Saturday, October 23, 2021

‘Dear Teen Me’




“He knows you love him, but he’s just not into you like that.”

This book slayed me! I mean…wow! On a scale of stars, with five being the best rating, I would trade a bottle of my favorite champagne for five more stars just to give this book two five star reviews!

This book is a collection of letters from adults to their teenage selves, and even though the adults all live separate lives, they all went through similar issues as teens. The time I spent reading these letters showed me that everything I went through wasn’t a unique challenge, but it was unique to me and how I reacted to it. This book made me laugh and made me cry. Most notably, the bunch of words written on a piece of paper made me feel. That is why I love to read.

The authors in “Dear Teen Me” tackle tough topics and heartwarming sentiments: abuse, academic pressure, anxiety, bullies, first crushes, first kisses, first loves, friendships, mental disorders, rape, self-esteem issues, suicide…it’s all there, all ending with the author surviving, learning, and moving forward in life. I really admire the way the authors opened up about their adolescent years, and it was quite emotional and inspiring to read about their issues.

I think what makes this book so much more intense than other books dealing with the same issues is that this one is nonfiction and hits all the troubles – minor and major – a teen can face in such a short amount of years. The topics are professionally addressed and filled with advice and answers. The anecdotes are not left unsolved.

Of course, the advice given to their teen selves might not work for everyone, but the lessons learned in the letters show that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, that we can face heartbreaking, horrible, humiliating circumstances and walk out a better person for surviving.

Life-altering situations happen at every stage in life, but these letters are proof that a person can go through something traumatizing as a teen and still turn out fabulous.

My favorite “Dear Teen Me” letter is titled, “Regarding Your Commendable Decision to Live” by Mike Jung. It’s snarky, or maybe that’s just how I read it



— and I quote, “ — your suspicion that your parents were wrong about moving you up a grade is 192 percent confirmed.” He quantifies the days of bullying and admits to despising himself. It’s heartbreaking even as I shake my head and laugh at his sarcastic, “Yep, good times.” It’s raw and edgy and feels real — maybe too real. But the truth is, in the end, the author had to find value in himself, and that’s what makes his choice to live remarkable. He cites the different ways he submerges himself in different pursuits all leading to the point where he can write that he “kinda sorta” likes who he is. Against the snide comments from almost everyone in his life, he realizes that he’s not “the waste of space so many people have said” he was. There’s even humor in the short biography at the end of his letter.

But that’s just one example of why I think this collection of letters is fabulous. This book offers the perfect blend of advice for teens facing similar challenges, and even though there are tons of fabulous novels out there for teens to read and identify with, this one is definitely at the top of my list for recommendations.

I’d love to hear from you! What advice would you give your teen self? Would it be related to dating, studying, money, or ethics? Mine would be financial: to keep that one stock I sold…

As always, thanks for your time!

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Marisa Cleveland loves to laugh, hates to cry, and does both often. She has a master’s degree from George Mason University and joined The Seymour Agency after she ended an eight-year career teaching students language arts, grades 6-12. Previous to teaching, she worked as an assistant director for a graduate school in Washington, D.C., before settling in Southwest Florida over a decade ago. As a former gymnast, cheerleader, and dancer, she understands the importance of balance, and she encourages everyone to stay flexible. Cleveland is a Leadership Marco 2015 alum, and she loves connecting with other readers through social media. Though she’s a painfully private introvert, she can be reached through her website: or follow her journey on Twitter: @marisacleveland.

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