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Divergent: The Rising Craze in Dystopian Fiction

Uloop   |   August 27, 2013   10:58 AM ET

In the past few years, publishing houses and Hollywood have fueled the explosion of dystopian young adult fiction. Arguably, the entertainment industry's fervent desire to transform YA literature into film began sometime during the incredible success of the Harry Potter and Twilight franchises, as it proved to be a potentially lucrative venture for filmmakers to wander into the realm of teen fandom. Much to their dismay, however, films such as The Host, Beautiful Creatures, and City of Bones were box office busts. The Hunger Games was one of the rare successes that ignited a new era of dystopian novels, such as Veronica Roth's Divergent, which is set to premiere in theatres sometime in March of 2014. The third book in the trilogy, Allegiant (the second installment being entitled Insurgent), will be released on October 22 of this year.

So the question becomes this: Will Divergent be the next Hunger Games or will it be the next Beautiful Creatures? Will it feed the flame of YA films or cause it to fizzle out? I've whipped out my handy book stick (with six categories of criticism) to see if Divergent has the potential for blockbuster status and so that you, dear reader, will know if it's even worth touching the book.

The Synopsis: Beatrice "Tris" Prior is a 16-year-old girl living in a futuristic and dilapidated version of Chicago, where all citizens are divided into five "factions" based on personality type: Abnegation (the selfless), Candor (the honest), Erudite (the intelligent), Amity (the peaceful), and Dauntless (the brave). Each faction is assigned specific professional careers (Abnegation controls the government, Dauntless guards the borders, etc.), with the idea being that these divisions will maintain peace in their society. After her aptitude test, Beatrice discovers she is "Divergent," meaning that she doesn't fit into any one faction. The higher ups often assassinate Divergent individuals, so Tris must keep her results a secret. She chooses to leave her Abnegation family forever and become a member of Dauntless, where she must pass (and survive) a rigorous physical and mental initiation process in order to become a member. Oh, but what's this? Someone's planning a coup d'état that will shake the foundations of their society, and it's up to Tris to save everything she holds dear.


PLOT


Many critics have already labeled Divergent as a mash-up of Harry Potter and The Hunger Games, and there are some strong similarities. The faction divisions are reminiscent of the houses in Harry Potter, and nearly just as illogical (especially because there's one group where all the "evils" go: Slytherin and Erudite). The Dauntless initiation process has the feeling of both learning magic at Hogwarts and fighting to the death in the Capitol's arena, although Divergent perhaps surpasses The Hunger Games in regard to the level of violence and gore. Each chapter is one exciting or shock-value event after the next, which is guaranteed to keep you reading.

The main premise of the novel is its greatest flaw and requires much suspension of disbelief. Why would any society think it effective to further divide citizens in the name of creating "peace"? Who would agree to that as a viable solution? I may criticize the concept of dividing a society based on personality traits, but when I think about the bipartisan nature of current American politics, I see some creepy similarities. Say that you wouldn't consider your astounding intelligence your only strong quality, but if you had to choose one of the five factions, you know you'd choose Erudite. Say that you hate certain policies a political candidate supports, but he's the only one who shares your viewpoint on the issue that's most important to you, so you have to choose between Democrat and Republican. So maybe as a society we already sort people into predetermined categories based on certain core values ("That's deep man").

I can overcome the questionable nature of factions, but what irks me is the transformation of a small girl with no former athletic experience into a gun-slinging badass over a short time span. And the fact that she can function almost normally after accruing severe injures. Also, if a member fails any level of initiation they become "factionless," a fate almost worse than death, where one must become a janitor or a construction worker. Not exactly the most endearing attitude toward blue-collar workers. In addition, someone severely harms another person and Tris knows who dunnit, but she chooses not to report it to her instructors because she thinks they wouldn't do anything about it. Couldn't she at least try before making assumptions?

The majority of the book is dedicated to Tris's adventures during Dauntless training, which--plot holes aside--I think does a great job of establishing the character relationships and upping the tension between factions, which later becomes part of the main plot. The climax of the novel is sudden and flashed by so rapidly that I felt like everything was happening in fast forward; however, I think these scenes will translate really well to the big screen and will ultimately feel appropriately paced when in visual format.

CHARACTERS


The protagonist, Tris, is a complex character; she knows she should behave selflessly or feel empathy for others, but that isn't always how she truly feels. Sometimes her true feelings make her seem like a jerk and completely unlikeable, but it's an effective and relatable character flaw. I feel that we all have times when we know we should feel sorry for someone, but if we're honest with ourselves, we don't actually feel anything at all. As with all book-to-movies, the film adaptation will surely lose some of Tris's voice, as viewers will be unaware of her inner emotional struggles.

The relationship between Tris and the main love interest is electric and non-superficial. However, the guy does fall into the "dreamboat" stereotype: good-looking, intelligent, strong, stoic, and virginal with an extra vulnerable side. Nonetheless, the dynamic between the two characters is interesting. Others either doubt Tris's strength or pity her weakness, but her man sees her as strong and capable from the very beginning. In addition, the pair does not naively proclaim that the other is their "true love" and their relationship is not founded on physical appearance.  They also discuss the subject of sex, which was something that seemed taboo in The Hunger Games and Harry Potter series.

Unlike Harry Potter, however, I didn't feel any connection to Tris's friends. Although they suffer through the same trials and tribulations together, I don't feel like I knew Christina, Will, or Al very well, and it didn't seem like Tris was very close to them, as you would expect friends encountering life-or-death situations to be. Tris keeps her distance, and thus so do the readers.

WRITING STYLE


The story is told in the present tense from the first-person perspective of the protagonist, Tris. The reader is privy to the inner workings of Tris's mind and the present tense creates the fast-paced feel that the novel's action-packed scenes deserve. Roth seems to have an economical writing style, but the simple descriptions are effective and very easy to visualize, making her work suited for film. Roth is especially adept at capturing the intensity of emotional or violent scenes.

The sentences are concise and devoid of flowery language, but the dialogue feels forced at times and Roth seems to try too hard to impart a moral lesson through the words of her characters. For example: "Human beings as a whole cannot be good for long before the bad creeps back in and poisons us again."

ORIGINALITY


I dislike making comparisons between book series, but it's difficult to avoid. Tris's intentional coldness seemed atypical of a female protagonist, but Katniss could be described the same way. The villain and her objectives make sense, but her actions and motivations are not particularly unexpected. But the Dauntless trials and the scenarios Tris experiences are well constructed and captivating. All in all, Divergent stands on its own as a novel and contains some unique elements not found in the books it is often compared to.

VALUE (intellectual merit)


I wouldn't say that this book had me ponder over the human condition or anything, but Roth really tried to emphasize moral gray areas. We have characters questioning the morality and effectiveness of violence as a tool for change, the competing interpretations of suicide as bravery or cowardice (the author clearly labels it as a coward's act), the definition of bravery, and coping with identity issues--how one can separate oneself from their parent's beliefs. Other reviewers have claimed that the book is "mindless," but perhaps they're not thinking hard enough.

ENJOYMENT


There's no question that I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I fell right into Roth's shock-value traps and became fascinated with what the next shocking event would be. I can't say that my love for cool gimmicks hasn't clouded my judgment, as I feel myself trying to come up with ways to defend the novel's weak points. Divergent may not be the next classic work of young adult literature, but it is a fun and exciting ride as long as you don't take it too seriously.

