On a Personal Note: Magan in High School

Magan and Her High School Best Friends

My high school best friends and me before my senior prom. I’m in the maroon dress on the right.

There have been a few books that have really hit home for me or elements of them that I’ve related to so, so well. Just last week, I couldn’t stop thinking about Eleanor and Park because so many of Eleanor’s thoughts felt like I lived them. They felt real to me. This made me start thinking about what kind of character I would be if I pieced together all those different aspects of me.

So, hello from high school Magan. (With more pictures included, I promise.)

If you’ve been a Rather Be Reading follower for a while, you might remember the post I wrote about meeting my husband in honor of our 8th wedding anniversary. I met Dustyn when I was 16 years old. Before dating him, I had this touch and go relationship with my best guy friend. I would like him. He would think we should just be friends. I would move on. He’d want to date me. Things were complicated. (HA! If Facebook were around then, I wonder what my status would have said?)

why i related to the summer i turned pretty by jenny han

I think maybe because of that boy (who shall remain nameless), I related to Belly so well in The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han. I met this boy when I was in fourth grade. I went to a tiny, tiny school where my high school graduating class was all of 23 people. We saw each other all the time. I loved his mom. I knew he had kind of a wild side, but I liked him in spite of it. I would go so far as to say that sometimes he knew more about me than anyone else did.

There was this strong push and pull of — how is this ever going to work? There’s so much chemistry, but is it right?

I remember these aching moments of seeing him with other girls and feeling so helpless. (Conrad kind of made Belly feel the same way, yeah?) For us, the stars never did align, but all of those emotions are so relevant when I read YA. So many nerves and so much anxiety can be wrapped up in relationships, and it felt all-consuming.

relating to catching jordan on a personal levelSometime during my fall semester of my junior year of high school, I decided I would quit fretting about making that relationship work. If it was meant to be, it would work out. I spent more time focusing on my girlfriends, school, and sports. I was pretty actively involved in sports. I mean, when you’re in such a small school, you can’t help but participate in everything — even if you’re not the best at it. All tightly wrapped up in one book, Miranda Kenneally captured the tension and unease of loving your best friend in Catching Jordan as well as what it’s like to be a sporty girl. Now I wasn’t, by ANY means, as kick ass or awesome as Jordan. What I did relate to was the sense of belonging and community. My sports teams were always filled with much more drama and cattiness over playing time, but the bus rides home singing music at the top of our lungs always pulled us back together.

magan's high school sports banquet

Leslie (one of my BFFs, even today) and me at a Sports Banquet

book cover of My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick

Given that our school was so small and we all played on every team, it was only natural that my best friends also played with me. And even better than that…

Two of my best friends were sisters.

They came from a family of five kids. Going over to their house was always so much fun — an older brother that teased them, older sibling drama, having a sister super close in age, etc. I didn’t really know how that felt because I was the oldest and my younger brother and sister were 4 and 6 years younger than me. I soaked up every bit of time I could with them because I love, loved the dynamics of their family. While My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick was definitely more dramatic than Leslie and Anne’s house, it did make me reminisce about those days together at their house.

Fast forward to Christmas of my junior year and that’s where Dustyn comes in.

You can read all about how we met in my anniversary post, but I’ll just simply state that young love can be lasting love. I was super young when I met him (16) and super young when we got married (almost 19 – the summer after my freshman year of college). People were super worried I was making a big ol’ regrettable mistake, but I can honestly say, I’ve never made a better decision before. I don’t know how I had the backbone to stand up and do what I wanted at that age, but I did. And here we are.

Dustyn and Me: On a Trolley in San Francisco

Dustyn told me very early in our relationship (um, second date) that he loved me.

He was very aware of how he felt about me, but my mom was telling me, “You’re too young to say I love you!” For a long while, I told Dustyn I loved him in Spanish (“Te amo.”). He knew how I felt, but I needed some time to develop more than just a physical “hey, he’s cute” response to him. The lady who I think writes about this so, so well is the one and only Stephanie Perkins.

In Anna and the French Kiss, Anna and St. Clair obviously have an attraction. The conversation is great and their interests are so similar. He’s better for her than that d-bag she left back in the States. (See where I’m going here?) I related to the slow build of Anna and St. Clair’s relationship. I always said I wanted to marry my best friend. It took time to learn all those details about Dustyn, but just like St. Clair and Anna — we stayed up later than we ever should have talking, went to movies together, toured cities together, etc. (Above: We were on a vacation with Dustyn’s family that took us road trippin’ all over California that summer.)

