Guest Post with Author Carol Dines (The Take-Over Friend)

Today we are excited to share a guest post from author Carol Dines,

The Take-Over Friend!

Read on for more about Carol and The Take-Over Friend!

 

 

 

Meet Carol Dines!

Carol Dines writes novels and short stories for adults and young adults.

Her latest YA novel, THE TAKE-OVER FRIEND, will be published by Fitzroy Books in October 2022. She’s also written two additional YA novels: Best Friends Tell the Best Lies (Delacorte) and The Queen’s Soprano (Harcourt), as well as a collection of YA short stories, Talk to Me (Delacorte.)

Her collection of short stories for adults, This Distance We Call Love, was published by Orison Books in 2021. Additionally, her fiction has appeared in numerous literary journals including Ploughshares, Narrative, Colorado Review, Salamander, Nimrod, as well as anthologies Someone Speaks My Language, Love and Lust, and Voices of the Land.

Carol Dines is a recipient of the SWCA’s Judy Blume award and the Eric Hoffer Award, as well as Minnesota and Wisconsin State Artist Fellowships. She’s a graduate of Stanford University and has an M.A. from Colorado State University.  She was born in Rochester, Minnesota and currently resides in Minneapolis with her husband and standard poodle.

About The Take-Over Friend:

On the second day of ninth grade, introverted Frances meets Sonja, a wildly funny newcomer from France, and the girls form a fast friendship. Frances adores Sonja’s worldliness, and Sonja adores Frances’s family, especially her older brother, Will. Frances and Sonja immediately declare themselves “The Poets” and rally their homeroom to enter the homecoming parade with a poetry-mobile built from Frances’s father’s old band bus. But respective family crises begin to escalate, and tensions come to a head when Sonja temporarily moves in with Frances’s family – forcing each friend to decide how close is too close. Alternatingly funny and poignant, The Take-Over Friend is a smart page-turner that focuses on the importance of finding your own voice in relationships.

 

 

 

~ Guest Post ~

 

Most teenagers are lonely. Even if they have friends, they are lonely. Even if they are part of a group, they are lonely. I would go even further and say, especially if they are part of a group. I have no research to support my theory, but I still believe it to be true. I was lonely. My daughter was lonely. I know many of my former students were lonely. Not isolated, but lonely. Lonely in a way they have trouble understanding themselves. Their inner and outer lives don’t necessarily match up. To others, they seem fine. But inside, their emotional landscapes are tumultuous. Whether teens are “popular” or “loners,” many young people experience strong feelings of loneliness. And what we rarely talk about is how loneliness is an essential part of growing up.

Maybe most teens don’t call it loneliness. Especially if they have a best friend, or a group of friends, or they are part of a team, or go to a school where they’ve established themselves and achieved a certain visibility. But when you are a teen and growing in new ways, new feelings arise. You may feel no one knows who you really are, the real you—not even your best friend or coach or favorite teacher. That’s lonely. Sometimes it’s hard to identify your new feelings and their source. But often it is an existential understanding that arises during adolescence, when you realize your life is your life, not your family’s, not your friends’, and not your classmates’. That existential loneliness is part of growing up, and it will accompany most of us throughout our lives.

This period of self-discovery is why adolescence has long been called a period of “finding yourself.” Most teens are excited to make new friends, but as they enter junior high and then high school, they meet new people, and are exposed to more diverse communities, which force them to look at the belief systems with which they’ve been raised in their families and communities. Some of those beliefs fall away, and that is lonely too. They learn new material in their classes that challenges their religions, cultures, identities, beliefs. Again, lonely. Sometimes the wider world eclipses their family’s world, and that is the loneliest feeling of all.

And yet, most young people carry the burden of these feelings alone, hoping to find a friend who shares them, and that is the subject of my new novel, The Take-Over Friend.

On the second day of 9th grade, Sonja, a new student from France, seeks out a friendship with Frances. The novel begins with Frances narrating, “Maybe it only happens once. You meet someone who sees right into you. Sees the very things you’ve been waiting for someone to see.

Sonja was that person for me. Right from the moment we met, I recognized myself in her words. Recognized who I wanted to be.” The novel follows the evolution of their friendship, from the initial thrill of finding each other and nurturing a close, all-consuming friendship, to the pain and grief that comes when the boundaries of their friendship collide with their own individual needs, forcing them to decide if they can stay friends.

I wrote this novel because I don’t think we talk enough about why and how friendships end, as well as the lingering pain of broken friendships. And yet, in the real world most friendships end. A recent study by Florida Atlantic University found that only one percent of friendships lasted five years. Most friendships end within the first year. What contributes to the peril of friendship? Researchers found that when friends differ in gender, peer acceptance, school competence, and physical aggressiveness, the friendships are much more likely to end. The all-too-common dramas in teen friendships and subsequent break-ups can be highly disruptive, so much so that many parents and educators encourage students to have lots of friends, not a best friend.

And yet teenagers want a best friend, someone to confide in, hang out with. So, how are teens to forge lasting friendships? First, don’t expect a single friendship to bear all the burdens of your own loneliness. Putting all your trust, time, and energy into one friendship can create exceedingly high expectations of each other. And high expectations inevitably lead to disappointment. Most teens need to understand that periods of disappointment are common in friendship, and sometimes you just need to give your close friends some space. Moreover, no friendship is immune from changing. When Frances and Sonja go through a period of not speaking to each other, Frances’s mother tells her, “I actually think what you and Sonja are going through is normal. People change, grow in different ways. You’ve grown a lot this year, Fran. And I’m sure Sonja has too. Sometimes you have to create a bigger container for the friendship.”