I feel some kind of intrigue and fascination for the USA’s contradictions. Freedom and independence are the most valuable of things. At 16 you can drive a car and you can find a job. At 18 you can get married and you can go to the army. But you cannot drink alcohol till 21. Cussing is something awful and your parents shout your whole name when they are angry (this part I laugh a lot about, where I live we cuss and it’s nothing that big, and they never called my whole name in a row). Your father can teach you how to fire a gun but you are not allowed to watch films that are not suitable for all audiences.
But apart from the law, I find more fascination in people, and high school is one of those reasons. You have 4 years there and those can be the best years of your life or the worst ones.
And I can’t imagine how someone can accept and fuel that reality.
I mean, on the one hand, there are the jocks and the cheerleaders, on the other hand, there are the nerds and the misfits, and that’s it. It’s like there is a social class in which you have to fit right after you arrive at 14. You are branded the first day and you live with that brand till the day you leave. I find it claustrophobic and medieval, contrasting with the American way of thinking that they value freedom above all things. Also, it’s very sexist. I’ve never heard of a cheerleader boy or a football girl.
What freedom is in putting you in a place and not managing to move from there? What freedom is in living trying to measure up to that expectations people have on you? What freedom is in imitating role-plays: successful guys are jocks and successful girls are cheerleaders and the rest of them does not exist?
It’s not a wonder they want to flee to university when they finish. How can teenagers be themselves in such an environment?
If you don’t go to university, you are a loser. Studying is not the thing, it’s the “experience” of being on your own for 4 years. They let you make your own decisions very early but it’s considered that at 18 your are not enough mature to know what you want to be when you are older, so you just go and choose random subjects in a chance to “find yourself”. It’s more a pilgrimage than a phase of your life to get the job you dream about.
I’m saying all of this from the eyes of an outsider, so I admit there is some margin of error in my thoughts. I haven’t lived this because where I live things are different. We don’t have the dance in the gym and we don’t dissect a frog. We don’t make a fuss about sports and we don’t show off our cars because we can’t drive one yet. There is more homogeneity and less segregation. It’s far from perfect, though.
Of course, there are always the popular people and the outcasts. There is bullying. They are also the best or the worst years in your life. But there is not that “need” of going to the university, because here it’s not a fulfilling experience you cannot live without, but more like a means to achieve certain ends: being a lawyer, being a doctor, being an engineer…
I wonder if all that happens in high school movies is true or if teenagers just throw logs onto the fire and play the farce voluntarily. It’s hard to fight against the flow. When we are young we want to be like everybody else, but then we want to be different from everybody else. Still, they follow the unwritten rules and resign themselves with their fate.
I had very hard years at school. I think everybody can say the same. There is a limbo period in which friends from boyhood are changed by friends from adolescence. In that period I had no friends and I suffered some kind of cold-shoulder. I remember my desperation of wanting to be part of something, of being normal, of not standing out. Some girls used to play a joke on me, just because they wanted to have fun and I was available. It was not bullying in the strict sense of the word but it hurt nonetheless. But something happened and I became part of said group, because their focus shifted from me and they played a joke on another girl.
I felt sick.
After that episode I never came back to them again. I had new friends in a short while. But I always will remember it. Kids are cruel and in that period of life we believe being cruel is synonymous of being cool.
I learnt girls are bitches. Boys punch and kick and fight, but they are not that twisted. Girls play ambiguity in a way that can excuse themselves afterwards saying that there was some kind of misinterpretation. It’s a survival skill and it’s disgusting.
I love this book because it’s honest and straightforward. The writing is superb, even I can get it. There was no abruptness in any moment, every sentence is fluid and suitable, and it’s easy to be carried along with the words.
There is also some hypnotic effect in the whole story happening in that a short while and in a very specific scene. It’s like everything in that little place and time is amplified by magnifying glasses and I find that a wise choice.
It shows that living in an asshole sucks.
People are so depraved not even adults seem to remember what being a teenager is. From their advantage position you would say they know every evil that occurs in a high school, but if they do, they don’t care about it. Adults are not setting an example and saying “No” is not accepted.
The vicious circle never ends.
Someone who told me that you have to treat people fairly and equally, that you have to help people if they go wrong. Because if you don’t you create haters and you can’t build a healthy society. The outcasts are rejected and in the end those misfits are going to hurt you, and their children are going to grow up with them and hate you, too. Every twisted person is going to pass on the “disease” and everything will continue to be fucked up. That includes drug addicts, alcoholics, violent people, marginal races and a never-ending list of people who are not accepted socially.
The vicious circle never ends.
And that means people are not happy. Not really. Who doesn’t want to be happy?
I believe this book portrays a reality nobody wants to face, but it’s there. There is a love story to sweeten the thing a bit, but still, everything else is strong and threatens to destroy the little beauty someone can find in this complicated world.
The only weakness I can point to are the parents. They are assholes who abuse/ignore their children and some pages later they are supporters. I don’t buy it. But apart from that, there is no complaint I can think about.