The story is so often told, especially in today’s chick lit for young adults: three girls make it through the ups and downs of high school by the merit of their own friendship – though it can be occasionally tested. What sets Angela, Maddie, and Zoe apart from other young girls, at least in presentation, is their continuous communication through instant message. TTYL is a rapidly unfolding narrative, often as caught up in the present as the reader is, and usually just as unaware of itself as any instant message conversation would be. “SnowAngel,” “mad maddie,” and “zoegirl” are their respective usernames, and the book captures a few short months in their high school career, from the start of their sophomore year to the beginning of Thanksgiving break. Angela falls for the wrong guys, Maddie falls in with the wrong crowd, and Zoe attracts the attention of the wrong people. All this takes place in and around Atlanta, but the parables are not unique to one area. There is lost love, abstruse love, public drunkenness, snobbery, depression, conflicting desires, perversion, and above all, the undying bonds of friendship.
I wanted to write about this particular book because I met Lauren Myracle once upon a time, about when I was in 6th grade. Thankfully I did not read TTYL at the time, because I found it quite intense and saucy for an early middle-schooler like me, but putting a face to the name proved to be rather helpful. I remembered her as someone who wanted to be in tune with contemporary (at the time) teenagers, but she also seemed like the type of person who would adhere to an essentialist argument about friendships and values at that age. Everybody goes through similar problems in high school, I imagine her saying. While the sexual predation endemic in this book is thankfully not pervasive in every single school in America, there are times when I felt torn between pleasing different people like Zoe was, and I was not sure if it was even for the right reasons. Like Angela, I obsessed over crushes, most of whom were not quite savory anyway. And like Maddie, I faked my way through parasitic friendships not because I necessarily enjoyed it but because I thought it would get me ahead.
Most of all, I think that students need to know their personal writing has value to it, whether it is through text messages or IMs. The act of writing should be important in whatever capacity it manifests itself in, and according to Derrida, writing is even more important than speech. Even though the technology is rather antiquated in this book, it makes a narrative out of pedestrian conversations, and an interesting one at that. Students need to realize that they should keep writing, because what might be today’s instant message could turn into tomorrow’s bestselling novel.