I really, really wanted to go to high school. And who could blame me? After spending much of junior high inhaling John Hughes movies and devouring copy after copy of Sweet Valley High, I was pretty sure I would spend prom night wrapped in the arms of some super hot dude under twinkly Christmas lights and then get crowned prom queen while a song by the Thompson Twins played in the background. (I hadn't read or seen Carrie yet, so my prom queen fantasies were sans pig blood and humiliation.) Movies, television, and my tattered copies of Heartbreaker and Playing With Fire promised me the next four years would be one long adventure full of romance, wild parties, and a totally bitchin' soundtrack that would follow me as I walked down the halls of my high school.
Of course when I actually started my freshman year, I realized most of my high school experience would consist of trying to solve for X and trying not to crumble under the weight of low self-esteem and insecurity. Instead of picking the perfect Homecoming dress I was picking the perfect metaphors for the terrible, angsty poetry I wrote alone in my bedroom on Friday nights.
Where were the super hot dudes? Where was my prom crown? Where were my twinkly Christmas lights? Had Sweet Valley High lied to me?
My debut novel, The Truth About Alice, is my depiction of a high school experience that I hope seems real, and while so much young adult literature tells compelling, authentic stories about real teenagers, I thought it might be fun to offer a little primer about exactly what to expect when it comes to the adolescent experience -- no matter what all the books -- both classics and contemporaries -- tell you.
You'll never run off and do a million drugs and keep a super scary and accurate diary despite being on a million drugs. (Beatrice Sparks's Go Ask Alice)
While it's possible that you'll attend parties where people spark up a doobie or two and listen to some groovy records, it's highly unlikely that you'll go to parties where people lace your soda and candy with LSD in the hopes you die or end up in a mental hospital. It's also highly unlikely that you'll keep a very detailed diary of every single drug experience you ever have (in a voice that sounds eerily like a school counselor's and not a teenager's) and then die tragically, leaving behind your words to scare the living crap out of every junior high kid who reads it.
You'll never fall in love on the bus. (Rainbow Rowell's Eleanor&Park)
There may not be a realer, more amazing high school romance than Eleanor&Park, which follows two misfits in 1986 Omaha as they bond over comic books and cassette tapes during rides to and from school. And there's a chance -- if you're very, very lucky -- that you'll find a love as profound and awesome as Eleanor and Park's. But I'm sorry, it can't happen on the bus. The bus smells like old cheese and teen angst. Love can't blossom there.
You'll never have to question your sexuality while battling giant praying mantises -- at least not simultaneously. (Andrew Smith's Grasshopper Jungle)
Just like Austin Szerba, you're probably going to spend a lot of high school worrying about having a date to the dance. And just like Austin Szerba -- who loves his girlfriend and his best friend -- you might spend some time wondering about your sexuality. However, it's highly unlikely that you'll have to do all of this while dealing with an end of the world scenario involving giant praying mantises. Your odds of dealing with anything that creepy are pretty slim -- as long as you stay away from that weird new biology teacher.
Your prom won't also be the beginning of your arranged marriage. (Ally Condie's Matched)
On the night of your prom, you may wear a dress as gorgeous as Cassia's green silk, and you may enjoy a meal as delicious as she does, but you probably won't have your future marriage arranged by a dystopian government obsessed with perfection. Cassia may get paired with Xander on her big night, but it's far more likely you'll go with that guy from your U.S. History class, and he'll get you, like, the ugliest corsage ever. Sigh.
You'll never do math equations to figure out why you were dumped. (John Green's An Abundance of Katherines)
Even the most dedicated Nerdfighter might have trouble coming up with something like The Theorem of Underlying Katherine Predictability, but it's safe to say that not many high schoolers will find themselves mathematically obsessed with the probability of being dumped by someone with a particular name. Luckily, you don't have to because Colin Singleton does it enough for everyone in this quirky John Green novel. And anyway, you'll probably spend your time in high school predicting how likely it is that the cafeteria will serve something edible.
You'll never fall in love with a vampire. (Stephenie Meyer's Twilight)
Despite how beautiful he'll probably look with his face all covered in glittery diamonds, the odds are against you that you'll fall in love with a vampire while in high school. And not just because vampires don't exist, but because if someone has even the slightest sort of supernatural power, wouldn't that be a great excuse never to have to go to high school? It's far more likely that you'll fall for that quiet boy who sits behind you in Algebra that you didn't even notice until senior year.
You'll never kidnap your English teacher/practice astral projection/communicate telepathically with famous artists. (Every Lois Duncan book ever)
Oh, you'll want to kidnap your English teacher and hold her hostage until she promises you never have to read Beowulf again. But this won't actually happen because you probably want to get into a good college, right? So unlike the kids in Lois Duncan's books, you won't participate in such a grisly affair, just like you won't find your doppelganger or fall in love with a boy who's stuck in time. The only one who'll be stuck in time is you. At least, it'll probably feel that way until graduation.