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How to Be a Teenager in a Contemporary Novel Written for Adults

Bronwyn Averett

Staff Writer

Bronwyn Averett holds a PhD in French literature, and as a certified book doctor she advises consuming a wide variety of texts. Literary loves include contemporary African and Caribbean fiction, gigantic novels of the 19th century, short stories by Mavis Gallant, and 90's YA. She writes about reading at Follow her on Twitter @indirectlibre.

Wear headphones. It is extremely important that you convey your total lack of interest in adult conversation.

Find an adult besides your parents to love. This will make them squeamish and strange, but this person will help you find your true self. Eventually break away from this proxy parent. You are your own person.

Do not look up from your phone unless the house is literally burning down around you.

Pepper your vocabulary with incomprehensible slang.

Roll your eyes frequently.

Be prepared. At some point, someone will need you to hack into something. Teenagers can hack anything.

Learn how to casually do a drug or two. Extra points for stealing your parents’ drugs.

If you’re smart, read classic literature. Most adults in novels do not have time to read, so it’s on you to provide the necessary clues about your writer’s influences.

Get ready to be a symbolic representation of an older person’s past. But hang in there. By the end of the novel you will have developed a glimmer of your own personality.

Have awkward sex. Most of it through your phone. Sex is a sign of transgression, for which you must atone with the awkwardness of your youth and the detachment of your inexperience.

Fall in love with an older man or an older woman.

More importantly, fall in love with your stuff. Teenagers love stuff.

Dislike your mother. Unfortunately, your fictional existence is largely a means of conveying your mother’s inadequacy.

Commit petty crime. If anyone suggests that you are seeking attention through illegal action, put on your headphones.

Pierce something. Tattoo something.

If you are the sibling of a pierced, tattooed teenager, create a persona of painstakingly normalcy. Pointedly let it slide that, despite all the advantages of your winsome exterior, you find it burdensome.

Let’s be clear, any normalcy you achieve is a supreme act of will.

Know that you are smarter than your parents. But do not actually be smarter than your parents. No one wants that.

If the adults in your life are coping with tragedy, your appropriate response is empathy. If you yourself are coping with tragedy, the appropriate response is mildly self-destructive behavior.

You can overachieve or you can underachieve, but you must not moderately achieve.

If you are a girl, be secretly perceptive and obviously insecure. If you are a boy, be obviously perceptive and secretly insecure.

Most importantly of all, you must come of age with a complete lack of grace. This proves to your adult readers that you have character and that you will grow up to be fine. Just like they did.