Teenage Authors

They say everyone has a novel in them somewhere. Some people never bother to write it down. Others wait until they’re grey and retired before even trying. Others have a go as soon as they can hold a pencil.

These books were written when the authors were teenagers, just like students at St Laurence School – and managed to score a publishing deal, whether by design or accident. Some we hold in the ILC, others you might need to look further afield for.

The Kissing Booth – Beth Reekles

It’s been all over Netflix, but The Kissing Booth was originally a book – first published on sharing site Wattpad when Reekles was 15, where it gained nineteen million reads, then a three-book publishing deal. The story of American high-schooler, Elle, her best friend, Lee, and his hot, rough-round-the-edges brother, Noah has been an instant hit on screen and on the page, and so finely written you’d never realise that Reekles actually comes from South Wales not Los Angeles.

Colin’s Fantastic Video Adventure – Kenneth Oppel

Oppel was 15 when he wrote his first book. He showed his manuscript to a family friend who just so happened to know Roald Dahl. Dahl sent it to his publisher, and the rest, as they say, is history. Oppel went on to write many other books, as well as editing children’s books and completing degrees in Cinema and English before deciding to write full time. You can find his books Half Brother, The Nest and This Dark Endeavour in the ILC.

I Am Malala – Malala Yousafzai

At the age of 11-12 Malala wrote a blog under a false name for the local BBC. It detailed what life was like under the occupation of the Swat region of Pakistan by the Taliban. The next summer, a New York Times documentary about her life was released and she rose to prominence. This led to an assassination attempt, in which Malala was shot in the head. Following her recovery, and still only 16, she co-authored I Am Malala, her biography. She now fights for girl’s education through the Malala Fund.

Bonjour Tristesse – Françoise Sagan

Bonjour Tristesse means “Hello Sadness” in French. This novel was such a hit in the 1950s that it was translated into various other languages, including English. Published when Sagan was 18, the short but punchy book focuses on the life of the pleasure-driven 17 year old, Cécile, while on holiday in the French Riviera, and her relationship with her boyfriend and her adulterous, playboy father.

Trouble All the Way – Sonya Harnett

Harnett, from Australia, wrote her first book when she was 13, and it was published in 1984 when she was 15. Set in Melbourne, the main character, Tim Kimpson, is bored with life, and ends up being led into trouble by his friend Max. It’s hard to find a copy of this one now, but Sonya has had a long writing career since, and is best known in the UK for Children Of The King and The Midnight Zoo – both of which we have in the ILC. Her writing career has been interesting to say the least, winning prizes and generating discussion internationally for some of the themes of her books.

Frankenstein – Mary Shelley

Mary Shelley’s life was one of drama and surprises. She wrote Frankenstein – a classic that has spawned huge numbers of adaptations as well as being a stalwart of school and university book lists – at 18. By this time she was already married to Percy Bysshe Shelley, having eloped, taking one of her step-sisters on the trip with her. Her young life was challenging, losing her mother and gaining a step-mother, and with a half sister and two step siblings. Her house was frequented by some notable visitors, such as Samuel Taylor Coleridge and William Wordsworth, and she was home educated from the family’s extensive library. The rest of her life was equally interesting, full of travel and intrigue, and well worth reading into further.

Eragon – Christopher Paolini

Practically a grandfather compared to the others on this list, Eragon was published when Paolini was 19. It’s the first in his Inheritance Cycle of books, about dragons, and was later made into a film. Paolini, an American, was homeschooled, and graduated highschool three years early, through correspondence courses. He publicised his series of books by visiting schools and libraries dressed in full medieval gear, and he also illustrated the first editions front cover!

The Diary of Anne Frank – Anne Frank

When she started writing, at the age of 13, Frank never intended her diary for publication. Then the situation in Holland in 1942 took over, and she and her Jewish family went into hiding from the Nazis. Frank continued to document her life and emotions in hiding for more than two years, until the family’s betrayal and capture. Her father published her diary after the Second World War as part-memorial and part-commentary on Jewish life under the Nazi regime.

