I made Agatha Stone, the protagonist of The Lost Knight Series, thirteen years old to embody just how unprepared she was to save the world. But I discovered something interesting: she doesn’t have a lot of other girls her age to stand next to on the shelf.
When I finished the series, my daughter was thirteen. She might have been able to save the world, but no one asked her so we will never know. No one ever asks a thirteen year old girl to do anything. We often say how hard “that age” is, but there’s really nothing in our society that addresses it. Instead, it’s shut down, minimalized, and our girls basically disappear until they’re fifteen and the messiness is over.
Thirteen year olds are not cute and silly, like they were just the year before. Instead, they’re uncomfortably sexual, highly opinionated and moody. When my daughter started middle school one of the teachers warned me that, “There’s nothing meaner than a middle school girl.”
I don’t think they’re mean. I think they’re in pain. Hormones riddle girls with doubts, which makes them afraid, which makes them act out or disappear.
Our society has based puberty off the experiences of boys. There are many coming of age movies-books-stories about how difficult and fun “that time” is for boys. I’ll wait while you try to think of a few for girls. If you said Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, congratulations you’ve made it to middle age. That book is forty-five years old. If you said Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen, you’re not as old, but that was seventeen years ago.
There are a few disturbing examples of girls discovering their sexuality, but a comedy, drama or sitcom about the real issues of being thirteen is highly underrepresented. And the thirteen year old actresses are out of work unless they look ten. They won’t work again until they’re fifteen unless they model, but that’s a different discussion.
Generally speaking, there are no television shows where a thirteen year old girl is the star. If she was cast in a television show when she was younger, her now thirteen year old character is a shell, with minimal lines and almost no story. As a female writer, I don’t want to complain or moan about the unfairness of it all, or blame the evil thing (insert whatever evil thing you wish) or rail at men for writing about what they know. Instead, I wrote about a girl. I tried to make her as true to a thirteen year old girl as I could.
I was thirteen once. I had a daughter and a stepdaughter who both struggled through “that time.” It’s nothing to be afraid of. I encourage other creative types to explore these interesting and uncharted stories and let our girls be heard.