Nov 282016
 

whisperI picked up Whisper, by Phoebe Kitanidis, from my daughter’s shelf. She is fifteen, so as you might guess, Whisper is a Young Adult novel. The story was entertaining, fast moving, had a nice mix of action and drama, plus family and friend relationships, and even a budding romance. My daughter loved it and I was entertained by it, so it was a win!

What I thought while reading: Like most YA novels these days (including some of my own books: the Whinnies on the Wind series, the Horse Guardian series, and more), Whisper featured a teen who has an extraordinary ability – and I couldn’t help but wonder yet again, why do such a high percentage of YA movies and books feature superhuman teens?

One can say that all demographics enjoy this genre, and that’s true – but the genres available to older readers are far more diverse. We have plenty of non-super protagonists to read about. In YA, the majority of novels include teens with an unusual ability of some sort.

My first thought: having super powers puts protagonists in previously unheard of situations, and therefore may create story interest out of novelty. But then I wonder, after a while wouldn’t reading about a non-super teen become new and fresh? Also, wouldn’t a “normal” character be more relatable?

Maybe the attraction to the super teen is an indicator of how some teens feel powerless in their lives. In the pages of a book, a reader usually feels as powerful as the protagonist, so that very well might be the draw. But do that many teenagers feel powerless? I hope not.

Another option: the super teen phenomena could simply be boredom with the world as it is. Yikes, and almost as sad as the feeling powerless theory. Especially since there is plenty to see in the world when one takes the time to really look.

Maybe it’s because teens are in the process of finding and realizing their own abilities, including those things they’re gifted at. In that case, reading about superhuman teens would be research. And as an aside, it is possible to have a super power. Here’s a list of 50 real-life superhumans.

Then I moved on to the other side of the computer, so to speak. Why do writers write about teens with super gifts?

I can’t speak for other writers of course, but I have tried to infuse my teens’ superpowers with a deeper message. In the case of Evy in the Whinnies on the Wind series, that truth was that we, as the dominant species, need to have compassion for all living creatures and treat them kindly. If, by reading my books, one person does something kind for an animal that they might not otherwise do, then Evy’s superpower has served its purpose.

In Whisper, it is possible that Phoebe Kitanidis also intended to show a deeper truth. Her protagonist’s superpower – to hear others’ thoughts as whispers – gave encouragement to the reader to be authentic to themselves.

Isn’t that something that we all want to hear – or dare I say even need to hear? I believe that on some level, we all know that honoring our most authentic self is how we reach our greatest potential. To me, to be personally authentic is a true super power – and I believe it is to young readers too.

Dec 192015
 
 December 19, 2015  Living As If All Things Are Possible Comments Off on Week Three

This story has been popping back into my head a lot this week. It’s a true story, something that happened to my daughter/friend, Charity, or perhaps it’s more accurate to say, something she helped make happen because she followed her intuition.

Homeless ManA year or so ago, Charity was finishing her last year of University. She’s also a mom with two young children, and like most young families, she and her husband struggled financially. One day while driving home from campus, feeling particularly grateful for the good things in her life, she saw an elderly homeless man pushing his belongings down the street in a shopping cart, and felt compassion for him. She had $60 in her wallet, and she wanted to give it to him.

However, since he was on the other side of the street, one of the busiest streets in Victoria at that time of day, she knew she’d have to double back, find parking, and then approach him on foot. It took her some time to get turned around during rush hour, and by the time she got back to where he’d been, he was gone.  She drove slowly along, hoping he hadn’t gone far. He hadn’t – but he was once again on the wrong side of the street!

Another lengthy exercise in patience as she turned around in traffic, and ten minutes later she was heading back to where she’d last seen him. Again, he seemed to have vanished – until she saw him disappearing into a driveway to an apartment building.

Determined now to chase him down on foot, she found parking at a nearby bank, and ran toward the apartment building – and there he was, already pushing his cart down the street away from her. She says she must’ve looked like a crazy woman running after him, money fluttering in her fist.

Finally, she caught him! “This is for you,” she said, and pushed the $60 toward him.

He didn’t even seem surprised. “You keep that money,” he told her kindly.

“You don’t want it? But… but don’t you need it?”

The old man chuckled. “No one knows what they need, and those who think they do are just fooling themselves.” Then he patted her arm. “Pass your good deed onto another. And have a nice day.” He smiled as he turned back to his shopping cart, and walked away.

I’m not drawing any conclusions from this story or trying to pin down why it’s sticking in my mind this week. I’m just sitting with it, in gratitude, thinking of the power of Charity’s experience. There are so many awesome lessons in it: following intuition, showing compassion, thinking outside the box, being persistent, not being afraid to do something unusual and different, accepting the wisdom gifts of others, and on and on and on.

Interesting, multifaceted life learning – the best kind.