Local Educator Unveils YA Novel Highlighting Tech’s Impact on Teens

Above and right: Author Tara Hodgson poses with her new YA novel, Chasing Through Time. – Submitted Photo

by Stephen Dafoe

Tara Hodgson, a Language Arts and Social Studies teacher with 16 years of teaching experience, has recently turned her observations of the teenage experience into a compelling young adult (YA) novel. Chasing Through Time explores the profound impact of technology and social media on today’s youth.

The story, set in the familiar yet evolving landscape of high school, has two main characters: Emma, a modern-day teen grappling with social media scandals and isolation, and Sarah, a girl from 2001 who navigates similar struggles without the digital chaos. Their unlikely connection across two decades underscores their lives’ stark contrasts and eerie similarities.

Hodgson, who resides on an acreage in Sturgeon County with her family and pets, said she drew inspiration from her firsthand experiences with students, primarily Grade 9 students. This personal connection to the story adds a layer of intrigue and authenticity to the narrative.

Emma, the modern-day protagonist, is a character Hodgson based on real situations she witnessed firsthand as a teacher. 

“While much of it may seem exaggerated, it’s not. Kids are struggling and I hope that more people can become aware of the dangers of giving kids unlimited phone and internet access at a young age,” Hodgson said. 

Ultimately, Hodgson hopes that Chasing Through Time will help raise awareness of how tech impacts teens negatively, which she believes has gotten terrible since COVID-19.

“I noticed how much teaching has changed due to rising mental health issues, cyberbullying, lack of attention, increased apathy, and an overall disconnect with learning,” she said.

As such, Hodgson said she felt a sense of hopelessness and increasing frustration over the past few years. 

“The book started more as a way to communicate those frustrations and then as it took shape, I realized that it was a way that I could show people what’s happening with teens and get it out there,” Hodgson said. “I read a ton of YA novels, and there’s nothing else out there that highlights the connection between mental health issues and the use of tech.”

Chasing Through Time is a Young Adult Contemporary novel, but the connection of the book’s two protagonists across two decades offers readers a hint of science fiction.

“The reason I chose this is because I wanted a way to juxtapose the two characters and highlight that while there are many similarities between the teenage experience then and now, the increased use of tech and the surgence of social media has made life as a teen now much more complex,” Hodgson said, noting having the two characters become friends highlights those complexities. “Having them 20 years apart also illustrates how much has evolved in such a short period of time. Twenty years is not that long, but the changes have been rapid and have had sweeping and damaging repercussions on kids.”

Although Chasing Through Time is Hodgson’s first novel, she has loved writing since childhood but stopped writing for pleasure in University because life got busy. It wasn’t until a couple of years ago, when the story came to her, that she got back to actively writing. Hodgson started working on the novel in October  2022 and finished writing and editing it in January.

Although categorized as YA, Hodgson views her novel as aimed at two target audiences. 

“While it is a Young Adult novel and my main audience is teenagers, primarily girls aged 14 and up, it also connects with parents as they can relate to the other protagonist and can get a better understanding of what teachers are seeing,” Hodgson said. 

She hopes the book will spark meaningful and authentic conversations between teens and parents about the complexities of growing up in a digital age.

Readers can find more information on the author and her book at www.tarahodgson.ca.

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