I’m blessed and cursed with an exceptional long-term memory and a terrible short-term one. Ask me what I did yesterday, and I’ll struggle to give you an accurate answer. Ask me about 10th grade (age 15), and I can give you a full run-down on what subjects I studied, where my locker was, and who I had a crush on (no, I’m not telling!).
It’s an annoying trait in day-to-day life, requiring me to constantly write down little notes so that I don’t forget things, but it’s a great resource in crafting fiction for teen readers!
My new book, METAWARS: FIGHT FOR THE FUTURE, is set thirty years in the future, in a post-peak-oil London where two teenagers get swept up in the battle for control of the internet. It may be set in a ‘dystopian’ future, but the emotional spine of the story is ripped straight from the past, from my teenage memories.
People who say that high school is the best time of your life are either lying or have grown into adults they don’t want to be. Being a teenager is hard. I remember, vividly. High school can be a nasty equivalent to prison, nature plays lots of cruel jokes on your body, and the adult world isn’t ready to take you seriously yet. Please trust me when I tell you, and I’m sure the fantastic Edge authors would agree: it gets better.
My ambition with METAWARS was to extrapolate the chaos of teenage reality in an exciting, action-packed thriller set in a dangerous future world. My two lead characters are Jonah and Samantha (Sam), two at polar opposites of the teenage spectrum. Jonah is young for his age - I’ve painted him as a sheltered, quite naïve fifteen - while Sam is a bit older yet far more worldly and experienced.
Jonah lives under curfew on a retired London bus (no more oil means no more bus routes) while Sam spends her nights blowing up buildings. The emotional story arc over the four books charts the development of their interdependency and contrasts Jonah’s growing maturity with Sam’s gradual climb-down from fundamentalism. When we first meet these characters, they are both incredibly certain about their views on the world. Only through their adventure together do they realise that the world is a far more complex place than they ever imagined.
I believe that the awakening from childhood to adulthood, the awkward phase we call ‘teenager’ is humanity’s most profound experience. It’s painful (growing pains!), physically awkward (spots anyone?), and emotionally fraught (frienemies, crushes, first loves), but it’s the crucible that turns children into adults. It’s fertile ground for fiction and I remember it well.
Jeff Norton is the author of METAWARS: FIGHT FOR THE FUTURE, published 2 August 2012 from Orchard Books.