think so. They gave Yoonseo a $100,000 grant and instructions to stay out of college for at least two years.

The Thiel Fellowship was created by Peter Thiel, a gay libertarian billionaire who co-founded PayPal. Each year his foundation selects 20 people under the age of 20 who can tap into what the foundation refers to as a network of “visionary thinkers, investors, scientists, and entrepreneurs. The foundation acknowledges its approach is a radical rethinking of education but insists that the fellows are given “guidance and business connections that can’t be replicated in any classroom.” Described as tech visionaries, the fellows are encouraged to pursue entrepreneurial endeavors.

Yoonseo, in his own words says he’d “like to be at the place where I feel I could have the most impact to positively influence the world.” Sorry U of T, you don’t cut the mustard. Asked if he thinks he will ever attend university, Yoonseo says, “I don’t expect to.”

Tee hee. I love this kid. Yoonseo, you’re terrific.

Terrific Teen Tuesday: Teens who publish

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Have I told you how awestruck I am by writers who publish in their teens? There are so many reasons to admire kids like this but my main reason comes down to something my husband bugs me about. “Output, not input” he says to me when he thinks I’ve been wallowing in my book pile for too long and not actually writing anything. It’s kind of profound, really. Output.

I like it because it represents, yet again, what is wrong with the way we school our kids, especially when it comes to literature and the media. Kids spend hours inputting other people’s work and almost no time outputting their own. Why not write books in English class, why not make history instead of studying it?

Kids who write, kids who get published, they understand. So I’m dedicating this Terrific Teen Tuesday to a shameless plug for my teen friends over at TeenEyes Editorial. Kate and Taryn are a couple of young women who have both interned at major publishers and agencies and are well on the way to being published themselves. In the meantime they offer an excellent editorial service at very reasonable rates. Kate recently gave me some great notes on a middle grade novel that my agent sent out to five publishers just today!

Thanks Kate and Taryn! You guys are terrific.

Terrific Teen Tuesday: YA’s Last Taboo

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In the United States, while you are reading this, a  teenage girl will make a very difficult decision. This decision is what is best for her, but also, good science suggests, good for society. Somewhere in the world, about every ten seconds (it’s difficult to measure), a teenage girl makes this same decision – a decision that benefits all of us.

These girls range in age from as young as 9 or 10 all the way up to the last teenage year, 19. They come from all backgrounds, all races and religions, all socio-economic levels and yes, despite some restrictive laws, all countries. ALL countries, even places where this decision is illegal.

They have many reasons for making this choice, but no reason is any more justified than another. These girls are entitled to decide what happens to them. Few of them will regret it. Most will not. Some will take a couple of days to recover, physically and emotionally. Many will make up in the morning feeling like a million bucks, like a huge weight has been lifted from their shoulders, like their future stretches in front of them, a brightly lit road, leading in a hundred different possible directions.

You may disagree with me, that this is a good and just choice. You can think that all you want; it doesn’t change the numbers. 150,000-250,000 teenagers make this choice every year in the USA. Millions more throughout the world.  For a teenager this is as normal as a car accident, getting braces, or breaking up with your best friend. It is more common than losing a parent or sibling, getting cancer or being treated for addiction. It is FAR more common than teenage suicide.

So where are the stories? In a Young Adult publishing world flooded with dark damaged girls who cut or starve, get raped or beaten,  emotionally collapse, disappear into addiction or kill themselves, where are the abortions? There are plenty of pregnancies (although conveniently, the rape victims rarely seem to get pregnant) some end in miscarriage, some in keeping the baby, some in adoption.

It is a testament to how fucked up our world is that books about girls offing themselves are happily shelved in high school libraries, assigned in class and bestowed with major awards, but books wherein a teen chooses to have an abortion are almost non-existent.  What does that say about our stomach for the reality of teen life? That we are happier with suffering and surrender than with sense and sacrifice? (Yes, I think it is a sacrifice. Sue me)

We can all name five or ten books off the top of our heads wherein in a major character commits suicide. We can all name five or ten books wherein the protagonist or one of her friends is raped. I have read five of each in the last six months. I haven’t come across a single abortion. Not that these books advocate rape and suicide. But I’m not even looking for a book that advocates abortion. Just one that portrays it would be enough.  It has to do with what we are afraid to say out loud, what we are afraid to write. Why are there more rapists in teen books than girls who choose abortion? Chew on that.

In the meantime I’m dedicating this week’s Terrific Teen Tuesday to the girl who chose an abortion while you were reading this.

Little sister, whoever, wherever you are, you’re terrific.

Terrific Teen Tuesday – YA Saves!

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This past weekend, when William Hickman found himself in a life threatening situation he did what any terrific teen should, he asked himself “What would Bobby Pendragon do?” William, remembering his fictional hero’s many dangerous escapades, kept himself feet first in the river current and aimed for the bank. He was able to grab onto a rock just meters before being swept almost certainly to his death over a 100 meter waterfall.

Really, that William survived his ordeal is a testament to the skill and dedication of his rescuers as much as anything else. They worked for over eight hours in the cold and dark to bring William to safety, even camping out with him once he was lifted from the river, because it was too late to hike out of the forest. What an adventure!

William, on the other hand, gets a big thumbs up for keeping his cool, thinking fast and being a boy who reads! On ya, William. You’re terrific!