Anna and the French Kiss and Lola and the Boy Next Door

And guys, much like Lola (in Lola and the Boy Next Door), I was pretty experimental with my hair. (Maybe you guys have picked up on that? I still am. For the majority of my life I was a blonde. Now I’ve played with my hair so much I have zero idea what color it naturally is anymore.) I remember dying my hair in my parent’s bathroom (when they weren’t home, mind you) and having no idea how it was going to look. Also: Lola is much more fashionable than I was, but um, I really tried to rock the bohemian look a lot back in high school. (Was that a “thing” back in the early 2000s or was I just really unfashionable?) I cringed a lot at some of the photographs I just looked at of myself, guys.


The Glass Castle and Eleanor and ParkFor much of high school, I wasn’t allowed to have a lot of friends over. We grew up in not the nicest house and we didn’t have a lot of room or money to feed tons of extra people. That’s definitely not a highlight of this period of my life, but it has made me very appreciative for everything I’ve got now. And even more appreciative for Dustyn. He came into our home and would help me cook and clean. I’m pretty sure every Friday started with him helping me tidy something up even though there were other more fun things we would have wanted to do. He never judged. He never said a word. It just was.

Looking through my entire list of read books, I don’t feel like many stick out as having gone deep into these nitty gritty details of a low-income family in a way that really hit me hard. But The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls and Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell certainly stand out from the crowd. I cried big, fat tears through some parts of these because of how well I understood. (Oh, and yes — The Glass Castle IS a grown up book! Also! It’s a memoir … and really, really good if you haven’t read it.)

For the most part, I was a really big nerd. I knew I had to study hard to get into college. (Meeting Dustyn who is … SUPERSMART … was a challenge because I always had to prove that I didn’t need his help with my calculus even though inside I was going “PLEASE DO THIS FOR ME.”) I was that girl who didn’t need much punishment other than being told someone was disappointed in me. That phrase right there, “I’m disappointed in you” did. me. in. It killed me. I walked a straight line and hated getting in trouble. I tried to be in every club and participate in every sport and make perfect grades. To be honest, I’m not sure how I survived putting all that pressure on myself. All of these girls had mountains of pressure on them, too, so I was very much like, “Yeeeeaaaah, girl. I understand!” (Pictured below: Meant to Be by Lauren Morrill, Just One Day by Gayle Forman, and Golden by Jessi Kirby)

Meant to Be, Just One Day, and Golden

So, that kind of wraps up who I was back then. I was a girl who had a close group of friends that didn’t have the nicest house or the coolest gadgets, who fawned over a boy who she never dated (probably because she was just too nerdy and studied too much), but fell in love at 16 with the boy she’d marry.

Oh, but I promised you more pictures. Fine. Here you go:

High School Magan

Left: Dustyn and I on vacation with D’s family (again), Right: Dustyn and I dancing at my senior prom.

Hope you enjoyed this little trip down memory lane and seeing me in high school.

Tell me a few books that reminded you of pieces of your high school self!

21 thoughts on “On a Personal Note: Magan in High School

  1. Tara says:

    What a beautiful, heartfelt, personal post Magan! You can identify with so many stories and you did such a great job of pairing your life experiences with these books. That last pic of you and Dustyn at the prom is the cutest thing ever! xoxo

    • Magan says:

      Tara, thank you! This post has kept me thinking about all kinds of things since I wrote it. It’s crazy how such minor moments in our lives can make us connect to books in such profound ways. πŸ™‚ xoxo

  2. Ginger @ GReads! says:

    I loved reading this, Magan. Seeing a glimpse inside high school Magan through the books you’ve read (myself, too) makes it so much more tangible. I can totally see who you were and what you went through. I wish our lives would have crossed paths back then. I think you would have been such an influential friend in my life when I needed it most. Though I try my best not to regret anything, there are surely moments I would do over if given the chance.

    Whenever I read a book about a teenager losing a parent, I immediately identify with them. Granted, I was 22 when my mom died, but I was still young and impressionable. That sort of loss is something a child never recovers from, unfortunately – no matter what age it happens at. We just learn to live a different sort of life. A few YA books that stand out most about this topic for me would be: Holier Than Thou, The Summer I Turned Pretty, The Survival Kit, Second Chance Summer, Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour, Moonglass, & The Beginning of After.

