I think it's to belong. Not necessarily to be in the cool clique or popular, but to have people that love you, esp. friends. Adolescence is psychologically a time to try on all different roles and identities, without core support somewhere, you feel like you're floundering.
I agree with Jennifer. Being stuck or pulled in two, or three, or X number of places is, I think, something teens can relate to. They just want to know which "place" is right. Identity also ties in with that. Teens want to know who they are.
(P.S. I really like Jennifer's word choice: "floundering." That's a great way to put it.)
Teens just want to live life to the fullest, and explore the world. They want to find out who they really are, while discovering their full potential. They want to be admired, and admire others. And overall, teens just want to be teens.
I've been thinking about this and from an authorial perspective how do we give teens what they want? Do we give them searching characters they can identify with or strong individuals they can admire and thereby provide wish fulfillment?
You're right, how do we give them what the want. Initially when I started writing this wip that's what I wanted to do. Now, it's more about what things make them happy and what scares them. The answers I found in my research gave me more than I expected. It is more about how they feel and that they are included and not alone rather than something tangible.
I think this would vary on the teenager. There is a universal need for self discovery and belonging, though. I'd recommend talking to some of the teens residing on this site and letting us know what your story is like. If you want to ask me any questions, feel free to private message me!
Thanks for your response! I agree it does vary. My ms has changed completely since I posted this question. Originally I was going to have them searching for something...the idea being they would find it in the end. It's since changed to learning more about their friends and themselves. More of a focused self discovery type plot. I've left the discussion up because the thoughts and comments still offer insight to teens and continue to help me progress through the ms.
*Disclaimer: this is a HIGHLY GENERALIZED answer. Each kid is different, obviously, and each situation is unique
I've been teaching high school for 8 years now, and I think the biggest thing I see, is that teens want a cheerleader. They want someone in their corner to tell them that they are going to turn out fine. Yes, their life may be crappy, and it scares them to death to think that they might turn out like their parents (yeesh!), but deep down, they just want to know that it's going to be okay. Because in many cases they are dealing with VERY adult situations, things that I never had to deal with at that age: pregnancy, drugs, abandonment, abuse, peer pressure; and yet because they are still by definition not adults, they have difficulty processing these "huge" issues. That's where the whole angsty-ness comes in. Plus, psychologically speaking, teens are still focused on themselves and their immediate needs and surroundings. Everything is "sure, there is a disaster in the gulf, but I JUST GOT DUMPED! AND I have a term paper due! AND I'm pretty sure my mom is cheating on my dad. ARGH!" (but, aren't we really all like that a bit? I know I am more self centered than I should be).
So, that is my teaching philosophy. For me, the actual curriculum is a close second. The real reason I'm there is just to be a person these kids can come to- someone they know is going to tell them, "I believe in you. You can do it. Don't give up. Keep working hard. You will get through this, and you will turn out fine." Because for some of them, it's the only time they ever get to hear it.
I also agree with the self discovery aspect. ALL of them are trying to figure out WHO THE HECK THEY ARE?!? This is the time (also a scary part) where they realize they can break away from the parental mold they have been stuck in. They will be leaving soon, and so they have to make a choice: Are they going to keep on being the person they were raised to be, or are they going to be someone different? Maybe they don't agree with how they were raised. Maybe they want to find something else to stand for. Maybe they have no idea how to be something that is just themselves and not a mixture of mom and dad and family. Maybe they want to be the mixture, and find that in the end, they are proud of that mix, that heritage. Maybe they have always had a controlling family, and now the promise of a future without that is exciting and scary: a bird set free- but where to fly first?
And so, it brings me back to my cheerleader role. I just stand by and let them wander, let them flounder a bit. Occasionally I will nudge them, and I just keep saying YOU CAN DO IT! TRUST YOURSELF!
I think a great way to figure out what teens want today is to talk to them. Observe them. Read teen centered magazines, watch shows for teenagers. MTV is a great resource. I personally love this show called "My Life As Liz".
I'm also presently reading a book called Writing & Selling the YA Novel by K.L. Going. In it getting in touch with just this topic is a focus.
I think it's about trying to get thorugh highschool alive. For me being a teenager was really tough. I had a lot of bullies and was never the popular girl. When I think of trying to write stuff teens would relate to I think about the things I struggled with when I was a teen. Getting through highschool was so hard. Now today school is even harder for kids than it was for me. I hated every day I had to walk down the school hallway as the popular click would give me a glare of pure hate. You had to be in a clique to be accepted at my school and I wasn't in one so I was never really excepted. I lucked out though I got in a very special program that helped me graduate where I actually made friends. When your a teen your dealing with your moods being up and down caused by of body changes,bullies, image,popularity, and just being accepted. On a good day I felt invisable, when noone would say or do anything to bother me. I liked feeling invisable. I have so many friends now and all this stuff that I've experienced has helped me be able to relate to teens. I know what it feels like to struggle to graduate with bad grades and to want to be accepted among everyone else as well, so yeah I think teens just want to get through highschool and be accepted for who they are.They want to feel like they're someone and somebody.I think mostly they just want to feel like they fit in with everyone else and are accepted among everyone else. That's my answer sorry I spilled so much but I remember my teen days like they were yesterday. I've become who I am now because of them strong and independt.