Terrific Teen Tuesday – BULLY and the BIG BAD LAWSUIT

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Let’s face it, bullying is really a young person thing. I know adults bully and get bullied, but for most decent people, by the time we reach our thirties we’re just too damn tired to bully anyone, or to care when someone is being an a$$hole. When you’re an adult, you can often walk away. Sometimes you can’t, and we strive to have programs in place (restraining orders for example) that give the victims of adult bullying some form of protection.

All too often, that protection or that escape is not available to young people. They are trapped in zoos with the zookeepers claiming to have no power over 95% of the horrible things that kids do to each other. In the real world, the adult world, these bullies would lose their jobs and have no friends. In many cases they would be sued. Yes, sued, for libel, defamation, breach of contract, sexual harassment and any number of other things.

I have suggested before that children behave immaturely because of the way we treat them. If children are treated like adults, they will learn to behave like adults. So what better way to send a message to high school bullies than by treating them as an adult would be treated under the same circumstances. This is just what Alex Boston and her parents are doing. They are suing Alex’s bullies for libel, defamation and identity theft (the bullies created a fake and offensive Facebook page in Alex’s name). I hope these filthy mouthed little teenaged muck slingers grow up fast as a result of being sued. I hope they have to shell out all their babysitting money and then some. Welcome to the real world mean girls.

Alex Boston, you are terrific.

Trans Pacific Soccer Ball

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There nothing especially terrific about this week’s teen, Misaki Murakami, whose soccer ball was found  in Alaska after being washed away in last years’s Japanese tsunami. Murakami seems to be a normal boy, well, except he survived an earthquake and tsunami, I suppose that’s pretty terrific, for him anyway.

But I love this story. I’m sure soccer balls wash out to sea everyday, but how many of them are signed by school children, making them easily identifiable? And how many wash away in horrific natural disasters? And how many are found by kindly Alaskan radar technicians who just happen to be married to a person who can read the writing on the ball? The whole thing is an ad for sporting goods waiting to happen. The Mad Men couldn’t have dreamed up something better.

Anyway, Misaki Murakami, I know you only did what any sensible teen would do and ran like hell to high ground, but you’re terrific anyway. Congratulations on surviving, and on getting your soccer ball back.

Terrific Teen Tuesday – Bully and the Bad Bad Words

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Maybe you’ve all heard that a teenage Katy Butler is behind the changes in the rating for the documentary BULLY which opened in theaters recently. Originally rated R (for profanity) with a small tweak from the film-maker the film has scored a PG13 rating. What Katy and her supporters hope this means is that teenagers will go to see this movie with their friends, rather than having to go with their parents (what teen wants to do that?).

There’s something really beautiful about what Katy achieved. She saw a problem, maybe not an Earth shattering one, but something that didn’t sit right for her. She proceeded along a well trodden path – a petition – and gathered support via persistence and word of mouth, never straying from her very modest goal. It reminds me of the time my husband wanted to change the parking regulations on our street. It reminds me of that wonderful moment in Bowling For Columbine when a K-Mart representative comes out and tells Columbine shooting survivors Mark Taylor and Richard Castaldo that K-Mart will phase out the sale of handgun ammunition. It reminds me of all those issues, both large and small, that someone decides they just won’t accept. And they do something about it. That’s what really matters. Doing something.

You’re terrific Katy.

Here’s the thing that gets me though. I’ve commented on profanity on this blog before (and I probably will again) so…well…IN THE FREAKING PG13 RATED HUNGER GAMES SOMEONE SKEWERS A 12 YEAR OLD GIRL! Urgh. That felt good.

Seriously how can our priorities be so fucked up that this sentence would get a stricter rating than a whole book about murdering children?

Just because I’m in a ranty mood, can I say something about the Most Challenged Books List? There is so much to love about this list that I hope to make one day but today let’s talk about the logical problems with challenging an non-illustrated novel like BRAVE NEW WORLD for “nudity”. I mean…I just…sigh. Are we really worried about written descriptions about body parts?

Terrific Teen Tuesday – We’re All Irish Underneath

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So, recovering from St Patrick’s Day I think we can all agree that there’s a bit of the Irish in everyone. And no one knows that more than this week’s terrific teen, Drew Lovejoy. Drew, who need not commit to any racial or ethnic pigeonhole as far as I’m concerned, identifies as half African American and half Jewish American. But to the the judges of the International All Ireland Dancing Championship he’s green all over. Drew, 17,  just won the top prize for the third straight year, after being the first person of color ever to become a world champion Irish dancer.

Drew, you’re TERRIFIC! Here’s a little video to show you some of Drew’s dancing chops:

Terrific Teen Tuesday: High School Student + Treatment For Cancer = WIN!

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Seriously, what can I say about this awesome teen? Just out of curiosity, in grade nine, Angela Zhang started reading Post Doc level chemistry research papers. But she didn’t stop there. She wanted to try some of these things out, so she sweet talked her way into a professional research laboratory. But that wasn’t enough. She started thinking about the way certain compounds work and what they do when they when they are exposed to certain types of radiation. Long story short – she has invented a promising new treatment for cancer. Cancer, folks. A high school student, a teenager, has developed a treatment for cancer. That’s truly terrific.

Of course, like any new medical development, this treatment will have to go through years of clinical trials before we know whether it is effective  in humans. Animal trials have been promising, but if it turns out that Angela’s invention is as exciting a new development in the war on cancer as it looks like it might be,  I’m going to dance.