    You are such a beautiful person, Magan <3

    • Magan says:

      Ginger, even though we didn’t know each other back then, I’m so, so glad we know one another now. Seriously — love getting random g-chats and texts and messages from you. Thank goodness book blogging brought us together! And all of those books you’ve named at the end of your comment? Favorites of mine. Except, well, you know I’ve failed and still haven’t read Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour. Major slacker here. I have bawled my way through all of them, so I can’t imagine how you felt having read them with personal experience losing a parent you were so close to. Love you, G.

  3. Maria says:

    I just started reading this blog and I don’t know you, but this was a beautiful post and it really moved me. Thank you for sharing.

    AND you seem to have an excellent taste in books. πŸ™‚

    • Magan says:

      Maria! Thank you so much for reading our blog and for your awesome comment. It means so much to me. And thanks! I’m so glad we like the same books! xo

  4. Alexa Y. says:

    Oh M, you made me tear up while reading this post. I have so much love for the fact that there are personal experiences that inform the way we read and relate to books, and I enjoyed seeing particular examples from your own life. It’s truly an honor that you were able to share this with all of us, and I don’t want to forget that ever.

    Also, I love this particular line – “…young love can be lasting love.” You and I have talked a little about this before, and I’m in complete agreement. Macky and I met when I was 15 years old, and two dates later (!), I knew I loved him and he knew he loved me. And look where we are now – planning our wedding!

    ACK. Now I wish we lived closer to each other so I could give you a MASSIVE hug.

    • Magan says:

      Alexa! Thank you so much! I’m so glad you’ve found you’re special someone so young, too. People certainly gave me the side-eye a lot when I told them I was getting married so young, but for real — best decision of my life. I love this man so much. I wish you and Macky all the best! I cannot wait to see wedding photos! xo

  5. elena says:

    i love youuuuu so much and this made me love you even more.

    i loved hearing about each book & your memories & all those lovely and totally nostalgic photos of you. it made me feel closer to you and want to hug you hard. i can’t relate to the young love aspect but i LOVE that you found the love of your life and it’s so, so sweet. your story makes me feel all sappy. i want to be experimental with my hair too!! i want to have lilac hair. too bad i have dark brown hair so it’s super hard to dye, le sigh. i did have dip dye last summer though. my family didn’t have their own house until i was in middle school so i get what you mean in that aspect.

    the last photo is wonderful!! bb magan is so qt. thank you so much for sharing! <333

    • Magan says:

      Elena, you’re the best! Thank you for this comment. You know what’s strange? I could totally see you trying the lilac hair. That didn’t surprise me one bit when I read that. You’re brave. (I’m not sure I could ever do lilac — Dustyn might FLIP if I tried, but he’s surprised me and gone with some pretty crazy things I’ve done, so IDK.) Thanks for the awesome comment, love. xo

  6. Sharon @ The Book Barbies says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this, Magan! I know it can be difficult to get super personal, but I love getting to know you more through things like this. And I love it when people share pictures! That picture of you and Dustyn at prom – swoon! So beautiful!

    It’s always interesting to me to read YA books, since I was homeschooled my entire life until I came to college. I can relate to some aspects, but there are tons of things I basically have to take authors’ word on. I was involved in our church youth group and a local homeschool theatre company, so I relate a lot of things to those experiences.

    • Magan says:

      Sharon! Thanks, doll! I didn’t realize you were homeschooled! I love that! I have read about a few YA characters that were homeschooled. Have you ever come across a book with that kind of character that you related super well to? I went to my best friend Leslie’s youth group a lot when I was in high school, so I relate to you there. Thank you for your sweet comment!

  7. VeganYANerds says:

    Magan, I adore how you and Estelle are so willing to share such personal stories on RBR! I loved your post on how you and Dustyn met and this one about high school is just as wonderful. I think this post highlights so well why adults still want to red YA. It’s so nice to relate to younger characters with the hindsight that we have now as adults.

    p.s I wore a similar coloured dress to my formal, too!

    • Magan says:

      Mandee! Thank you, love. It’s hard to be so open about things, but at the same time, I think a lot of people question why YA is what I prefer to read. I can just relate so, so well to all those emotions. Your comment was SPOT ON. And yay for you wearing a similarly colored dress! Great minds! πŸ™‚

  8. Jenny @ Mimosa Stimulus says:

    There are a lot of times when I’m reading a book and have to stop and tell myself, “Yeah, that was so me in highschool.” I’d have to scour through my read list to remember some of them, but one that jumps to mind is Mostly Good Girls by Leila Sales. Violet and Katie remind me SO MUCH of my best friend and I in high school. It could have been a story about us.

