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Why I Write for Teens: a guest post by Rachel Harris

People say high school is the best time of your life. Those same people say the exact same thing when you leave for college. In some ways, I disagree with that generalization. While I met my husband in college, it wasn’t until my mid-twenties that I got married and then had my babies. In my early thirties, I became a published author. And I’ve met so many of my literary heroes since then. Those events shaped the woman I am today and are hands down the best moments in my life. 
But in so many other ways, the many small ways that add up to be so important, I totally get what “they” mean.

The high school years are all about firsts. First love, first heartbreak, first taste of freedom. You push the boundaries of your relationships, both with your family and with your friends, and you explore. You make a bazillion mistakes, but while they totally seem monumental at the time, very few of them have permanent consequences. As for college, that’s all about discovery. You build upon what you began in high school, you narrow down your likes and interests, you experiment, and you find out who you truly are. 
For me, high school gave me a safe environment to test the waters, to step outside my box and see what would happen. I had my first real boyfriend and many others to follow. I went to countless school dances, some with boys, some with friends, some that ended well, and one that ended horribly bad. I went to class and even skipped once to go to an Alanis Morissette concert—though I had parental permission, which severely detracts from the cool factor. I had good friendships…and some not so good ones. I learned from it all. 
College was where I finally admitted what I wanted to do with my life, and I shed my shy exterior to join student media. I found myself there, hanging out in the buildings late at night, going over footage for the television shows I hosted and produced, and chatting with the radio DJs on air because it was all one big party. I went to class, narrowed things down, realized what true friendship looked like, and fell in love. 

All of those experiences are still with me today. A decade later, I can close my eyes and remember every detail of my first real heartbreak. The first person my age who had their life taken way too young. Every song that came on the radio, and how I felt when I first heard it. The songs are different today—unless you listen to the oldies channels, which, by the way, when did I get so old that my music was oldies??—but the heart of the lyrics, the experiences they speak to, are the same.

Perhaps the better question would be: Why not write about this time? 

The young adult market is flooded with amazing, talented authors. Readers are enthusiastic and plugged into social media so they can let you know how much they loved—or perhaps hated—your book. They interact with their favorite authors on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, and Goodreads, and that enthusiasm is crazy contagious. It wraps me up and makes me feel young again, too. School visits are a blast (although it still freaks me out being allowed in teacher only areas *grin*), and conferences take on a new energy. 

Even though so much has changed since I was a teenager (technology anyone?), when I go to events and when I speak with readers, I realize it really hasn’t. The feelings remain the same. The questioning, the newness, the devastation…it’s an emotional roller coaster, but one that you spend your adult years reliving over and over again. The joy and the misery. I get to re-read my diary, pull out my memories, and rehash them all, and I get to call it research 😉 

You can meet Rachel Harris Sunday, November 17th at 3:30 PM at the Betty Warmack Branch Library in Grand Prairie, Texas.

About Rachel Harris
Rachel Harris grew up in New Orleans, watching soap operas with her grandmother, and staying up  late sneak-reading her mama’s romance novels. Today, she still stays up late reading romances, only now she does so openly. Rachel is the author of two novels for Young Adults from Entangled Publishing, My Super Sweet Sixteen and A Tale of Two Centuries.
Rachel online and on Twitter

Book Review: My Super Sweet Sixteenth Century by Rachel Harris

On the precipice of her sixteenth birthday, the last thing lone wolf Cat Crawford wants is an extravagant gala thrown by her bubbly stepmother and well-meaning father. So even though Cat knows the family’s trip to Florence, Italy is a peace offering, she embraces the magical city and all it offers. But when her curiosity leads her to an unusual gypsy tent, she exits . . . right into Renaissance Firenze. 

Thrust into the sixteenth century armed with only a backpack full of contraband future items, Cat joins up with her ancestors, the sweet Alessandra and protective Cipriano, and soon falls for the gorgeous aspiring artist Lorenzo. But when the much-older Niccolo starts sniffing around, Cat realizes that an unwanted birthday party is nothing compared to an unwanted suitor full of creeptastic amore. 

Can she find her way back to modern times before her Italian adventure turns into an Italian forever?

My Super Sweet Sixteenth Century is a very light, romantic read for those who want to dip their toes into historical fiction.  Cat gets transported back by a Gypsy into the body of her ancestor, and has to figure out what lessons she needs to learn in order to get back to her rightful place in time.  She’s put up huge walls around her heart due to her parents’ divorce, her father’s impending re-marriage and her social status, and must to learn to deal with a whole new set of rules and surroundings on the fly.  Cat never loses the 21th century feel to her vocabulary or mannerisms (which is explained away on the fact that her ancestor has come from London), and that seems to be a large part of her attraction throughout the book.  I could definitely see readers who like romance and light reads tearing through this book.
I, personally, like my books with a little more substance.  In fact, one of my favorite YA authors is Ellen Hopkins so keep that in mind as you read this next part.  Honestly, I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop.  There are *NO* repercussions for anything that Cat does.  Cat keeps dropping 21st century phrases into conversation, and is never called on it.  She keeps her modern independence and freedom throughout not only the household but of the city, which is unrealistic of 16th century Italy.  The “mean girl” throughout the book doesn’t turn out to be much of a foil, instead giving rather expert advice for the time period.  Cat has her iPod and other things in her backpack and they’re never discovered (and everything electrical never loses its charge, so I want that magic, thank you very much).  And, while I don’t want to spoil the climax, if the author was going for realism there would be serious repercussions for her actions with the suitor, not only for her but her family as well, socially, politically and financially.

As romance and escapism My Sweet Sixteenth Century delights (4 out of 5 stars), as historical fiction there are flaws (3 out of 5).  This will, however, be a popular read and you won’t have to worry about it sitting on your shelves.  3.5 out of 5 stars total and recommended for romance readers.  My Super Sweet Sixteenth Century by Rachel Harris is published by Entangled Publishing in 2012 (ISBN: 978-1-62061-135-7)

Check out more about upcoming historical fiction from guest blogger Jennifer McGowan here.