Middle School (Is a Battlefield) Monday: Guest post by Anna Staniszewski
Middle School is a Battlefield by Anna Staniszewski
People often ask me why I write about middle school, and it’s actually fairly simple. For me, middle school was like a battlefield. Every day I had to maneuver around the landmines of saying the wrong thing, doing the wrong thing, and even eating the wrong thing. One little misstep—“Ew, is that a cheese and pickle sandwich?”—could blow up in my face.
Sometimes when I tell my husband war stories about my middle school years, about my classmates making remarks about my “flat face” or my “hippie hair” or my “cat breath,” his mouth will sag open. “Wait, these people were supposed to be your friends?” he’ll ask. Yes, they were my friends. But they were also clawing through the trenches, trying to survive.
While those years weren’t necessarily fun to live through, they’ve been great fodder for my books. When you’re a painfully shy, oddly dressed, naturally clumsy kid, as I was, embarrassment is always around the corner. As it turns out, embarrassment is a useful storytelling tool. It motivates characters to act in over-the-top ways and creates humor (at least for readers) when characters find themselves in mortifying situations.
But wait. Aren’t I pushing my characters toward the very landmines I tried to avoid? Isn’t that a little cruel? Perhaps. But it’s also what feels the most truthful. Fiction is “real life dramatized,” so it makes sense that I would take the types of obstacles I struggled with and crank them up a few notches for my characters. I have never been a tween Grim Reaper or Cupid (at least not that I can admit), but I know what it feels like to have a hopeless crush or to desperately want to be noticed. That’s why I think adding a little bit of magic into normal middle school life feels pretty natural. It’s yet another landmine that characters have to maneuver around. Plus it’s fun to imagine what middle school might be like if magic was part of the equation.
Ultimately, I think what appeals to me most about writing stories set in middle school is that I can give my characters a sense of power that I didn’t have. I was never really able to speak up for myself. If someone laughed at my cheese and pickle sandwich, I didn’t proudly parade it around the cafeteria. I quietly switched to PB&J instead. But once my characters detonate all the landmines I’ve set out for them and emerge from the rubble of magical mayhem, they’re stronger and smarter and happier. They no longer have to apologize for who they are because they’ve won the war. At least until they reach high school.
About the Book
Marcus is a Cupid. Lena is a Reaper. Opposites attract in book 2 of the adorkable Switched At First Kiss series by the acclaimed author of The Dirt Diary.
Lena’s not ready for any more supernatural surprises. Her new boyfriend, Marcus, is a cupid. She’s a soul collector (“reaper” just sound so harsh). And they just got their powers un-swapped. But things aren’t as back to “normal” as they seem…
On his next assignment, Marcus’s “love boost” is a little too powerful. (Baby talk is so annoying.) And Lena’s soul sort of…escapes. The cause? Lena and Marcus’s powers are still intertwined! Their emotions are affecting each other’s power. So, basically the fate of the world depends on them getting along in their brand new romance. (Okay, just love and death, but still.)
No pressure, right?
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About Robin Willis
After working in middle school libraries for over 20 years, Robin Willis now works in a public library system in Maryland.
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