    I totally identify with the sporty thing and maybe that’s a big part of why I love Miranda Kenneally’s books so much. (That, and I think her dialogue is brilliant – it sounds like the ridiculous conversations I would have with my friends and family.) And I also identify with the crushing on your best friend thing. A few times it worked and then ended badly, once time it never happened, and then the last one I married. So it turned out well. And I know what it feels like to have that one who got away I guess. (I should probably read Jenny Han’s books, huh?)

    I love this post so much. And I love it when I find a piece of myself in books.

    • Magan says:

      Jenny, Mostly Good Girls is on my to-read list. I love good stories about friendship and you’ve intrigued me! You’re absolutely right that Miranda’s dialogue is awesome. I think it’s super awesome that you, too, married one of your best friends. I totally feel that way about Dustyn. And yes, if you haven’t read Jenny’s books you MUST READ THEM. MUST. πŸ™‚ Thank you for commenting! I really appreciate it. xo

  9. April @ Books And Wine says:

    Oh my gosh, you were so adorable in high school! And ugh, I need to read Eleanor and Park.

    I can’t quite relate to Belly, but I like that a lot of people were into their friends. I think friendship makes a strong basis for a good romantic relationship. I always dated guys that I was acquaintance with. And then in college I went a bit wild and was very casual and awesome until I met Tony, who again, we dated without being friends first and surprisingly met while I was um, imbibing grown up beverages. But yeah, despite my not actually experiencing this, I love reading about it.

    SPORTS! I was totally more of a music wing girl — I did choir and bad and was awful at both. I did do cheerleading my 8th grade and freshman year and went to the football games after that. So, yeah I like books about characters who are into sports even though I wasn’t particularly good at them.

    My Life Next Door! I love that book because I could identify with it in that my extended family is huge – my dad and my mom both are one of five kids, and so going to my grandparents’ house, especially on my dad’s side is nuts like that book. ALSO! How cool that you have friends with families like that. I’m the oldest too! YAY OLDEST KID! AKA the best kid!

    Hehehe, at cringing at old photos. Me too yo, but for different reasons. This is awful, but I was like 15 lbs heavier in high school and I just look so different now and looking at those pictures reminds me of a time when my self esteem and confidence weren’t quite where they are now.

    I love love love that you have the courage to admit to being from a low income family where you couldn’t always have people over because of the food thing. Me too. I think a lot of YA is about girls who come from privileged backgrounds or you know at least upper middle class and it’s hard for me to relate to that coming from a lower economic class. But I think too, you really do come out of those experiences appreciative for what you have and not you know, stuck up or anything and kind of open minded.

    I feel you on having a close group of friends. My coblogger Allison was one of my closest friends growing up and still is. I’m close with a few of those other people too.

    Also, that picture of you and Dustyn at senior prom is sooooo cute!

    • Magan says:

      April, I couldn’t agree more about friendship being important in a relationship. Not all relationships start out this way, as you said, but I think it definitely helps when you know you’ve got so much in common. πŸ™‚ I wish (so badly) that I had been a music girl. My school was so small that we didn’t really have these things. (Well, at all.) I hope one day I can get my kids involved in something musically because Dustyn and I cannot carry a tune. And big families! Dustyn’s extended family is huge too — it was something I loved so much when I first met them all (we started dating right around Christmas so it was like BAM – meet the fam). Oldest kids are the best! April, I’m still positive that even at 15 lbs. heavier, you were adorable. πŸ™‚ I could not agree more with you about the whole YA girls being privileged comment. I’ve been thinking that a WHOLE LOT lately. And finally — I didn’t realize you and Allison have known each other for so long! That’s amazing! Makes me admire your friendship even more. Thanks for the (AMAZING) comment, lady!

  10. Jasmine Rose says:

    So much of this sounds like my life.
    My town was so small our school was literally pre-k through 12.
    I met my husband during track season (the only sport I sort of enjoyed) when I was sixteen and we got married when I was 19. Luckily we were surrounded by people who supported us, though. Heck, most of our church helped at the wedding.
    It took a while for us to say “I love you,” but I was his first girlfriend and I was terrified of breaking his heart since I’d been in three previous relationships where everything seemed to be going great and then BAM I just didn’t like them anymore. In the end, though, we both knew we wanted to be together pretty early on.
    It’s kind of funny looking back on it because neither of us talked about wanting to get married specifically, but we’d talk about our future lives. We even had a hypothetical cat that we named πŸ˜›

    Also, you should know you’re the one to finally convince me I need to read Eleanor & Park :]

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