“I want to scream.”
Any simple four-word sentence has a decent chance of being repeated. No big deal, then. But time went by and I kept finding it—not every day, but every couple months or so. Was I the only one noticing this?
Finally, driven to action by the n-teenth appearance, I began taking photographs. Once they were in my phone’s picture folder, I only became more curious, swiping through them every time I added another. Was “I want to scream” a phrase being taught in writing classes or offered up by books like this?
Or was it just the opposite: a coded message between authors who’d achieved publishing success by swearing allegiance to some bizarre screaming cult? Crap—was this the work of the Illuminati?! Did I need to start studying the dollar bill with a magnifying glass to find the phrase worked into the shadows of George Washington’s neck?
It would be glorious if one of these theories were true. But I favor another. “I want to scream” is simply the most perfect young-adult phrase ever devised. If there is one hallmark of YA lit, it might be the heightened (and true-to-life) emotions of its protagonists.
Now couple that with the constraints put upon teenagers. They can’t let out their raging emotions. They’re in class and there are detentions to consider. Or they’re at the dance and they’d become social pariahs. Or their parents would freak, think they were on drugs, and ground them right then and there.
Young adulthood is that tension. You want to scream all the time—the adult world you’re entering is fuller with screamable offenses than you’d ever imagined—but paradoxically being adult means giving up the “childish” prerogative to wail when you want to wail, laugh when you want to laugh, and scream when you want to scream.
Then again, there might not be: sometimes the bluntest statement is the best and, indeed, gains power through repetition. Just like the book’s protagonist, the teens reading your words likely can’t scream while they’re reading. They might be counting on you to do it for them. That might be, in fact, the entire point of YA literature.