Our featured author, Laurie Halse Anderson, writes about tough subjects with humor and sensitivity As we talk about peer pressure this month, Anderson’s books are great options to learn about and discuss the challenges teens face.
According to Wikipedia, Laurie Halse Anderson grew up in New York with her younger sister, Lisa. As a student, she showed an early interest in writing, specifically during the second grade. Anderson enjoyed reading—especially science fiction and fantasy—as a teenager, but never envisioned herself becoming a writer. Anderson began as a freelance journalist and worked at The Philadelphia Inquirer in the early years of her career. During this time, Anderson also began to write children’s and young adult novels.
Anderson has written many books, but after reading one of them, Speak, I knew she would be a great author to feature this quarter. Speak, is a about a thirteen year old girl who becomes mute after being sexually assaulted at an end of summer party. That would be a story by itself, but what really interested me is how her main character, Melinda, was treated by her peers after. She had called the cops after the assault which then broke up the party and some of her peers got into trouble. With school starting shortly after this incident, she was avoided by her peers until she spoke up and told people what happened to her at the party.
As I read more about Anderson, I learned that in 2018, she revealed that she was raped when she was thirteen years old, and the novel was based on her experience. Anderson later wrote a memoir, Shout, about her life when she was a teenager, including details of her rape and the trauma she faced afterward.
Her other teen reads like Catalyst and Twisted also tell us the stories of her characters facing teen challenges head on and making choices for themselves which may not be well received by their peers.
Here is a link if you are interested in learning more about Laurie Halse Anderson and the books she has written.
What does her books teach us about peer pressure?
Teenagers may gang together to pick one someone who is different or has caused an issue for them. Because Melinda made a choice to call the cops, her peers made her pay by shunning her. Even though it was a good choice, it wound up having a negative impact on her.
Her peers pressured her by shunning her for getting them into trouble. She decided not to talk as a way to deal with what happened and how they were treating her. Her peers didn’t take the time to figure out why she was acting that way, instead they wanted her to feel bad about what she did to them.
Anderson wrote her novel, Speak, based on what actually happened to her as a teen. Reading novels about these experiences provides a way for us to learn about these issues. And the best way for us to see the impact of the choices we make is through someone else’s experiences.
What can we do?
Teens deal with anxiety over navigating issues they face with little life experience to guide them. Peer pressure adds another dynamic to these issues. They feel the pressure from their peers to make decisions that may not be the best for them. Or, they are shunned because of a decision that they did make. Whether we agree or not, we need to support them and help them navigate whatever consequences come from it.
We want them to reach out to us when they need help making decisions they feel pressured to make, but sometimes they are put on the spot to make them. So, we need to help our teens have tools or confidence in themselves to make the best decisions they can. And, not be directed by peer pressure.
Also, we need to teach our teens and young adults to just be kind to others. Explain that we don’t know what challenges other people are facing, so just be open and understanding. Don’t be mean to your peers just because everyone else is.
So, make a plan this week to check in with your teen. Start creating that safe place for them to share what might be on their minds. Teen Mental Health Matters.
The Hard Way is about peer pressure
The Hard Way is the first book in The Way Series by Selma P. Verde. It is the story of Paul Jones and his navigating peer pressure to make choices. In the story, he is challenged by his peers to make a choice. The choice he makes helps him stay loyal to his friends, but it leads to big consequences. To find out what choice he makes, follow the link below and pick up your copy today!
And, for more information about peer pressure, click on this link to our focus on the subject. Mentoring A Dream – Peer Pressure