THE BOTTOM LINE


 If you're looking for easy-read science fiction filled with violent action sequences and teen romance, then put Divergent at the top of your reading list. As for the movie adaptation, I have high hopes that it will be as thrilling as Roth's original story.

By Diane Kollman, The Ohio State University

  |   May 24, 2013    5:10 PM ET

This is a regular column featuring original poetry and fiction by and for teens, provided by Figment, the online community writing site for young readers and writers.

By Mackenzie Levy

I paced behind the line, taking deep breaths and muttering under my breath.

"Twelve-point-oh-one. Eleven-point-nine-two. Eleven-point-eight-nine. Eleven-point-eight-five."

"Tanya, you'll do fine," Sarah murmered. I glared at her, but she just put her hand on my shoulder and glared back.

"You made it this far. You can do anything." She smiled, and I tried to smile back.

"Eleven-seven," she reminded me, in the same soothing voice. As if I could forget. "Go get 'em."

I still didn't say anything, just grabbed the water bottle from her hand, and took a swig. After seven years of running together, she knew better than to get offended. We would go out for pizza after this, celebrate my last track season, and laugh about my nervous antics. But right now all I could manage was a curt nod of thanks. I handed the bottle back to her and she opened her mouth, as if to utter more words of encouragement, then closed it. The scout. I knew she wanted to say something, but the state meet was so much pressure anyway. I resumed my pacing, and thought of other things. Fast start. Eyes up, chin up, knees up. Good cadence. Don't turn your head. Lean.

“Runners, on your mark!”

So soon? I glanced at Sarah, eyes wide with panic, and she glared at me again. You knew this would happen. Relax.

I re-checked my starting block, trying not to think about the man with the Oregon jacket in the bleachers. Then the silence fell. My shoulders were up by my ears, my knees locked straight. Relax!

I hopped twice in my lane. Exhale. Feet in place.

"Set!"

Inhale. Stomach clenched, adrenaline rush. Hands on the line, butt up, poised. Ready.

The pause seemed to stretch on forever. Wasn't there something I had to worry about?

Bam!

The gun sounded and I was out, feet acting instinctively, my brain still stuck at the blocks.

Lungs burning, arms pumping, head up, eyes ahead, big strides, fast turnover. A blur in my far left peripheral vision.

Faster! Legs tiring, lungs gasping, almost there -- lean!

Stumbling to the grass, I fell to the ground at Sarah's feet. She offered me water again, but I batted her away. Fighting unconsciousness, I could think of nothing but oxygen. That is, until the man entered the blurred edges of my vision.

“Congratulations,” he said. "Eleven-point-seven-four, that's very impressive. Have you considered running for Oregon?”

Behind me, Sarah let out a little gasp and grabbed my wrist, trying to pull me to my feet. I nodded, breathless all over again.

"Oh, she won't stop talking about it!" Sarah exclaimed. God bless her. "Tanya's an incredibly hard worker, she gets good grades, she's in student council, and obviously she's a great runner, she'd love to go to Oregon, it's her number one choice -- "

The man -- Mr. Scott Wilkinson is his name, though I'm not sure if I should know that -- cut her off with a laugh. "Well, that's great to hear. I'm sure Miss Richards will be hearing from us very soon."

Finally able to stand up straight, I shook the scout's hand and smiled at him, then he turned away and walked back to the bleachers. Sarah started squealing behind me, but I just grabbed my water bottle from her and sat back down.

"Eleven-point-seven-four," I whispered to myself. "The University of Oregon. Eleven-seven-four." Shaking my head in wonder, I took a sip of water and waited for my breath to return.

The Selection Author Kiera Cass on Princess Kate, Self-Publishing and The Elite

Lisa Parkin   |   May 20, 2013    5:36 PM ET

With The Selection sequel The Elite currently on the New York Times bestseller list, Kiera Cass is an author to be reckoned with. Her books combine an elimination style competition reminiscent of The Bachelor with all the pomp and frills of a royal setting.

The only thing that can top that -- aside from Pippa Middleton starring on The Bachelorette -- are the multiple love stories in the book that are becoming more tangled and complicated than ever.

I spoke with Cass about The Selection TV show, her previous experience self-publishing and, of course, her favorite real life royals.

Check out the interview below and my review of The Elite here.

Which do you think is more emotional: writing a love triangle or reading one?
For me, writing one. I can see the motivation behind a lot of the choices so it's personal to me in a way that it can't be for anyone else. It seems lots of people favor Maxon, which is fine, but it hurts when people just wish Aspen would die because I see how he pines for America. Love both my boys hardcore!

What has been the most surprising part of having your book shot into a TV show?
It was interesting to see the casting decisions as they happened. I've never had a dream cast so it was strange to watch someone else make those choices.

You have some amazing boards on Pinterest for The Selection and The Elite. (This pin especially reminds me of the book covers!) Does Pinterest help inspire your writing or is it the other way around?
Pre-Pinterest, I had a notebook full of pictures of palaces and ballgowns. It goes both ways for me. Sometimes I save something to explain to people that a dress I'm talking about looks like this picture. Other times I see something and suddenly understand the layout of a room.

If you could meet real life royalty, who would you chose and why?
Princess Kate! You think she's into One Direction? If not, I have no idea what we'd talk about. But I dig her all the same.

Have you ever been in an elimination style competition/situation? If not, then what elimination style TV show would you most want to be on? (My personal pick is the Japanese show, Human Tetris.)
No, I've never really done a competition anything. Unless it's a ridiculous situation, I'd just flop on the floor and wait for someone to bring me some pink lemonade and stay there until it's safe to leave. But I'm into Takeshi's Castle! It was dubbed over in America and called MXC. Love that show! I'd do that. I mean, I would bomb in a serious way, but it looks fun.

Knowing both sides of self-publishing and signing with a publisher, would you self-publish again?
I don't think I could go back. It would have to be a very strange situation. Now that I know what it's like to have a support team behind me making everything all sparkly and awesome... it would be so hard to go it alone again.

It seems like the rebels and the kingdom are in for big changes by the end of The Elite. What can readers expect in the final book in the series, The One?
Yes, the second book got a bit darker, and for everything to resolve, it will all have to come to a head. So, without sharing too much, I will say we'll get a peek into the rebel's motivations before it's all said and done.

Have you read The Elite or The Selection? Share your thoughts in the comments!

  |   May 17, 2013    4:29 PM ET

This is a regular column featuring original poetry and fiction by and for teens, provided by Figment, the online community writing site for young readers and writers.

By LittlePaperArt

1: Chapter 1

It all started two years ago when I was in Year Eight -- the day when I was working on a science project. Her name is Chelsea Jones; blue eyes, blonde and a beautiful smile. We were in the same science class. I was showing everyone my awesome invention, a hat which can keep you cool, the class was amazed at my project until Chelsea shouted out: "Hey science nerd, haven't you heard of the propeller hat?!"

The class burst out laughing. My face went red. I could've killed her for embarrassing me like that but there was a part of me that made me fall for her. Her eyes... they were sky blue, easy to get lost into. I remembered that day as if it was yesterday.

