An Open Letter to My YA Self (+ Giveaway)


I’d like to thank Ginger over at GReads! for inviting me to be a part of An Open Letter to My YA Self. I know that Bookiemoji is typically an uplifting place to share the expressive nature of our bookish love, but I’d like to take a moment to get “real” with my YA self and my readers. This may not be the most uplifting open letters – but it is a look back at things that my (Jenna’s) YA self may not be aware of in the years that have passed between then and now.

To Jenna’s YA Self…

  • transvestitesYou know those friends you’re making now in high school? Don’t get too attached. They won’t be there when you get older.
  • You will always, always hold some regret for not pursuing your dream of becoming a Disney animator. That’s right, that dream you’re striving for right now? Ain’t gonna happen. (Oh, and by the way, Disney is closing their traditional animation studio in a handful of years. Don’t worry, you will learn this the very same day you’re accepted into animation school.) You do have the level of skill needed to achieve this dream – never doubt that. Despite the regret, you will be happy to know that pursuing love and a family is worth the loss of your first dream. Your child will bring you more happiness than the Magical World of Walt Disney ever did. She is your new dream.
  • promYou will always struggle with your self-esteem. And though you may never believe that you are in any way beautiful, know that someone who will very likely be there for you for the rest of your life swears to you day in and day out that you are beautiful to him. Try to believe him. Even if you don’t, try harder.
  • Know that the struggles you are going through now – in life, in learning, in love – they will all work out in the end, one way or another. Even if some things don’t work out exactly the way you expected. You are a survivor. You will learn to live and adapt to the unexpected..
  • Ydrawingou will never be close to your extended family. You won’t even have much of an interest in mending those ties that have fallen apart thanks to time and miles. Work on cherishing the relationships you hold dear.
  • Take that first job, and the second, and the third, and the twentieth… Yes, even take that one job that will pit you against a number of horrible people who will take advantage of your vulnerability and emotionally tear you apart. Eventually you will obtain a job that you love and it will provide for you and your family. Everything that happens before is a necessity. There are a lot of “necessities” in life and you will come out on the other site stronger and wiser than you were before.
  • romeoMaking the decision not to go for that “fall-back” degree in education (after stamping out the idea of ever working for Disney first) is probably one of the best decisions you will ever make. Even if you doubt it at the time. You would have been an awful teacher. Apparently you’re a better writer than you are a speaker.
  • Learn to realize you will never move back to Arizona. Don’t fool yourself otherwise. It’ll only drag you down.
  • Despite what you or anyone else says otherwise, the hours of each and every day will accumulate in time spent on specific things in this order: 1) work 2) sleep 3) family 4) you. You and your personal well being will always come last. You wish that you and your family shared the top spot, but let’s face it, that’s not how life works. You’ve gotta work to live.
  • homecomingBuying a house is as exciting as your parents always make it seem, even if you think it’s sooo boooring. You’ll stay in your first house longer than you’ve ever stayed in one place up to now.
  • Try to hold back on your addictive/obsessive behaviors. Being a shopaholic will create so much undue stress later in life. Learn now before it’s too late. Put down that credit card. Better yet, cut it up. Now.
  • Depression can and will get worse. You are still struggling with it, even in your thirties. Don’t give in. Don’t give up.
  • closetBelieve in those who care for you. They are there to help you. Even if you don’t fully realize that as you write this letter to your YA self.
  • Your love for books will only grow. (I know, right? You’re probably thinking that’s impossible. It’s not. Trust, me. I KNOW.)
  • Remember: YOU lived in a closet before Harry Potter made it cool. (Oh, and as for Harry Potter. You’ll understand who that is very, very soon.)

Oh, and Jenna? Here are a few books you wish had been around during your “formative” YA years:

Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy –  This book could have taught you that there is no shame in being bigger. It would have been a great consolation, especially in the 8th grade when that kid on the bus insisted on calling you “thunder-thighs”.

The Start of Me and You by Emery Lord – It would have been nice to know that, yes, your own personal doppelganger is out there. Being a neurotic “grammar girl” is actually a thing.

Faking Normal by Courtney C. Stevens – You’re not the only one who creates physical scars to mask the internal ones. That boy at your side? He’s your Bodee. Trust me.



a Rafflecopter giveaway


Is there anything that you would say in retrospect to your YA self?
Share below – I’d love to hear from you.


  1. Rhoda K says:

    There will come a day when your body will no longer cooperate with you, so do all those things you want to do, enjoy walking and your independence, but don’t dread the day your body packs in – it’s something that will make you a stronger person in the end.

    • Jenna says:

      THIS is a very, very good piece of advice. It makes me wish I had continued to be more active even after moving to Florida. Even now, I think about all the things I could have done, perhaps even things I still CAN do, and yet here I am… indoors… inactive. Heh.

  2. Cassandra Sparks says:

    I would tell myself to not settle and hold out for true happiness and love. I would recommend septimus heap series

  3. Jen says:

    There are so many things I would want to tell my younger self but sometimes I think I I wouldn’t change my experiences because they have made me a better person. One thing I would tell myself is that I do wind up way cooler than the people who bullied me.

    I also like your Magic Knight Rayearth you’ve got up there.

    • Jenna says:

      Thank you, Jen! I think you’re cooler than any bully I’ve met, too. 😉

      And thanks for your compliment on my drawing. I love looking back at my old sketchbooks from high school. So many great artistic memories. I need-need-need to draw more!!

