I freely admit that no matter my age I am, at heart, forever and always an uncomfortable, misfit, insecure teenager.
That's important to know because it goes a long way (maybe the whole way) to explaining my current obsessive love with writer A.S. King.
I say a long way for certain, but only maybe the whole way, because while it is YA fiction and speaks to the infuriating, pressure-filled, stumbling-through-the-dark world of teenagers, I don't believe it ends with that. I think that is the world in which her stories exist, and will speak to, inspire, comfort, and buoy countless teenagers who brave their way into her intense writing waters, but the message, the life, the content speaks to the center of all of us as human beings.
We are alone.
We are surrounded by others of our kind and yet can feel we are the only one like us, the only one with our feelings, fears, sensibilities, passions, yearning, dreams, hopes.
But in that very thing is the oddest of dichotomies -- our shared aloneness means we are not alone. We are together in our aloneness. In our separateness. In our loss, love, hate, rage, sadness; in our certainty that no one understands us or ever will, that no one else sees the world as we do…in all of that -- we are the same.
That is not to say we see the same way. Your blue is not my blue. Your happy is not the same as mine. Your anger is different.
Nevertheless -- it is all blue, happy, anger.
Our differences are what we share -- the fact that we are different, all of us from one another, is how we are the same.
It is circular, mind-numbing, nonsensical and counterintuitive -- precisely like A.S. King's novels. To speak to strangers overhead who can never hear but will hear, to swallow yourself because the world is wrong, to become the absurd to avoid the abyss and search for the way to find our truth and how we fit together even while we remain as distant as unreachable stars, King unravels the lives of lost, passionate, quirky, normal, loveable and perfectly wonderful teenagers with stone-cold honesty that is as flawlessly stunning as it is brutal. And honest. Real.
Something I've been writing a lot about lately. Truth. In characters. In stories. That it is all that matters.
A.S. King demands it of herself, her characters and us, her readers, and the result is transcendent.
Not just for teens -- for all of us (particularly parents, for whom her books should magically appear in their mailbox when their kids reach adolescence). Because the truth is, this is all of us. It doesn't end when the 'teen' falls away from our age. Some of it gets better, some of it clears, clarifies, solidifies…but at its heart, it remains. Because they are not the things that make us confused, angst-ridden teenagers.