I'm in Year Ten now. My name is Theo Taylor, dark brown hair, brown eyes. I'm not popular at all, in fact I'm sure I'm recognized as a dork -- the only thing missing is glasses and a calculator.
 
2: Chapter 2

My normal school day would start with me getting shoved into the lockers by half of the people on the school football team. I always told Mum to let me go to school earlier but she didn't want anything to happen to me. This one time I was with my best mates Matt and Junior when I noticed that Chelsea was talking to one of the jerks that pushed me over. Why do most girls tangle a strand of hair around their finger, like they think it's cute? 

"I don't know what you see in her, Theo," Junior sighed. "She's just another one of those stuck-up girls."

I ignored that previous comment. Junior hasn't had one good relationship with a girl before; if that doesn't include his mum.

Chelsea laughed at one of the guy's jokes. 

"You're so funny Brad!" she giggled. 

Man, I wish I was good at jokes, the only thing funny about me is my hair. If I want it to go one way it would go the other way. Brad looked like he didn't even have to try to get his hair in the right position. Chelsea obviously liked him, I don't blame her.

3: Chapter 3

I was at home, working on my science project with Matt. Well, I was practically doing everything, Matt was raiding my fridge. 

"There." I smiled. Now this project will not humiliate me. It was a model that showed how a human digests food.  "Matt, when I said to pass me a snack I meant one and I didn't tell you to eat anything..."

He put the chocolate gato down. "Sorry but when I'm hungry I just can't help myself. Your mum makes delicious cakes."

He grinned. Matt is my best mate but I have no idea how he can have a girlfriend but I can't. I wrote on a Post-It note in small writing:

No laughing is required. 

"Dude, no one will laugh at you, that was two years ago. You didn't know any better!"

I still have that hat. I haven't used it since. 

I used a peanut to test my masterpiece. It works! I added my name: 
By Theo Taylor. 

"Awesome, just remember to put my name on that too, okay?"

By: Theo Taylor and Matt Duston.

4: Chapter 4

I promised Mum that I won't get hurt if I go to school 10 minutes early. Well, I had an excuse; I needed to hand my science project in. It was fortunate that I bumped into Chelsea on the way.

"Hey, watch where you're going!" she yelled.

"I... sorry... I-I-" I spluttered.

"What? Who are you?"

I didn't say anything but the post-it note fell off the project. Nice sticking there, Matt.

"Theo? I remember that name from somewhere-"

"No you don't! I mean, I'm new. Kind of." 

Chelsea laughed. I made her laugh, yee!

"I'm Chelsea. You remind me of this boy I used to like in Year Eight."

I placed the project on the desk, and then looked confused.

"Tell me more about this boy." I insisted.
 
5: Chapter 5

She explained the story that I told. She was talking about me.

"I felt bad for embarrassing him." Chelsea sighed. "I wish I could apologize to him."

I grinned. "Year Eight? The 'propeller' hat? Yep, I still have it."

She looked surprised. "It WAS you?! I'm sorry, Theo. Please forgive me?"

"Of course I do. It was two years ago. You didn't know any better did you?"

Chelsea grinned then gave me a hug. I didn't let go for a while. But thanks to the bell, my hug was interrupted. 

"I've got to go to class. I'll talk to you later, Theo." 

"Bye, Chelsea." I love you.

The good thing about this morning is that Chelsea Jones knows who I am! The bad thing is that I'm late for class... whoops.

6: Chapter 6

Chelsea was at cheerleading practice during lunch and I couldn't help but watch her at the door. What? She said that she'll talk to me later.

I didn't think I'd be waiting for her for half an hour though. But it's cool.

"Hey, Theo. How was the science project?" she asked, politely.

"It went alright. No one laughed." I remarked.

Chelsea blushed. Oh man, I didn't want her to feel bad...

"It's okay. It was only like 10 other people in the room."

She felt relaxed again.

"So do you wanna get something to eat? It's the least I could do after you waited like half an hour."

"Sure."

We went to the cafeteria.

I didn't want her to pay for everything but Chelsea was fine with it.

7: Epilogue

Who would've thought that one month later that I would be dating the most astonishing girl ever? It all happened when we were at the beach and I finally had the courage to ask Chelsea what she liked about me in Year Eight.

"I liked how you didn't care about not being popular," she began, "and your hair is pretty cool."

"But I thought you liked Brad? You laughed at his jokes, hang around with him a lot..." I responded.

"Brad?!" She looked shocked. "He's my brother!"

"Oh. Well this is kind of awkward..."

"I'm glad you're Theo Taylor. I remembered how much I actually liked you."

"How much?" 

Chelsea leaned in and kissed me. For a moment I completely forgotten everything. I forgotten that I was that dork who could never get his hair in the right position. I smiled.

"I believe you."
                                                                              *
I've met her parents and she's met mine. We were now sitting on the sofa together watching TV with my framed certificate. First place at the science fair for best project -- the human digestive system. Chelsea kissed me on the cheek.

"I knew you could do it." she whispered into my ear. Then at the back of the project the Post-It note fell off again. By Theo Taylor and Matt Duston, next time he comes here he can have all the chocolate cake he wants. I owe him.

  |   May 5, 2013    8:30 PM ET

This is a regular column featuring original poetry and fiction by and for teens, provided by Figment, the online community writing site for young readers and writers.

By A.R.Lee

My Brain: Recalculating route.

I could see Chase Hanson smile at me from the thick crowd of high school students making their way to last period. I turned around looking for a classroom to slide into until he gave up looking for me. Self-consciously, I looked back to see if he was staring, but I got something even worse.... He was waving.

My Brain: Quick, Dean Martin impression! Or Better yet, pretend that you don't see him.

Going with my brain's idea I continued walking ahead and pretended I didn't notice him.

Why did my physics class have to be so far away?! I wondered to myself while trying to keep my head down and sift through the crowd like Jason Bourne on a mission. I looked around and found the stairs that led directly to the science hall.

My Brain: Escape Found. Destination: Approximately 4 minutes by speed walk.

As I got to the stairwell, I could hear someone running.

"Celia!" Chase panted and touched my shoulder.

"Hey!" I put on my happiest voice and cheesiest smile.

My Brain: Stop panicking. Look him in the eye. Pretend this isn't awkward. Scratch that...it shouldn't be awkward, this is the third time he's done this!

"Hey, I was wondering if you wanted to be partners for the physics project. You know, maybe we could get some coffee over at The Shack after school and plan." He flashed me one of his bright smiles, and I noticed just how much he looked like an adorable puppy.

My Brain: The notorious sympathetic "oh I'll just give him a chance" road. This nearly always ends in a horrible wreck.

I shuddered at the thought.

"Sure." I said quickly before waving and running up the stairs.

I didn't look back, but nearly crashed into my friend Cammie.

"You saw Chase didn't you?" She laughed.

"How did you know?" I asked trying to catch my breath.

"You have that look of dread on your face." She put a hand on my shoulder.

"Just tell him that you aren't interested before someone gets hurt." She walked me to class before going to her swim meet.

After School

The Shack was crowded and I looked around slowly before spotting Chase sitting in a booth far in the back. He was on his laptop and sipping coffee.

I walked over and slipped into the booth.

"Celia. I'm glad you made it. You want something to eat or drink? I'll pay." He stood up.

"No! I'm fine." I assured him before sitting down.