The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood

Review by Miss Cooter

I had always looked at the Handmaid’s tale as a book you read in school – Boring, “grown up”, irrelevant.

I’d never even considered what the book was about.

Even with the release of the series on TV, I hadn’t actually thought about reading the book. I was putting off the telly series until I was in the right mood.

But, having read all the other books on my “to read” list, I searched the ILC’s database for Dystopian Novels, something I was in the mood for.

The Handmaid’s Tale popped up, and for the first time I read the blurb on the back of the book.

What a fascinating concept.

I read the first page.

I couldn’t put it down.

This book is the story of a woman whose entire world has been turned upside down. All of her freedoms have been removed. She has lived through a series of events that are not far removed from what the Jews must have felt on being forced into concentration camps.

She is confined, redefined; her role as a woman, how she sees herself, has been fundamentally changed by the ruling government. She is no longer allowed to even read text. Woman are seen as subservient, but also dangerous. The men in charge are well aware of how precarious the balance of their power is, and how these women could tip things in their favour. If only they were able.

The women are so controlled by law and force, even by other women at times, that they cannot rebel. They cannot see a real way out. The only way these woman can assert themselves is though snatched moments of conversation, and hurried whispers under the noses of their masters. Brief moments of shared knowledge.

Even then, the role given to these women still controls their life. They are ruled by it: the need to conceive a child.

In a world of falling birth rates, this is now their purpose.

Their only purpose.

This story, told with beautiful, near-poetic prose, tells the tale of one woman’s existence in this world.

She both longs for and loathes the idea of falling pregnant. She hates the world that makes her this way, and she knows she has been indoctrinated, and yet, even with that knowledge, she doesn’t entirely want to escape it. To fall pregnant would mean safety. It would prove her worth.

Along the way, we also see glimpses of the world “before”. It’s the world we know; freedom, women’s choice, sexual decisions, abortions, divorce, laughter. Conversation.

There are many messages that could be taken from this story. One is that a woman’s power is always limited in the view of men by her ability create life, to give birth – that this makes her weak. Another is that environmental changes could to lead to far reaching social changes we may never be able to foresee. Another message is that power is always corrupt, and taking this further, that corruption always leads to downfall.

However, the message I believe I took from this story is one of strength. Strength of will to continue, to hold out against the next challenge that must be overcome, to maintain – This is the most powerful message. No matter how bad, no matter how awful the world is, there are always moments of joy. There is always a future. Uncertainty can be hope. Not all people are bad. Friendships can mean more than life and death. To know all of this is strength. And, that is what this tale tells us. Strength is hope and hope is strength, and this will carry you through the dark times.

Mental Health Resources in the ILC

Looking after yourself can sometimes seen pretty daunting. Here in the ILC, we are able to help you to help yourself by pointing you to books and other resources.

We have a section on the shelves (currently sitting above the DVD collection in Area A,) called Shelf Help. Here you’ll find a small selection of books on a variety of topics including grief, sexuality, gender, bullying, and learning difficulties.

We also have a number of other books on a variety of topics in amongst our regular shelves including drug use, or sexual health.

Further to this, in our fiction shelves, we have books with a wide variety of topics including those listed above.

All you need to do to find any of these books is to do a search using the “library Search” shortcut you’ll find on the desktop of any school computer. You are also more than welcome to ask any of the school’s librarians if you’re unsure of where to find things. You could search for something like “cancer” and find a variety of books that might help you to deal with whatever you may be going through.

Other help around the school

You should be able to talk to any teacher on site, but especially your tutor, Assistant Head of House, or Head of House. Ms Lilley at student reception usually has an ear spare to listen and signpost you in the right direction too. Other that that, though, the school nurse comes in every Tuesday lunchtime for a drop in session, and there is a counselling service you can request through HOH.

Help online

The websites listed below are designed to help with mental health, or to provide information about a number of different topics.

Live Life To The Full – Stress, Anxiety and Depression

Mood GymCBT for anxiety and Depression

Kooth – Connect to a real counsellor online

Brook – Sex, Sexual health and Gender

YoungMinds – Information and support for mental health

Childline – Information and advice