Being open in coming-of-age stories
Er… no! Of course, it wasn’t like that. Fancying that person was the start of an emotionally turbulent nightmare, the summer wasn’t endless it was packed with revision and stressful exams and that kiss was a stupid drunken one and you’d actually just been sick, and you totally regret it.
Those years – they’re actually quite difficult. And they’re packed with confusion, misinformation, and, a lot of the time, you can feel quite scared. These feelings, the stuff you’re going through, it’s all brand new. You’ve no reference point based on previous experience, so you don’t know if it’ll all work out OK. Whether you’ll get through it. You can feel like you’re lost in the woods: the torch has died, there’s no 4G so Google Maps won’t work and what use is a compass if you don’t know whether you should head North or South anyway?
I think this is why it’s so important to be open and honest in coming-of-age stories: you can feel like you are the only one going through this stuff… and you’re not. It might not make it any easier, but knowing you’re not alone, hell, knowing that just one other person feels like you do, maybe that’s a small crumb of comfort.
I’m pretty sure the internet has made it harder. Sure, you can find like-minded people and support websites to help you with whatever you’re going through. But you can also find a whole lot of utter tripe, written by people pushing their own hateful agendas. You only have to look at some of the vile comments written below videos that LGBTQ+ teens have made on YouTube – you’re exposed to hate these days like never before, and that’s not what anyone needs, especially when you’re making your first tentative steps to working out who you are. And sometimes our educational establishments don’t help. There are many good schools out there doing great work, but some schools don’t. Some schools won’t discuss LGBTQ+ issues in PSHE lessons, or tackle homophobic bullying in any sort of meaningful way. Take a look at the Stonewall report on homophobic bullying in Secondary schools – it’s depressing reading.
But we have a chance to address this in coming-of-age stories. Here we can tell it like it is, explore those feelings, and tell those stories. In the world of YA fiction, those gay kids who feel like they might as well not exist as far as their school experience goes, can read about characters going through the same things they are going through. They can join them as they fall in love, kiss, break up, get back together, laugh, have sex, screw it all up and put it all back together again. Reflecting that real experience, writing it in an honest, open way, in the safe space that a novel offers, that’s so important. With Noah Can’t Even, one of things I really wanted to achieve was exploring teenagers’ different experiences of sexuality and coming out in an open and honest way. If we were all more open, less afraid of being honest, especially with those young people we’re meant to be supporting and nurturing, wouldn’t the world be a better place?
Noah Can’t Even is out now – published by Scholastic UK.
Simon James Green grew up in a small town in Lincolnshire that definitely wasn’t the inspiration for Little Fobbing – so no-one from there can be mad with him, OK? He enjoyed a classic British education of assorted humiliations and barbaric PE lessons before reading Law at Queens’ College, Cambridge, where he further embarrassed himself by accidentally joining the rowing team despite having no upper body strength and not being able swim. When it turned out that being a lawyer was nothing like how it looks in Suits or The Good Wife, and buoyed by the success of his late night comedy show that involved an inflatable sheep, he travelled to London to pursue a glamorous career in show business. Within weeks he was working in a call centre, had been mugged, and had racked up thousands of pounds worth of debt. Finding strength and inspiration in the lyrics of Tubthumping by Chumbawumba, he eventually ended up working on a range of West End shows and UK tours, co-wrote a feature-length rom-com for the BBC and directed Hollyoaks for C4 / Lime Pictures. After trying really, really hard, he also managed to write Noah Can’t Even. If you are interested in stalking him, he still lives in London, where he spends a lot of time telling people that Noah Can’t Even is only partly autobiographical, and his mum has definitely never done a Beyoncé tribute act.
Huge thank you to Simon for stopping by! You can read my review of Noah Can't Even here, and be sure to check out the rest of the awesome blogs taking part in the tour!