My Brain: Tell him! Tell him! Tell him!

"Alright, well I think we should get started." He sat next to me and put his laptop between us.

"So, I was thinking we could do something on Newton's theories." Chase looked at me and I pretended to read the physics outline document.

I could see in my peripherals that he was analyzing my face. I felt a gut-wrenching pull to slip away.

"Sounds good." I turned to him and checked my watch.

"I kinda have somewhere to be right now." I lied and averted his eyes.

"I'll walk you out." Chase gathered his things and led me outside. It was a bit cold and we walked side by side to the parking lot. I unlocked the door of my grey Mini Cooper.

I slipped inside and before I could close the door, Chase stopped me.

"Yeah?" I looked at him confused. He swallowed hard and then pulled out a pair of tickets.

"You want to go to prom with me?" He didn't smile or blink.

My Brain: ...

My Heart: Tell him the truth.

"Look, Chase. I really like you and you have been so nice to me. Nicer than most guys I've met at the school. It's just, I'm not really interested in dating you." I looked at the ground and kicked a cigarette butt that rested between us.

He turned to walk back into The Shack, but I caught his arm.

"That doesn't mean I don't want to get to know you or be friends with you. It's just I'm not ready to make that large of a leap." I bit my lip and searched his face for the happy Chase I'd seen in the halls.

"Yeah, well I need to go." I let my hand release him and watched as he walked away.

Two weeks later.

I walked the halls and Chase didn't smile at me or come up to me. He looked at me like I was a stranger to him.

After school.

On the windshield of my car was a card. I opened it.

"I thought about what you said. Maybe we don't have to date. But I'd really love to take you to prom. Even if it’s just as friends." - Chase H.

I smiled at his understanding and quickly ran back into the school to find him and tell him I'd accept his offer.

  |   April 21, 2013    2:12 PM ET

This is a regular column featuring original poetry and fiction by and for teens, provided by Figment, the online community writing site for young readers and writers.

By Janet

She's here. I can hear her. I can feel her. She's the whisper in the rustle of the leaves. She's the gentle breath of the summer breeze.

The first smile in seven months steals my lips. My eyes reflect the dreamy white clouds as I look up. My heart fills with relief. Looking down to my journal, reading what I've written, my lips pull up even further. Before I know it, I'm the woman that's laughing alone on a park bench.

My heart lightened, my pen resumes what it started.

I find my mind's straying to memories dusted with longing in the inconspicuous sounds of this park in the bloom of summertime. Sparrows twittering excitedly when they find crumbs in a bin. Pigeons cooing softly in the trees and waddling on the ground. Weary dog owners dragging their whining dogs. Somber joggers slapping their feet tiredly on the cracked-up asphalt. They fade from my mind staining with the past.

Sweet scented memories of honey and cream. Her favorite comfort food when she got dumped. My sweet little sister, huddled in a blanket in her flannel pajama, pouring cream into a honey pot, then sticking the spoon into her grief.

The scene changes, purple dusk streaming through the windows. With a face ready to burst, eyes shining, she put the telephone down. I was dying to hear the news, I begged and cajoled her. When she burst, her cherry lips cracked open from ear to ear and she started screaming. She grabbed my hands and I danced a crazy dance with her. Not until we crashed tired but rushed with happiness on the sofa, did I learn she had won a prestigious scholarship.

Autumn burns the landscape red. Dying leaves muffle our slow footsteps. I breathed clean air in deeply, hungrily. Her arm linked through mine kept me afloat. In my other hand, his leaving words flapped and crackled in the wind. As if they wanted to fly, to soar in the open sky. A five-year relationship, dissolved in a matter of minutes to nothing more than a drafty, ugly apartment, a piece of paper and a broken heart. She never said a word, but by being there she said so much more. She pulled me through.

Amplify the noise of a dozen chattering people and you are at one of our family's Christmas parties. Cooking was her passion, her escape, her way of making dreams tangible. Last year she had prepared a true feast, with roast duck and a whole back of venison with the most imaginative and delicious sauces. Oven baked potatoes only she knew how to make star worthy. And a pudding that stunned everyone to silence when they took the first bite. Everyone was merrily drinking, joking, exclaiming about her talent.

This year, silence gathered in shadowy corners of the room. A bowl of microwaved macaroni was passed around in awkward gestures.

How we would have laughed, had she been sitting here with me. She would have pointed out the hippie woman stretching and turning while slumbering in the daisies. And the middle aged rotund man puffing and sweating past us with dragging feet. Next her face would sadden when her newest ex cycled by, but then I would point out his baggy eyes and horrible shirt. We would sit and watch old Nellie feed the ducks circling in the pond while discussing the latest gossip.

They say the darkest hour is the one before dawn. To me, for the rest of my life, as I grow old knowing memories are all that is left, it will always be so. All it took for that darkness to scar my soul was a drunk driver and my sister, returning home after a party, crossing a road.

But there is no darkness that I fear. She will brighten my mind, my heart. Her smile will shine down upon me from a maze of memories.

She's here.

  |   April 14, 2013   12:54 AM ET

This is a regular column featuring original poetry and fiction by and for teens, provided by Figment, the online community writing site for young readers and writers.

By Anna Park

His hand reaches for my back and I worry he can hear my heart beating way too quickly, or my small intake of breath. I look into the deep brown of his chocolate eyes and see the worry written across his face. I almost laugh. I just can’t see the reason behind his worry. He’s perfect. But, my thoughts are halted as his lips meet mine in a tender kiss. His lips are soft against mine, and I kiss back. I feel his lips turn into a small smile just as...

I almost jump when I hear the sound. I switch windows where I’m logged into the social networking site.

“Hey Dawn, what’s up.” Is all the chat says. (Not, "I’ve always loved you since the first time we met in science almost three years ago." I dream.)

“Yo.” I respond. I don’t tell him about the stories. The one thing I ever keep from him. Wait, that’s a lie. I’ve never told him I love him, the way a girl loves a boy.

We have a quick convo about random things like we always do when he has to leave.

“Love you<3. Cya.” I take a breath, but I knew it was coming. I know I shouldn’t, but I always imagine he means it the way I mean it when I say I love you. I dream, but I don’t dare hope.

“lov ya 2 <3<3<3. Bye” is my response. Short, simple, and the plain truth.

I shut the laptop as I hear him enter my room. I was in the middle of my newest creation. The ones I keep in my "Just Dreams" folder, hidden among the others.

“Hey Dawn, what were you doing?” he asks, his brown eyes full of curiosity.

“Nothing important.” I say as I slyly redirect his attention away from my laptop. I can’t let him find out about my story. The one who’s window isn’t fully closed. The one about a girl writing stories. The one about me.

We talk for a while about everything. We talk about his love of anything watermelon flavored, his worry over grades, and even his laziness. We joke, we laugh, but beneath it all, I just want to take his lips and kiss him speechless. But I don’t because I know he doesn’t feel the same way. I know his kindness, and the way he would feel conflicted if I told him. So I don’t, even after a year, he’s never known.

“I have to go to the bathroom,” I say but I just really want to get away, to rearrange my emotions and keep them in check.

I come back to find my laptop open, and his mouth gaping. I’m screwed. I yank my laptop away from him. I hope he didn’t read enough. But I know he did, because of his reaction.

