By Story Star correspondent Elinor Rees
Is it fair that teenagers get such a bad reputation in the media?
Earlier in June, children’s author Patrick Ness won the Carnegie Medal for the second year running with his novel ‘A Monster Calls’. The book is about a thirteen year old who is visited by a monster from his nightmares as his mother suffers from cancer.
Ness not only won the award but he also used his acceptance speech to criticise the government’s views of teenagers, believing that they have a negative attitude towards young people.
Ness said in his speech that “The worst thing our current government and, in fact, we as a culture do about teenagers is that we only seem to discuss them in negative terms. What they can’t do, what they aren’t achieving. Why have we allowed that to happen?”
He then went on to dedicate his award to his readers who go against the negative image that they get portrayed as and want to make a difference in the world.
He also stated that he writes for teenagers who all go through the same things, no matter what generation they are from. He said that “My books for teenagers have all ended up being about being heard. About being taken seriously. About being treated as a complex creation who doesn’t always get things right but – importantly – also doesn’t always get things wrong,” showing that he understands and appreciates the many different aspects that being a teen entails.
It is clear that Ness is very passionate about this important period in a person’s life and the stereotypes that are often thrust upon them. There are many people who will only think of teenagers as lazy, stupid, frustrated and angry individuals who are on a self destruct mission. Those who do choose to take on an active role in their communities or aim to better themselves are more often than not seen as the exception to the rule and never the norm but there are millions of teens who fall in to this category not just a handful as some people would think.
Ness’ passion to restructure how we view teenagers is a valuable asset in for this dilemma as he has a lot of standing in the literature community and so his voice makes people sit up and pay attention. There are plenty of teenagers who understand that hard work and building trusting friendships rather than being the local vandal is how they are going to achieve their goals in their life.
We are obviously going to be biased in this point but reading is also a huge part of this as it opens up new ways of articulating what it is they want to gain and makes the adults respect them as young people and not as children in a grown up’s body.
If we want to inspire young people to do better we must all be on board and not be scared of what harm their volatile hormones could potentially do. There will always be those few that embrace society’s stereotypes but those that don’t deserve our guidance and support so we should listen to Ness and start listening to what it is teenagers think we can do to help them.