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March 12, 2018

Labels, Boxes and The Breakfast Club --- Guest Post by Joelle Charbonneau, Author of TIME BOMB

Posted by Rebecca M

High school is one of the most colorful, complicated and complex times in a person's life. School and homework can be hard enough, but when you add in gossip, bullying and maintaining friendships, things can get very tricky. One of the biggest issues that teens experience in high school is labeling --- both of yourself and others. In TIME BOMB, author Joelle Charbonneau explores these powerful and sometimes dangerous labels through a school tragedy. In this post, Charbonneau explains why she found the topic of labels so interesting and how she uses it in her book.

The princess.

The jock.

The stoner.

The geek.

The Goth girl.

The Breakfast Club hit theaters over 30 years ago. A decade after it debuted, I went to school with students that would on the surface fit the boundaries of those labels. The more I talk to young adults I understand that same movie could be written for students today. The labels change, but the box they build around us is very much the same. No matter our best intentions, we label each other. We always have. I fear we always will.

Especially in high school.

There, because of the classes and sports and extra-curricular activities, it’s easy to assign labels --- to put people in boxes based on the public categories of their life. Those boxes are neat and tidy. They make it easier to compartmentalize a world that can be scary and complex. They make things more comfortable because it gives the illusion of understanding. That’s probably why despite everyone’s best intentions, we don’t just put other people in boxes --- we build those boxes around ourselves as well. We think we understand how others are seeing us and because it feels easier, we often accept those limitations. That’s where the students in The Breakfast Club started --- seen through the walls of boxes placed upon them and trapped in the ones they had constructed around themselves.

That’s where the students in TIME BOMB start their story as well.

But while stories often start in those boxes they --- like the students walking schools then and now --- don’t stay there. There are moments when the sides of the boxes we build collapse --- when we look beyond the things that are easy to pass judgment on.  

Those are the moments that stay with us. They’re impossibly uncomfortable and hard. As they should be. It was those moments in high school, the ones that allow me to see beyond the labels, that truly taught me that everyone is more than what I thought and that I could be more than I believed. (The last part I still struggle with --- but I figure that’s a work in progress.)

I wrote TIME BOMB because I wanted to explore the boxes we construct around ourselves and each other. I set it in a dangerous situation because those are the times where it’s not possible for boxes to stay standing as a barrier between what the world sees and who people truly are.  The boxes I chose aren’t all the same as the ones in The Breakfast Club. The world has changed since the movie was made. But in so many ways we are all --- teens and adults --- like those students walking into the high school for detention or the ones in TIME BOMB getting ready for a new school year to begin. We’re searching to share who we are and learning who we want to be. And like the characters in TIME BOMB, we don’t always get it right, but it’s important we keep trying.