“What’s this about, Dawn,” he says, his eyes flickering between me and the laptop.

I could easily lie. I could tell him I had to write a love story in English, about real people. I could tell him anything, and he’d believe me. It might be because he’s naïve, or because he helplessly wants to believe it. But I don’t. In this moment of weakness, I’m selfish. I want him to worry over me, to kiss me, to have his arms around me and never let go.

In this five second silence all this has gone through my head. I know it’s a risk. I know it would hurt him. I know we would never be the same. I know I shouldn't hope. But even so I respond.

“I love you."

And I brace myself for his reaction, because this time, it’s not just a story.

  |   March 24, 2013    4:12 PM ET

This is a regular column featuring original poetry and fiction by and for teens, provided by Figment, the online community writing site for young readers and writers.

By Ali Hessel

My first relationship was in the third grade.

No really. Third grade. I had a relationship with a boy. Our mothers took us to McDonald’s. We sat in one corner and made them sit in the other corner, far away from us. We talked about all kinds of things, mostly the other kids in our classes. He gave me the toy from his happy meal.

I kept the toy. It’s sitting in The Breakup Box. The Box holds all the remnants of my past relationships. It sits under my bed, tucked under a floorboard that doesn’t quite hide it. As I sit here, pulling out the artifacts I’ve kept for years and years, I wonder what I saw in all those boys.

At the time, they seemed like good ideas. Drake dumped me after two weeks. Then in sixth grade, when kids started to, you know, like-like each other, I found Tommy. He was on the track team. We dated for two days. He bought me ice cream. When he dumped me for his ex and I was finished crying to my mother about it, the spoon went into the Box.

I found someone in seventh grade. Jake was an older man. Thirteen. My friends couldn’t believe it. He was mature, about to go to high school, but he liked me. We dated all summer long. He spent a lot of time at the park with me and we spent hours and hours talking on the phone together. The next year, I was shocked to find out that he had been cheating on me. He never broke up with me officially. Since I spent so much time on the phone with him, it went into the Box.

I could go on forever about my relationships throughout the years. How Jordan gave me the ball after he won the football game. How Brian gave me tissues with little hearts on them when I cried at my grandpa’s funeral. The CDs Andrew made for me. I kept them all. It became my little ritual: whenever a boy breaks up with me, I cry and do the generic post-break-up dance, then I put his shit into the Box, put it away, and get over myself.

I’m about to go to college. I’m about to break up with my boyfriend. I wonder, does he have a Box? Will my stuff go in it? Do I leave stuff behind in relationships? I try to remember all the way back to third grade and I can’t recall ever giving anyone anything. They all gave me gifts; I never gave them anything worthwhile.

Maybe that’s it. The reason it never worked out between all of those boys and me: they tried to give me tangible things.

They taught me to measure my love in material goods rather than in feelings. Hopefully this will be the year that I, Emerson Jameson, find love for love’s sake and not for the amount of stuff I receive.

  |   March 15, 2013    9:30 PM ET

This is a regular column featuring original poetry and fiction by and for teens, provided by Figment, the online community writing site for young readers and writers.

By NOLZZA

"If you wanna play it like a game, well c'mon, c'mon, let's play." - Paramore

"Do it!"

"Are you crazy? There's no way on Earth I'm doing that."

"Oh, come on, Raelynn. Don't you wanna do something wild and crazy for once?"

"I thought we were saving wild and crazy for college."

I leaned back in the chair, taking a quick glance at Asher Kinsley and his friends gathered on the other side of the Food Court. Even with his friends flanking his every side, the guy didn't look in the least bit approachable.

Asher stood tall, maybe a few inches over six feet, with his back pressed against the wall and hands crammed into the pockets of black skinny jeans hanging just below his waist. There were at least five piercings on his left earlobe, shining even from thirty feet away, and another at his eyebrow. His friends laughed hysterically around him, but Asher barely even cracked a smile --- as if smiling too widely was painful for him. I snickered. How could Leah expect me to run up and kiss that guy? He looks like he punches babies.

"This is our last week of high school, Rae," Leah says, "Chances are you'll never see Asher again, so what do you have to lose?"

"Then why don't you kiss him?"

Leah scoffs, taking a loud slurp of her smoothie. "Easy. Because he's not my type."

"He's not mine either!" I lash.

Leah waves my complaint off, leaning her elbows on the table. "It's not like I'm asking you to kiss a toad. Asher Kinsley may be that creepy emo guy nobody wants to mess with, but you gotta admit he's cute."

I couldn't argue there. With his short, raven-black buzzcut and shocking emerald green eyes, he could have girls lining every street for a shot with him. You know, if he didn't look so threatening and serious all the time.

"Think of it this way," Leah continues, "if you kiss Asher quickly and run away, he'll have no chance of rejecting you. Plus, the guy rarely talks at Saint Stone, so nobody at school will hear about it."

"Sounds like you've really thought this out," I tell her.

Leah grins, shaking around her now empty smoothie cup.

I sigh. Of all people to dare me to kiss, why in the world did she have to choose Asher? We're in two completely different social circles. I've never even had a conversation with the guy in all four years of high school. He's the type of guy that smokes behind bleachers and starts fights in the hallway. I'm the type of girl that doodles pictures of anime characters on her paper in class and jumps on top of cafeteria tables in the middle of lunch to sing Justin Bieber songs with her friends.

But, in a way, Leah was right. We'd only be in high school for one more week. I'll never see Asher again once that week's over. I had nothing to lose just to kiss him quickly and run off. Right?

"Ah, I see that look on your face. You're thinking about doing it, aren't you? Go ahead and do it!" Leah exclaims excitedly. "You'll have something to reflect on in twenty years."

"Yeah, being the girl that gets punched in the face for trying to kiss Asher. I'll be a legend."

"Hey, you asked for a dare and I gave you one. Now just get your butt up and kiss the guy," she says in response to my sarcasm.

I exhale deeply, rising from my chair hesitantly. "You just remember, Leah, when Asher comes for me in the middle of the night and hashes my body into little bite-size squares, it's because you made me kiss him."

She laughs, pushing me in Asher's direction. She chants "good luck" behind me as I start to walk over to him. My heart thrashes like the wings of a moth in my chest with every step forward, legs wobbling like limp noodles. I take a quick nervous glance behind me at Leah sitting at our table. She gives me two thumbs-up. I turn back around nervously.

All I have to do is kiss him and head back to the table. That's it, I tell myself as I edge closer to Asher and his friends.

Asher's so close now I can see the faded lines of scars down his lean, sinewy arms. I close my eyes and breathe, trying to wave away the butterflies in the pit of my stomach. Asher and his friends look at me strangely --- Asher especially, green eyes squinted in an emotion I can't quite read --- probably wondering why the weird art geek is infiltrating their guy circle. I block his friends out and stare straight at Asher. And then I do it. Lean right up and kiss the dude.

I don't give Asher a chance to react; I immediately start walking back to the table. But even though my feet are moving, I'm not seeming to go anywhere. I look behind me. Asher's hand is wrapped around my wrist.

"What do you think you're doing?" he asks in a deep, threatening voice.

Air rushes from my lungs. I swallow nervously. This was not supposed to happen. "Um...nothing," I stutter.

Asher snickers, turning me around to face him. "You call kissing me 'nothing'?"

