If you want assurance that the teenagers of America are not all mindless zombies walking around with phones in hand, totally oblivious to anything of beauty or substance, look no further than Scholastic’s annual compilation: The Best Teen Writing of 2017. The book’s editors have gathered the best award-winning writing from the most talented among American middle and high schoolers and arranged it into genres (poetry, personal essay, journalism, memoir, short story, novel, etc.). The result is a hodgepodge of hard-hitting pieces that make you feel, in Emily Dickinson’s words, “physically as though the top of my head were taken off.”
The works have so much wisdom that it doesn’t seem like they were written by teenagers at all. The descriptions are evocative, the word choice nearly flawless. Honestly, it’ll make you jealous that you don’t have that kind of talent, even when you’ve been slaving away as a writer for years before these kids were born. Speaking of which, some writers are born, and some are made, and it seemed from reading the pieces, that these young writers were mostly born with this talent, which was honed and cultivated by dutiful parents and teachers.
Of course, you can’t write an (interesting) book review without a couple of complaints, so here are mine. “Diversity” seemed to be a major factor in choosing the pieces, but I would have no way of knowing if the pieces chosen for the compilation were chosen because they were actually the best or because the editors wanted to make sure that all races and ethnicities were represented equally.
Many of the essays and journalism pieces seemed to be biased toward the political left, but I suppose that’s a mark of the newest generation—they are supposedly more liberal than past generations, and they’ve grown up in a world saturated with media that is mostly biased toward the left. You are what you eat, I guess.
Regardless, this compilation is a worthwhile read and provides insight into the thoughts of the best and the brightest, which may not actually be representative of the thoughts of all teenagers in America—just the tiny fraction of those who can express themselves through words.