Was there a single YA author out there who was popular at school? Like, really, capital-P Popular? I can't really imagine it. I certainly wasn't.
I mean sure, I had friends. I wasn't ostracised. Not often, anyway. But I was bullied, a little. Teased, a little more (for having hairy legs in year 7, for being a messy eater in year 8, for not having a boyfriend, for being too smart). The subject of scornful looks and eye-rolling and secret whispers - teenage girls are awful.
I had insecurities - was I pretty? would I ever grow breasts? Was everyone noticing that mole on my cheek? Why didn't boys ever ask me out?
I had crushes on boys - but if or when I actually did talk to them, they were never as articulate or dashing as they were in my fervent, book-fuelled imagination. 14 year old boys are not really articulate, full stop. They also often smell bad. No wonder then, that I found myself falling for (and in a year-long relationship with) my best friend, a girl.
I didn't kiss a boy until Year 12, and then slowly things started to change. He was older than me, so I stopped only hanging out with other schoolgirls. I went to university, and suddenly reading a lot and being eclectic and not listening to Top 40 music was cool. It was like the definition of cool had suddenly been inverted.
I still wasn't Popular, though. But that was fine. I was beginning to realise the terrible, beautiful truth: Popular people are actually a bit Boring.
Of course at my Uni, to be Popular, you had to have a certain degree of what we will call Wankery. You had to do lots of Interpretive Dance (I staged a production of The Little Prince, instead). You had to make Experimental Films (I was more interested in narrative). You had to talk a lot about theorists and theories (actually, I did really like that bit).
Now - post-Uni, at the beginning of what I am a bit scared to call a Career - for perhaps the first time in my life, I am completely proud to be who I am, and I don't feel like I need to pretend to be anything I'm not. The people who love me do so because I'm me.
The lovely Kim Wilkins says this: "Everything that made me daggy and unpopular has turned out to be a blessing", and I couldn't agree more.
Back to being a teenager. Rjurik asked me the other day why I write. I answered that if I didn't I would go crazy. And because I want to make people THINK. Afterwards, I realised what I really meant to say was that I want to make people FEEL (and then think as a side-effect).
If he'd asked why I write YA, I might have said this: To make a connection with the Unpopular ones. To let them know that they're not alone, and that it gets better.
So much better.