"Look, " I start, pulling a strand of hair away from my face, trying my best not to look Asher straight in the eyes, "I'm sorry. My friend Leah just thought that, you know, since it's our last week of ---"

Asher, to my surprise, leans down and kisses me. It's nothing like I've ever experienced before, and it leaves me completely breathless when he pulls away.

Flustered, I stare up at him in complete astonishment. "W-why'd you do that?"

"Same reason as you," he says. A pedantic smirk twists its way across his lips. He leans down, so close that his forehead is a sliver of an inch away from touching mine.

"I was dared."

  |   March 11, 2013   11:31 PM ET

This is a regular column featuring original poetry and fiction by and for teens, provided by Figment, the online community writing site for young readers and writers.

By Jenny R.

On an ordinary Friday afternoon, Gracie Jones declared war.

War on corsages, limos, and rent-a-tuxes. War on glitter, up-do's, and mall-bought makeovers. War on the idea of a single king and queen to be crowned the rulers of a dancehall monarchy.

War on Prom.

One week to go.

One week until she'd take arms against the tyranny of an age old high school tradition.

She'd make the most of guerilla preparation, while the pretty boys asked pretty girls to be their dates, and the plainer girls stayed hopeful.

The battle began with a dress, and hers had to shine with the colors of revolution.

"Green," Gracie thought, "It had to be green."

But not just any green, vigilante green.

Dress picking was meant to be quick and painless. Gracie didn't need sequins or shimmery fabric, just something simple. Not a single store in twelve malls had simple, and nobody'd heard of vigilante green. Everything was sequined, everything shimmered, everything sucked. So, Gracie turned to sewing.

Betsey Ross sewed the American flag, Gracie Jones would stitch her own prom dress. And it would be perfect.

By the time she'd finished, her dress looked more patchy than perfect, but the patches gave it charm.

***

On Monday morning, the siege began. Gracie dragged her black chucks through white halls slathered in pink posters put up by the prom committee. Sequined, shimmery posters. The colors of oppression. "The tyrants," Gracie thought.
Gap-toothed Tyler, passed Gracie a note in History class. She didn't read it till lunch. How dare he interrupt the chapter on the French Revolution.

"Vive la Prom," he'd said. "Yay, or Nay?"

Gap-toothed Tyler wasn't aware of Gracie's revolution, he was only aware of Gracie. He hung on every word she'd said in history, fell in love with her in French class, and hadn't stopped falling since.

He'd gone almost four years, stuck in the study buddy zone, until he passed the note. Prom would change everything, he thought. She'd be his queen and he'd be the luckiest guy in his high school.

He'd hoped to see her open the note, watch the apples of her cheeks royal flush with girlish delight, and hear a thundering "Yes" escape her lips. She left class without so much as a word.

He didn't see how ever so slightly green she turned when she read his note. She was Gracie Bonaparte, the spirit of a teenage Joan of Arc. She walked alone, she worked alone. Unless, he wanted to run errands of course.
"I abstain. Meet @ Party Smart after school. Need your help."

Gap-toothed Tyler gap-tooth grinned at her text. He'd help her with errands and she'd hand him her heart. Plain, simple, effective. His battle began at Party Smart.

***

She bought 250 plastic tiaras, and 250 paper crowns. Gap-toothed Tyler footed the bill. Gracie smiled at him as he lugged two garbage bags of nonsense across the parking lot to his car.

He drove her home twenty minutes in the opposite direction of his house. He didn't care. He enjoyed the drive. Gracie thought his car smelled like old Twizzlers. He'd had a stash under the front seat for months now. He offered her one, she took it, and ate the whole thing just to be polite. He'd always known she was a lady, underneath her punk rock tank tops and green military jackets.

Gap-toothed Tyler parked outside Gracie's house underneath a broken street lamp. Gracie said the flickering made her feel like a moth on the nights she'd sit outside and look at the stars. Gap-toothed Tyler wanted to kiss her even though she smelled like old Twizzlers. She got out with her crowns and tiaras in hand before he could try.

"What about prom?" he asked.

"I'm going as Robin Hood, you can come along if you agree to the role of Little John," she said.

Gap-toothed Tyler flashed a gummy grin.

"Sure! Pick you up at 6," he said.

Gracie didn't tell Gap-toothed Tyler about her plan. Not yet, but soon.

Gap-toothed Tyler went home happy. Gracie went home hopeful.

***

It rained on prom day. A great sign for Gracie. Prom committee Kyle was out with the flu. Gracie volunteered to hang the net of balloons over the gym for him. Gracie was good with her hands and not afraid of heights so getting the gig was simple. After school, she brought a bag of balloons, along with her crowns and tiaras and dumped them all together in the net over the gym. The prom committee didn't know about the crowns and tiaras. Vive la revolution.

Gap-toothed Tyler picked up Gracie at six. She was the prettiest Robin Hood he'd ever seen. She thought he made a handsome little John. They both kept that a secret. Gracie gave Gap-toothed Tyler a CD. "Robin Hood and Little John" was the only song. She told him to give it too the DJ. Gap-tooth Tyler would do whatever she asked.

Gracie stole the "Prom King and Queen" vote box when no one was watching. She found the entrance to the stage, snuck past the band, and waited till they stopped playing. Gap-toothed Tyler paid the DJ to put on "Robin Hood and Little John".

When the music started, Gracie cried "Vive la revolution" and set the vote box on fire in front of everyone. There wouldn't be a king or queen this year. There would be five-hundred. Gracie ran off stage and pulled the line to the net with her many colored balloons. The balloons floated beautifully in their own time, while the paper crowns and plastic tiaras fell into the open hands of her senior class.

Vive la Revolution.

Gracie and Gap-toothed Tyler walked out with applause at their backs. Cheers from the pretty boys, and pretty girls on the dance floor and the plainer boys and plainer girls on the bleachers. They'd be in the principal's office on Monday. Maybe they'd get suspended, maybe they wouldn't. They didn't care, they were bold, ballsy, and green. Vigilante green.

***

Gap-toothed Tyler drove Gracie home. He parked in the driveway and sat with her under the flickering street lamp so they could watch the stars. He pulled an old bag of candy out of his pocket. Him and Gracie talked and chewed until their teeth turned licorice red. When Gracie kissed Gap-toothed Tyler, he turned licorice pink.

She didn't mind that he tasted like old Twizzlers.

Vive la revolution.

  |   March 9, 2013    6:06 PM ET

This is a regular column featuring original poetry and fiction by and for teens, provided by Figment, the online community writing site for young readers and writers.

By wallflower

I fling open the door, bracing myself against the cold November wind. The force of the chilly air knocks the breath from me, but I don't care. I need to be reminded that I still need to breathe.

Maybe he'll call me tonight...

Maybe he's just as lost as I am...

Maybe I'll face the fact that he's forgotten about me.

Never in a million years would anyone have expected a boy like Luke Gray to take notice of a girl like me, Emma Jacobs. But, at the beginning of my junior year, the senior star running back for the Westside Rebels asked for my number.
I thought that only a fool would turn down that opportunity, so I of course gave it to him.

But I'm still a fool.

In a small town, word travels fast. The football star and the lyricist were dating by Labor Day. By then, everyone was convinced we were meant to be. Everyone thought we made an adorable couple with our matching brown hair, green eyes, and freckles. (And, I must say, we did.)