  4. Carina Olsen says:

    Sniffs. This post is all kinds of beautiful Jenna. You are amazing. <3 And I loved getting to know you better 😀 You are awesome. And hugs. Thank you for always being so kind 🙂 I'm glad things are working out for you now. <3 But oh. What I would say to my YA self? Well. As I'm shortly turning 22, I don't feel like it happened so long ago. Sigh. I had a pretty bad teenager years. I got bullied a lot. I got even more sick. Ugh. I guess I would give myself the advice to not try so hard to make boys like me. It did not end well. (And I still haven't had a first boyfriend. Ack.) But I'm okay with that 🙂 Probably. Anyway. Thank you for sharing sweetie. <3 And for this amazing giveaway 🙂 You are the bestest.

  5. Erin @ The Hardcover Lover says:

    Oh, Jenna! This is sad, but uplifting because it’s so raw and real. I love how you addressed your high school friends because I feel the same way – I only talk to one regularly (because we’re still at home and on the same street) and a few from time to time.

    I know I’ll definitely be reading Dumplin’ because I struggle with my weight, and I feel like bigger girls aren’t represented enough in literature (or any kind of entertainment outlet.)

    Thanks for sharing your letter with the world. 🙂

  6. Carl says:

    I’d say “Learn to ask for help” It’s one of my biggest weaknesses. I’d recommend The Fault in Our Stars. Thanks

  7. Katie says:

    That is such a hard question, as I’m only twenty and still distancing myself from my YA self. But one thing I am learning that I would tell my 15-year-old self is that some friends aren’t worth it. Sometimes you will have to cut them out of your life, or let yourself be cut out of theirs. And that you will survive losing friends and make the absolute best friends you could ever hope for the summer after high school graduation.

    So that’s more than a sentence, but I’m a rambling kind of person. Thanks so much for sharing this personal post–it really made me feel better to know your very first thing to tell your YA self is that your high school friends won’t be there the rest of your life. It’s something I’ve learned two years after graduating.

  8. Stefani @ Caught Read Handed says:

    I would tell myself that it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks. You don’t have hair; who cares? Quite honestly, once you accept it, you’ll be so much happier and confident. Stop wearing hats and be you already!

    I don’t know if Perks is really a YA contemporary, but I wish I’d read that a lot earlier than I did. I love it.

    I’m really looking forward to Dumplin’!!

  9. Susan T. says:

    Stop worrying about what you look like and if people, especially boys like you! I’ve just started reading YA contemporary so I don’t know that any have really resonated with my own life yet. I think Dumplin’ sounds like it would be great for all teen girls!

  10. Kelly @ Dancing Through the Pages says:

    Ah well I’d answer the question but I’m still a teen. But a suggestion for myself would probably be to relax and stop comparing myself to others. I’ve had this problem in middle school and I still do.
    But this post was really inspiring. It was honest and it made me think about what I should expect of myself and how I should treat myself and others.
    As for a book… well anything that I want to read haha. I wish I had gotten into YA way earlier though.

  11. Kara says:

    I love this. I tell myself every day that it is not what others think of you, it is what you think about yourself. Be happy and life will be happy. Much love sister dear.

  12. Ginger @ GReads! says:

    Jenna, thank you so much for being apart of this feature! I really enjoyed reading your letter. I think sometimes we need to “get real” in order to see life from a different perspective. I can relate with all the “following your dream” talk. I had a really difficult time in my teenage years nailing down that dream job of mine. I just never knew where I wanted to be, or what I wanted to do, and I would stress about it SO MUCH, instead of enjoying the time I had to figure it all out. I guess I felt like I had to know it right then and there. It wasn’t until I was 30 years old before I realized what that “dream job” of mine was and I am happily just now beginning it.. and that is OKAY.

    Thanks again for sharing your letter. Really loved reading it and getting to know you better through it 🙂 xxoo

  13. Danielle says:

    I would tell myself that the stress of college can suck, but it’s so great to get out of the rut of where high-school me was, meeting new people and learning some independence. 🙂

  14. Natasha says:

    You already know that you can do anything you want to do, so just make sure you save your money because it will make doing those things easier

  15. Carol says:

    Great post! There are so many things I’d like to say to my YA self! The main thing is: Don’t be blind and think that if you refuse to acknowledge things, they’ll vanish, because they won’t. And once you’ve realized you’re sick, you have to keep fighting every second not to relapse again. I wish I’d known sooner that addiction never really goes away. I also would have recommended my younger self not to read Wintergirls because it was too triggering!

  16. Chantal says:

    This post was beauitful as I am a teen i can’t exactly say something. One of my biggest problems is Im constanly doubting myself and being really hard on myself I need to believe in myself more.

  17. thais pampado says:

    Don’t give up on your dreams; you are capable of fullfilling them.

    I’d recommend The Perks of Being a Wallflower.

  18. Megan S. says:

    I would tell my YA self to be confident and don’t let anyone put you down.
    A YA contemporary I would recommend to my younger self would be The Start of Me and You by Emerly Lord 🙂
    Rafflecopter name: Megan S.

  19. Mckenna says:

    I would tell my YA self a half-lie that everything will get completely better–all problems will go away–just to make him feel better and maybe actually believe it in order to achieve it. I would also recommend that that he read Paper Towns by John Green.

  20. Monica R says:

    Even though I’m only 18, a lot of these really hit home and I wish I could give you a big bear hug!
    I would tell my 16 year old self to stop doubting everyone and open up, there are people out there who WILL care. Also, don’t let yourself sink further into depression, you can overcome it.
    As for contemporary books, I can’t think of any at the top of my head but I would tell myself to continue reading Tuck Everlasting. 🙂

  21. Jennifer Bui says:

    Wow that deep. This nice that you opened up yourself in this post. Stay Strong and don’t give up! 🙂

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