For me, high school was defined by three words: Finding My Place.
Although my quest was more out of necessity than anything else. You see, before high school was middle school and I wasn’t popular in middle school. Not by any stretch of the imagination. I would even go as far as to say I was kind of an outcast. I had moved from the big city of Los Angeles, CA to my small town in Colorado when I was 12 and it was clear from the start, I didn’t fit in. I spent the majority of my seventh and eighth grade years trying to fit in. Trying to be like everyone else….particularly the popular crowd. And much to my dismay, failing miserably.
But in high school, everything changed. I stopped trying to shape myself to a mold that I would never fit, and instead started to discover places where I already did fit. Exactly how I was. I focused on academics, which I was good at. I joined the French club, which I loved. I started competing in debate competitions, which would go on to be some of my happiest high school memories. And along the way, I made friends. Real friends. Ones that I had things in common with. Not ones I had to pretend to be someone else to impress.
I slowly let go of my desire to be popular and hang with the “it” crowd, and slowly started to not only accept, but appreciate who I really was and what my real interests were.
Now that I’m “all grown up” and living in the real world, I actually use a lot of what I learned in high school in my daily life. Particularly being an author of teen fiction. I honestly don’t think I would be writing young adult novels had I not struggled with my identity in middle school and high school. Those experiences stayed with me. Long enough that I’m able to use them in my writing. An author friend who writes picture books for kids once told me, “I think we write in the age we’re stuck in. I’m still eight years old at heart, so that’s who I write for.”
He’s right. I’m fairly convinced that I’m still stuck (and forever will be) at age 15, trying to sort out the details of my identity.
All of my characters thus far have had a little bit of myself in them. But when I set out to write My Life Undecided, I wanted to try something different. I wanted to write a character who was nothing like me. I wanted to give myself the chance, as an author, to experience high school on the other side of the fence. Where the grass, is, of course, greener. So I invented Brooklyn Pierce. She’s popular. She hangs with the “it” crowd. She’s invited to all the cool parties. She has better things to do than study. And her best friend, Shayne, is the most sought after, most beautiful girl in the school. Yep, pretty much the polar opposite of who I was in high school.
But as I dove further into her character, I realized that she, too, was not much unlike me. She had thought she had found her place (in the inner sanctums of Shayne’s royal palace) but after an unfortunate event on page 1 of the book, she soon finds herself cast out. On her own. With no friends. And without a clue to who she really is outside of the darkness of Shayne’s shadow.
And as the book goes on and Brooklyn is able to see her former life from the outside, she starts to wonder if that really was her place to begin with.
In writing this story, I learned a valuable lesson about high school and life in general. Everyone is trying to figure it out. No matter how glamorous someone’s life looks from the outside, no one has all the answers. We all feel a little lost, scared and out of place from time to time.
I think that’s the reason My Life Undecided is my favorite book that I’ve written so far. Every author starts out a book with something to say. Something to teach. At least I do. And I set out writing My Life Undecided with a valuable lesson to teach Brooklyn Pierce—my lost, misguided and decisionally-challenged fifteen year-old heroine. But never, in a million years, did I expect her to teach me something.
But I suppose that’s why we write. That’s why we live. To learn something from everyone who comes into our lives…real or fictional.
Jessica Brody is the author of My Life Undecided, The Karma Club, and the forthcoming, 52 Reasons to Hate My Father (out summer 2012), which has recently been optioned for film. She also has published two novels for adults. She currently lives in both Los Angeles and Colorado.
My Life Undecided Book Summary:
From the Inside Flap:
PLEASE READ THIS! MY LIFE DEPENDS ON IT!
Okay, maybe that was a bit melodramatic, but I’m sorry, I’m feeling a bit melodramatic at the moment.
Here’s the deal. My name is Brooklyn Pierce, I’m fifteen years old, and I am decisionally challenged. Seriously, I can’t remember the last good decision I made. I can remember plenty of crappy ones though. Including that party I threw when my parents were out of town that accidentally burned down a model home. Yeah, not my finest moment, for sure.
But see, that’s why I started a blog. To enlist readers to make my decisions for me. That’s right. I’m gave up. Threw in the towel. I let someone else be the one to decide which book I read for English. Or whether or not I accepted an invitation to join the debate team from that cute-in-a-dorky-sort-of-way guy who gave me the Heimlich Maneuver in the cafeteria. (Note to self: Chew the melon before swallowing it.) I even let them decide who I dated!
Well, it turns out there are some things in life you simply can’t choose or have chosen for you—like who you fall in love with. And now everything’s more screwed up than ever.
But don’t take my word for it, read the book and decide for yourself. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll scream in frustration. Or maybe that’s just me. After all, it’s my life.
My Life Undecided Book Trailer