Everything was perfect. From our first kiss after the homecoming game (we won 46-12), to hearing those three little words fall from his lips on senior night.

He loves me. He loves me.

That very night, the words chorused in my head and I went home, grabbed my guitar, and wrote a song.
Call me Taylor Swift. I don't care.

You should hear the breakup songs.

I cheered for #82 all season long. After each game, he would slip his red and white letterman jacket over my shoulders and kiss me on the tip of my nose. "It looks better on you," he'd say and smile, even though it was two sizes too big and totally consumed me.

He was always so sweet, and totally honest and caring. Everyone has always loved Luke. I desperately loved him- - although I'm not sure if he knew how much.

I don't know if I even knew.

Luke always, always looked forward to the future. He was headed for college to play football -- maybe one of the only things that truly mattered to him. His eyes would light up when he'd talk about touring the campus or football practice and I should have seen then that he was slipping away.

Graduation. He was so incredibly handsome in that cap and gown, proudly waving his diploma and sending a wink in my direction as he walked across the stage.

Our summer was short. He spent most of the time in practice. I was working, saving up for a car. We made crazy plans and wishes on stars while sitting in the back of his truck on so many summer nights. He promised to call me every day. He swore that being 150 miles apart wouldn't change anything. He'd look me in the eyes and say he loved me and I believed him with all my heart. I knew everything was going to be okay.

The night before he left was the last time I saw him. Just him and me spent the evening at the lake, talking and just being there with and for each other. I was already missing him and crying by the time it was time for him to take me home.

Before I got out of his truck, Luke kissed me like it was the last time we'd ever kiss. "Emily," he said eventually. He reached into the backseat and pulled out his letterman jacket. "I want you to keep this. Until I get back." Luke smiled at me and placed it around my shoulders and kissed the tip of my nose, just like in the wintertime.

"I love you," He said.

And then he was gone.

Nearly four months later, I'm standing outside in the dying light, tugging Luke's jacket closer to my body to shield myself against the cold wind. He said I could keep it until he got back.

But he never came.

I don't know what happened. That first week he called me every day. The second week, every other day. The third, twice. The fourth, once. By September, he stopped calling at all.

I thought maybe he'd come back to town to visit. But his parents moved closer to the college. He had no reason to come back.

Except for me.

I called. I waited. I called.

No answer. I know through mutual friends that he's alive and well.

I also know through mutual friends that he's found someone who isn't me.

I don't know if it's better like this. Everything is perfect until, one day, it's gone. There was never a hint that he'd change like that. There was no sign that he was falling out of love. I had no clue that I was so forgettable.

The jacket still smells like him. I only allow myself to put it on when I can't do anything else to alleviate the pain. I know I should stop. I should burn it, or store it away, or give it back. But I can only sit and trace his name, trace the number 82, bury my face in the red and soak it with my tears.

He's forgotten me.

I guess in a world outside of senior high, there's too much for him to see --

Enough to make him forget about me.

  |   March 3, 2013    3:03 PM ET

This is a regular column featuring original poetry and fiction by and for teens, provided by Figment, the online community writing site for young readers and writers.

By Marjorie Storms

"What are you getting, Bree?" Shannon asks as she picks up a flakey salad from the from the lunch line. I look into my pocket even though I know the outcome; thirty-eight cents and a mint.

"Um, I'm on a diet, Shan," I lie reluctantly, eyeing a ham and cheese sandwich.

"Oh, you are such a good girl. I should too but I am just so hungry!" Shannon pouts as she holds her flat stomach unhappily and then grabs a bottle of water. Me too, I think sourly.

"Move, please. Oh, Stephie, I love it when you smile! Your overbite reminds me of my bulldog!" Shannon smiles sweetly as she pushes through Joanna and Stephanie to the front of the line. The startled look on Stephanie's face hurts me a little, the way she covers her mouth with her hand makes a pang on my insides. Defending the poor girl would mean treason; death by social status.

Shannon pulls out her shiny credit card to pay for her lunch while my stomach gurgles. If I asked her to pay for my lunch could turn deadly. It would be like giving your neck to a hungry bear. I regret spending my lunch money on the light pink shirt I'm wearing today. I finger the lace at the bottom of the shirt absent-mindedly, my mouth watering as we turn to walk to our seats. Chelsea is sitting there, puckering her lips for her makeup.

"Ohmigosh, Bree, Shanny, you will not believe this!" She shrieks as she sees us. I sit down, looking at her but hardly paying attention to her. She was the one that said that I must get this stupid shirt.

"Breeee! You look sooo good!" Chelsea admires as I twirl in circles in front of the mirror.

"Thanks, girl!" I say, smiling as the soft fabric caresses my body and hangs off my shoulder.

"You must get it! It was made for you!" Chelsea smiles, holding the heap of clothing she is getting.

The happiness seeps from my face as I look down at the floor, "Oh, I don't know. It's too expensive."

"What? Oh, Bree, come on! I can not see you in that flowery shirt one more time." Chelsea drones. She flicks open her cell phone as she continues, "I was thinking I should take Becky to the shore this summer. You know, to spend time with her."

This may be undetected by one outside of the Perfect Bubble, but there are rules and guidelines to heed to. Someone rebellious to the monarchy could be subject of being exhiled from the bubble. I was pushing a boundary, denying someone higher on the ladder than me. Chelsea's pursed and pampered lips are quite similar to a lion baring their teeth.

So I bought it.

It's all her fault.

Or is it?

"So I was talking to Angelica -- such a whore you will not believe what she was trying to pull off -- told me that Toni told her that Melina told her that Shaun Pierce is going to ask Bree out!" She gushes, swinging her mascara wand around frantically as she speaks. They all laugh hysterically which I am forced to laugh along with.

I unknowingly find Shaun in the clusters of high school kids around me, finding his white-gold hair like a lighthouse in the dark. He laughs at a joke or a comment, baring his brace-filled smile playfully. His hands are covered in pastel paints, making my heart flutter. He paints and works at the school's plays. He wears all black to hide himself backstage during the school's musical being held now. However, nothing could disguise his head shaggy with white hair, his sweet laugh, his demanding eyes.

"What a joke!" Shannon laughs as she chomps on a piece of lettuce.

"I dunno," I breathe, staring as Shaun shook his friend's hand, smiling at him. I wish he would smile at me --

"What?!" Chelsea asks, her mouth agape.

"What?" I ask, realizing my mistake.

"You like that loser?" Shannon asks, bewildered.

"Who?" I ask wearily. He was a big no-no in our world. Shaun participates in school, strives for good grades, and when he gets a girl, he sticks with her. He isn't sex-hungry like Shannon's boy nor is he a cheating and mean like Chelsea's pig.

"You like Shaun Pierce?" Chelsea says carefully, analyzing me through judging eyes.

"Well, um, no. No. I don't." I stutter. Chelsea narrows her eyes, and nods indignantly. She begins speaking again to Shannon excitedly, imploring about a Vera Wang scent. Chelsea is fine now that I had bowed to her power and might one again. I had fallen back into line, collapsed to full submission.

Where have I gone? Where was the real me?

It surely was not in the Perfect Bubble.

  |   March 1, 2013    5:57 PM ET

This is a regular column featuring original poetry and fiction by and for teens, provided by Figment, the online community writing site for young readers and writers.

