Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

Careening with our youth culture: the daring nature of Dare Me (a guest post by Eric Devine and GIVEAWAY)

I spent a lot of time as a teenager risking my life. And not in some symbolic sense. I put myself in harm’s way on so many occasions that when I tell stories of my youth, someone always says, “I cannot believe you’re still alive.”

Neither can I. And I blame the Internet.
Really, the lack of it. When I was a senior in high school (’96) our library got its first computer with Internet. At home, the same happened. But in its infancy, PCs with Internet connection weren’t that alluring, so I had to find entertainment elsewhere.
The problems my friends and I faced were classic: boundless energy, lack of supervision, devil-may-care attitudes and “stupid creativity”. I use that term because had we channeled our energy into anything positive, who knows what we could have achieved? Instead, we were all fortunate to simply maintain our lives, but not without scars and not without stories.
Like the one time we jumped off the ledges at this local abandoned quarry:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nYDhnOnA_s8 (this is not us, but the location).
My friend jumped, but for some reason believed in cartoon physics–that if she just stepped back she’d defy gravity. Instead, she belly flopped from that height, came up, gasped for air, and went right back under.
I was a lifeguard, so I swam under and rescued her, dragging her to the ledge where she vomited a gallon of water.
We kept jumping.

And that is one of the tamest events on my resume.
These times provided me–to a degree–the psychological backdrop for my characters within Dare Me. I was once young and invincible, but I also wanted to push the limit, to eradicate the fear every teenager has. I failed and I succeeded. Fear is intrepid like that.
Today, my students have these same stories, but they also have the Internet. For them the same problems as my friends apply, but now they have guidance on their stupidly creative endeavors. It comes in the form of Jackass (and all the offshoots like it), as well as Tosh.O (and all the impersonators) and viral videos of teenagers doing what we’ve come to accept as “teenage” things.
Except they’re not. I was fueled by death-defying stupidity and a lot of these kids are as well, but in addition is a desire for fame or infamy, whichever brings in the most money. I believe that is a trickle-down effect of youth chasing the goals of adults.
However, if I possessed a smartphone and YouTube then, the chances of you having seen me injured, or worse, are pretty high. Because when money is a real potential, your audience is vast and they chime in looking for more–albeit from the comfort of the keyboard–something in the teen brain screams, “All right, let’s do this!” I would have been no exception.
This is why Dare Me moves away form being solely a story about “teens doing stupid dares, which they post online” to a commentary about how our youth have become pawns in this culture that seeks entertainment at whatever the cost.
When I first envisioned Dare Me, the bulk was about the dares. Which ones should I choose? Would they be intense enough? Would someone copy them?
I then moved into wondering about the implications of such a story. What message was I going to send? Certainly I wasn’t intending to offer a pass for such behavior, but how to express that without preaching, without being a hypocrite? That became the real challenge.
It’s one I believe I have executed. As a reader wrote to me, “This story is analogous to a fireworks display that builds to a grand finale, but leaves you in suspense as to the aftermath.” It is in that aftermath, as is so often the case when dares go wrong, that the lesson is learned. No one needs to come onstage and say anything, the consequences are so evident.
That is the purpose of Dare Me, to provide a safe, voyeuristic look into the lives of teens who are willing to risk it all, not only to watch them do so, but to examine why, and at what cost. Because there is always a cost, and often it far outweighs the sought after gain. Which is why the dedication for my novel is as follows:
For those with the will to dare and the courage to accept the consequences
I’ve accepted what I have done and respect whatever force has kept me here, if only so I can continue to exist with the frame of mind: that could be me, and to then tell the story, so the brutality of firsthand knowledge isn’t a requirement of learning.
P.S. This is the bridge high above the waters within the quarry. A glance at my cover should be enough to connect the dots, but reading the second dare within Dare Me will solidify it.
Eric Devine is a teacher and author of the new young adult novel Tap Out, published by Running Press Kids.  You can read more about it at his webpage or at Goodreads. Tap Out by Eric Devine is in stores now.  Dare Me will be released in October of 2013, also by Running Press Teens.  Eric Devine is also the author of one of my favorite guest posts where he discusses boys and reading
Dare Me on Goodreads: “When Ben Candido and his friends, Ricky and John, decide to post a YouTube video of themselves surfing on top of a car, they finally feel like the somebodies they are meant to be instead of the social nobodies that they are. Overnight, the video becomes the talk of the school, and the boys are sure that their self-appointed senior year of dares will live in infamy. Every dare brings an increased risk of bodily harm, but Ben cannot deny the thrill and sense of swagger that come with it. The stakes become even more complex when a mysterious donor bankrolls their dares in exchange for a cut in the online revenue the videos generate. But at what point do the risk and the reward come at too high of a price? What does it take to stay true to one’s self in the face of relentless pressure.”

Comments

  1. This DEFINITELY sounds like a book my teen son would read!

  2. This bit: “…a commentary about how our youth have become pawns in this culture that seeks entertainment at whatever the cost,” Is probably the most accurate definition of what's wrong with society today. When is enough enough?!

    For the record, I am grateful you not only came out of your teens alive (Woot!) but that you're willing to share your experiences.

  3. Thanks, Veronica. I hope he does.

  4. My survival was touch and go, but at least I'm putting those lessons to good use. My mom's proud… now.

  5. I'm scared of heights, and so this cover gave me the willies. Yikes! My buddies and I did some risky stuff, but left the heights out of it…so, I'm looking forward to living vicariously through your exploits 🙂

  6. Thanks, Justin, and my apologies for the cover. Wait until you read the exploits you're in for. I'd have your insurance card on hand 🙂

  7. Oh, this brings me back to the real stupid stuff I did as a teen. I agree, nothing good ever happens once you combine money with a teenagers sense of infallibility.

  8. This sounds like the definition of my older brother in his youth.

  9. Great piece

  10. DARE ME sounds fantastic! It's amazing how invincible we feel as kids… I'm glad you survived your wild days and are here to share your fabulous story with us. Will definitely check this one out!

  11. Darke, glad to have a conspirator in this teenage cult of insanity.

  12. That's a good thing, right, Tammy?

  13. Thanks!

  14. Appreciate that, Lisa Ann. I hope the trailer captures the essence of the story.

  15. Ever started telling your kid a story about your past, then realizing it's something you'd rather them NOT know about? 😀

  16. Eric, can you please slow down with the novel writing? I haven't even managed to read your first one yet. But this one… this may jump to the front of the list. It sounds fantastic. I'm so glad you came through your risk-taking teen years to write these books!

  17. Every day. Well, close to it. As a high school teacher, there's always that moment when I wonder about my story that begins, “One time…”

  18. J, I'm sorry, I just can't 🙂 But feel free to shuffle the books in line. I don't think they'll be offended. Enjoy DARE ME and then TAP OUT, or possibly what I next up my sleeve.

  19. Linda (LOC) says:

    It seems more difficult to find good books to entice male teens to read. This looks like a winner for both males and females!

  20. Linda,
    I pride myself on writing stories that entice teen male readers, but DARE ME is certainly intended for both genders. If you need any assistance with enticement, use my trailer for the novel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n0P8KyCszms

    Thanks.

Speak Your Mind

*