OK, there's more to it than that.
If you are interested in a study of authentic teen voice, then read this book. It also happens to be hilarious, squirm-inducing, and utterly cutting while simulteneously being incredibly sweet.
My favorite character is the second Will, whose chapters (written by David Levithan, I believe) are written in entirely in lowercase. This Will is gay, isolated, and depressed. One Goodreads reviewer kindly described him as "such an a$$hole teenager," especially during the first few chapters. I think that pretty much nails it, which is why it's so cool that this character is entirely sympathetic.
I liked both Wills, but lowercase Will just grabbed me by the heart. As I read his chapters, I was really struck by how accurately the author portrayed lowercase Will's depression.
Depression in teens doesn't really look like depression in adults. Depressed teenagers are more irritable and hostile than depressed adults. Lowercase Will certainly is (though he goes through a couple life-changing events that soften him up a bit), and that was one of the things that made him authentic. It's so obvious he's miserable. But not come-comfort-me miserable. He's back-the-eff-up-and-leave-me-the-hell-alone miserable.
Unlike depressed adults, who tend to withdraw from nearly everyone in their lives, adolescents, including lowercase Will, are withdrawn from most people--but not all. For good or ill, there are certain relationships Lowercase Will closely clings to, even lives for.
These are the primary manifestations of his depression, and one of the by-products appears to be the life he lives online, which is also common in depressed teens. He is only half-present in his daily life, and seems to save nearly all his emotional energy for an online relationship. When this happens in real life, it often leads to even greater isolation from in-person peers.
LGBT adolescents are at higher risk for depression, suicide attempts, and completed suicides than their heterosexual counterparts. And gay and bisexual adolescent males? Ouch. They are extremely vulnerable--one study indicated that 28% had attempted suicide, compared to 4% of heterosexual adolescent males and 20% of lesbian/bisexual females. HOWEVER--the link between sexuality and suicide is MEDIATED by (this means the effect of sexuality essentially gets filtered through-->) things like depression, family factors, social relationships/bullying, and gender nonconformity (the guys who don't act stereotypically "guy-like" are more likely to get harrassed and bullied).
Lowercase Will's observations about his own depression are astute and brutal. He struggles with hopelessness and a bitter knowledge that he "will always be the blood and shit of things." But he still has a wit and spark, and a fragile desire to connect, to find his way.
And because I loved this character so much, I must include his thoughts on "mental health days":
i think the idea of a 'mental health day' is something completely invented by people who have no clue what it's like to have bad mental health. the idea that your mind can be aired out in twenty-four hours is kind of like saying heart disease can be cured if you eat the right breakfast cereal. mental health days only exist for people who have the luxury of saying 'i don't want to deal with things today' and then can take the whole day off, while the rest of us are stuck fighting the fights we always fight, with no one really caring one way or another, unless we choose to bring a gun to school or ruin the morning announcements with a suicide.Now--I asked these questions in another post, and I will ask them again because they are just as relevant here. How do you keep characters genuine and believable and relatable even when they're going through something that makes them miserable? Do you feel the temptation to soften them up to keep them sympathetic? Do you pull back from ugliness and anger because you worry you'll lose your reader? And when you read, what is it about a character that keeps you walking down that road, and turning those pages, with him/her? What makes you care about a character like this, and what puts you off?