Everyone’s Worst is Their Worst: A guest post by S.A. Bodeen
A close friend of mine grew up under deplorable conditions for modern times: no running water, intermittent electricity, less than plentiful food. I once asked her how she reacts when her children—who have seemingly everything compared to her at their age— complain about something. She smiled and told me, “Everyone’s worst is their worst.”
Growing up in a small town, from second through sixth grade, I was with the same twenty-five kids. I was an introvert with a speech impediment, which made me the perfect target. I once saw a quote “We read to know we are not alone.” Books saved me. Let me say that again: books saved me. For all those years that I never had a friend, I always had a book.
Bullying is all over the web now, and because of my experiences, I have to restrain myself from judging when parents are horrified that their child was left out of a birthday party or something similar. They seem like such minor travesties compared to the things I went through. But everyone’s worst is their worst.
In YA novels, some main characters endure tragic situations, and other characters seem to not have to deal with much at all. But everyone’s worst is their worst.
I’ve read reviews that bash a character for being whiney as they have to deal with their problems, some of which come across as meager compared to what other characters have encountered. And I find myself perplexed at the judgement. Characters—and humans in general— rarely react the same way to a difficult situation. And no two difficult situations are the same. Because everyone’s worst is their worst.
Readers of YA reflect this. All of their worsts are completely different. But they may need to read to know they are not alone. And while one reader may need to see a character survive worse things than they did, perhaps to commiserate or feel lucky they didn’t have it quite that bad, another reader may not. That reader may need to see someone who did have it easier than they did. Maybe so that they can stand tall and roll their eyes at the ease in which that character goes through life. Maybe to wipe their tears as they wish their road had been that simple. But perhaps, also, to discover and potentially embrace the concept that everyone’s worst is their worst. And the recognition of that goes beyond the page, because it applies to life. Everyone’s worst is their worst. No judgement needed.
S.A. Bodeen is the author of the YA novels The Compound, The Gardener, The Raft, and The Fallout, a Fierce Reads title. She is also the author of the Shipwreck Island series for middle-grade readers. She travels the country making school visits, and lives with her husband outside of Minneapolis. Visit her online at writersabodeen.com or on Twitter at @sabodeen.
About Amanda MacGregor
Amanda MacGregor works in an elementary library, loves dogs, and can be found on Twitter @CiteSomething.
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