By Dana

Freshman year. It was the real thing, it was what mattered. The people you chose to be a group of reflected who you wanted to be. There were the band people, there were the geeks, there were the average people, there were the creepy gangsters, and there were the popular people -- the people on top. Choose to be with these people, and choose to be popular. It was that simple.

At least, that’s what Ana had heard.

Graduating 8th grade felt like some sort of ceremony. Saying bye to teachers you never want to say bye to, scoffing at teachers you’re glad you’re rid of, hugging your closest friends, and glaring at your worst enemies. It was the day you told the world: this is it.

That’s why when the bell rang at 2:40 pm on June 20th, she just smiled and ran straight out the door. She’d said her good-byes, had seen every classroom the last time, and now it was time for vacation. A nice, long, two and a half month summer vacation.

In fact, Ana had one thing left to say that moment. Two words, two words she’d been waiting to say for so long...thank GOD.

It was over and done with. She didn’t have to deal with it. High school was going to be the spark of her popular life. She was going to have a ton of friends, say hello to every person she can say hello to in the halls. She was going to know the whole school’s name, be best friends with some of the coolest kids ever.

She just had to study.

Oh yeah. Ana Blare had been planning this summer vacation for three long years. The vacation where she studied exactly how to be popular. How to get where she wanted to get.

Ana darted into her friend Olivia’s car, and smiled, buckling in quickly.

“Hey girl!” She hugged her friend. Olivia grinned.

“Happy last day! I cannot believe it’s over. Three YEARS, Ana! Three years of middle school to deal with, and now…” She let out a deep breath. “We are officially Freshmen.”

“I KNOW!”

Olivia glanced over at her mom, then whispered to Ana, “Wait, are you still doing the ‘Popular in Ten Steps?'” She raised her eyebrows. Ana smiled.

“Oh yeah.” She laughed a little. “It’s going to be great.” She inhaled, then blurted out what she had wanted to say for too long. “Can you help me?”

Olivia smirked. She was super popular. She knew everybody, had six different posses, and yet still kept Ana as a best friend.

“I was wondering when you’d ask.”

“OMG, YOU SUCK! Why didn’t you just offer?” Ana slapped her friend’s arm lightly in fake anger. “I totally just took three years to ask that!”

“It was pretty amusing.”

“You are pure EVIL.”

“Hmm. It helps, you know.” Olivia’s mom stopped at her house. They got out of the black Land Rover, and slowly made their way into Olivia’s mansion.

“Helps?”

“With the popularity!” Olivia rolled her eyes. “Seriously, what else were we talking about?!”

“I get distracted.” Ana shrugged, grinning.

“Whatever. Come on.” Olivia threw her door open, and they entered the marble hallway. The two girls darted to Olivia’s bedroom, in the very top of the four story house. Once they were in, Olivia slammed the door, and the two girls sat on the fluffy lavender bed. Olivia’s bedroom was totally purple and white themed. The walls were lavender with a thin white swirly design, and the windows were tinted light purple. The entire room had the scent of vanilla and lavender mixed, producing a light, summer-y smell. The carpet was clean, ivory white, and didn’t have a speck of lint. The bed was super fluffy and had a lavender quilt with white pillows filled with lavender leaves.

Above the bed was a purple lame hanging from the tall, white ceiling. The desk was white painted wood, and had light violet shelves to hold papers. The spinning chair was also light purple, matching all the lavender lamps in hanging from the ceilings in every corner of the room. The door was white, and had Olivia in light purple cursive on it. The handle was painted lavender, and the entire room pretty much blinded Ana with purple and white.

“Okay, so….” Ana made a motion with her hands that sort of meant, “How do we start this?”.

Olivia understood without even looking at the gesture. “You want to reach 'The Top' next year. You want to know everyone in the school. You want to be in THE posse, and then be in every other posse too. You want to be friends with 'the populars.' Well, let me tell you, Ana. If you want to be friends with the populars…”

Olivia grinned. “Then you need to make a few enemies first.”

'Dear Jason, I'm NEVER Going Back to Starbucks'

Elizabeth Perle   |   January 12, 2013   12:42 PM ET

This is a regular column featuring original poetry and fiction by and for teens, provided by Figment, the online community writing site for young readers and writers.

By Ansley Nicole

Dear Jason,

There’s really nothing I can say to you now, not after this summer. Not after all that’s happened, but that’s not the point. The point is, Jason, this summer is all it took to break me, to break me up and tear me down, and it all happened because of you.

Did you really think that you could change me? I bet you did, but news flash: you were wrong. Nothing can change me, I am me and will not change for anybody, not even you. My summer boy. Ha. It sounds stupid now. During the summer those words sounded like an enchantment. My sweet, sweet summer boy. Little did I know you weren’t all mine.

We’re not going to start there though. We’re going to start at the beginning. I remember, Jason, the first day I saw you. You were in Starbucks drinking a frappe when you looked up and caught me staring. You smiled. Why did you think I was staring? Was it because every girl stares at you? Or was it that I thought you were weird, sitting in Starbucks alone? Nobody sits in Starbucks alone, not in this town anyway, but you just sat there staring at the bottom of your coffee cup stirring it with a straw.

I was staring. I admit it. But, why was I staring? It wasn’t because of anything you thought. It was because of the way you were staring at your coffee cup. You were so focused; it was like there was a whole other world at the bottom of that cup. I know that I had just seen you for the first time but, I got this undeniable urge: I got the urge that I wanted to be the one you looked at like that, not a useless, recyclable paper cup.

Your looks were astonishing. Your hair framed your face perfectly. It was the prettiest brown I had ever seen, almost as pretty as your eyes. No, Jason, not pretty, beautiful. Everything about you was beautiful. Of course, you had flaws but that just added onto everything. I was mesmerized. You were on the skinny side, but have enough baby fat to be considered normal. And those arms? I wanted to be held in those arms. I wanted to be held for hours on end. I wanted to be held for forever just by you. But now, Jason? Your arms sicken me almost as much as the person I found in them.

There are other things, Jason, other things I have to clarify. You were everything I wanted, everything I needed, everything I hoped to find that summer. So I walked over to you.

“Hi,” I said.

“Hey,” you said and smiled. That smile up close could drive someone crazy.

“I bet you’re wondering why I was staring,” I said.

“Nah, not really,” you said and laughed.

“Oh,” and I laughed too.

“Do you wanna sit?” you asked.

“Sure.” So, I smiled and I sat, not knowing what I was getting myself into.

Every day after that I kept going to Starbucks to see if you would ever come back. You didn't. One day though, I almost decided to give up when you came waltzing in. You looked right at me and smiled like you knew I'd been waiting on you to come back. Like, you knew. You were always like that. You always knew everything about what went on with me. I wasn't the same way, though. I barely knew anything about your life outside of me. Which is why I didn't know about the other girl.

There's more to this story. Much, much more. But, I'm going to tie this up right now because my hand hurts. You made me fall in love with you, broke my heart and cheated on me, all in one summer. How does that make you feel, Jason, knowing that it's your fault I detest you so much? It truly is. It truly is your fault. You're the bad guy.

Eventually, you'll miss me,
Samantha

P.S. I'm never going back to Starbucks.