I grew up with MTV, so I was disappointed when it lost its cool with all the raunchy dating shows and stuff they started airing, and just so you know, I’m not some stuffy old bitty with virgin ears. But lately, MTV has made its way back into my good graces. I mean, sure there’s still some trash surfing those waves, but they’ve finally come up with some pretty great shows too, specifically teen shows like Teen Mom, Made, and If You Really Knew Me. If you write YA (and even if you don’t) watch a couple of these shows. It’s pretty inspiring and gives a good glimpse into the teen world.
Let’s take Teen Mom, for example because I happen to love it. When I first started watching it, my husband kind of teased me and was like, “What are you watching?” Now he’s there right there next to me, pretending not to watch with his laptop in front of him as he “works.” But really, every few minutes he’s saying things like, “Oh, no, what happened between Tyler and Catelynn? Holy crap, Farrah is getting scammed…are they really gonna let her get scammed out of all that money? Are Gary and Amber together or not? Aw, Maci seems like a good mom.”
Yeah, he might kill me for telling you that, but it’s true. And I think it’s because despite it being yet another reality show, this one really is real. I mean really real. As real as a reality show can get. Can I use the word real one more time? Really, this is not a glitzed-up, scripted glam show like The Hills where the cast walks the red carpet and gets into the trendiest of nightclubs. These teen moms are going through some serious life lessons and it’s pretty obvious to the viewer that there is nothing easy or cool or glamorous about being a teen mom. Nothing.
Shows like Teen Mom, Made, and If You Really Knew Me give you an idea of some things teens are dealing with these days. And that’s crucial if you’re writing for a teen audience. For me, anyways, portraying the experiences and struggles of today’s teen and developing characters that they can relate to is what I think about and set out to do every time I’m working on my YA material. I mean, I’m pretty far removed from my teen years and no matter how well I think I remember it, being a teenager today is so different than even ten years ago. And maybe that part of your life is also a little bit like childbirth where you forget what it was really like because it was so painful and traumatic. Just kidding. Well, not really.
So, go ahead, grab some popcorn and tune in—even if your spouse or family makes fun of you for it. And thanks, MTV, for these non-raunchy, very real shows that give us an inside look at the growing pains, heartache, harsh life lessons and hope that is part of the teenage experience.
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