It might be that I was more tolerant of teenage angst when I was a teenager myself, but I seem to remember rolling my eyes a lot back then too. And the eye-rolling definitely started again at the beginning of Madeline Roux’s new novel The Book of Living Secrets. Connie and Adelle are typical teenagers in that they are both interested in their specific romantic interests and not at all interested in being told what to do by the adults in their lives, or by society, or by anything outside of themselves. At one point, Connie even reflects “Nobody, she had thought then, as she did now, can make me something without my consent.” (6)
What can one do for such teenagers? I suspect that calmly and carefully explaining that we are all regularly being made things without our consent (just try withdrawing your consent from being made a “taxpayer” sometime and see how that works) wouldn’t get very far. Nor would suggesting that part of becoming an adult is being able to tell when reality is something to which we must adapt ourselves and when it is something that can be changed. This also would not be heard. Obviously the right answer to how to talk to such teenagers is to dump them into a world of Lovecraftian nightmares.
I am glad that I kept reading beyond the first few pages–it helps that the book is well written and that I’ve enjoyed Madeleine Roux’s work before (see Allison Hewitt is Trapped, reviewed here). And it does get interesting very quickly. Within a couple of chapters Connie and Adelle have gone from angst over the Sadie Hawkins dance to struggling for survival. What they find is that their tools for survival come not from their inner identities or the depth of their passions, but rather from hard work and sacrifice done within rules and boundaries established by others and lived out by a community of people working towards the same ends.
This of course is something that as Christians we are well aware of. Our strength to live in the world does not come from within us, but rather comes from the life and death of someone else, and is expressed in a community that was established before we were born, is shaped by rules we did not write, and that will last beyond us regardless of our opinions about the matter.
And I know that’s vague, but it really is a fun book and I don’t want to give away any plot points.