Awkward In The Media

Asheville Teen Author Pens Book on Surviving Middle School

“A is for awkward. I’ll admit it, middle school is an awkward time for everybody, but that’s ok. [It is] a time to try new things, learn from your mistakes, meet new people, have fun, and embrace that awkwardness. Enjoy every minutes and don’t take it for granted,” opens Aryelle Jacobsen’s illustrated book, “A is For Awkward: A Guide to Surviving Middle School.”

A graduating senior at A.C. Reynolds High School, Jacobsen drew on personal experiences from middle school, ranging from bullying to suicide prevention, to collaborate with peers and create a relatable and relevant guide to not only survive, but thrive, in middle school.

“The sixth grade was a difficult time for me,” said Jacobsen, “I was a bundle of hormones surrounded by new people. I felt claustrophobic, uncomfortable – insecure in who I was, and I broke a little bit. I felt like I had no meaning or purpose, and only through talking to friends did I realize that we all had this shared feeling. It was from that, that I decided I couldn’t leave this time and place without helping others in some way.”

What started as a collaborative art project with friends morphed into a Gold Award Project with the Girl Scouts of America, and a full fledged publication intended to generate positive self image, community, health relationships, and resiliency at an age when youth are arguably at their most vulnerable – early to late adolescence.

“I asked friends of mine – even those without any artistic skills – to help provide artwork and illustrations for each letter and lesson in the book. The illustrations make the material relatable, and let readers know it’s ok to not be perfect,” said Jacobsen. “I then started to speak to my pediatrician, guidance counselors, and family friends and the book just grew from there.”

The book, itself, alphabetizes the complications of adolescence and how to deal with them with each page featuring a specific concept — “B is for Brave” or “D is for Drama”— and correlating advice related to the topic, all of which are written over top of original art by local teens. Topics range from understanding puberty, to the importance of kindness or the idea that grades don’t define a youth’s personal value.

The publication’s real-world advice, encouragement, and resources have been so successful that Jacobsen is now partnering with local schools to create and distribute teaching guides with resources for teachers to adopt the approach in the classroom.

“Currently I’m working with our school’s literacy coach to create a twelve step guide that has 3-4 lesson plans for each topic that address things like puberty, eating disorders, suicide awareness and prevention, and bullying,” said Jacobsen. “[The model] is meant to be peer- to- peer so that kids can interact and empower each other by talking about these difficult things that they’re all experiencing together, and working through them with mindful awareness and genuine communication.”

With the lessons provided in “A is for Awkward”, Jacobsen helps to demonstrate to youth that they are able to change, and provides them with the resources to make positive changes both in their own life and in the lives of their peers and others.

Recently recognized by the Buncombe County Board of Education, and nominated for a National Young Woman of Distinction Award, for her work, Jacobsen will be presenting and discussing “A is for Awkward” at Malaprops in downtown Asheville on Monday, Jan. 29, 2018 from 6-7 p.m.

WLOS - ABC Asheville

ASHEVILLE, N.C. (WLOS) — Aryelle Jacobsen, about to begin her senior year at A.C. Reynolds High School, is now a published author. Her book, "A is for Awkward" is to help kids make that often tough transition from elementary school to middle school.

"My mind was changing. My body was changing. My friends were changing. So, I had a really difficult time when I was entering sixth grade," Jacobsen said.

The marching band member wants other kids to know they are not alone.

"A is for Awkward" is a small, easy-to-read A, B, C book, with a positive message assigned to each letter of the alphabet. Jacobsen credited her friends for giving her ideas and doing all the book's artwork.

Psychiatrist, publisher and family friend Dr. Steven Buser published Jacobsen's book. Buser said it offers a different type of help than most of his books.

"It's not some expert who has a Ph.D. in child psychology who is writing about how they ought to feel as a teenager. It's about a teenager and her friends, who are also teenagers, writing about their very recent experience of middle school," Buser said.

Reynolds High School Principal Doris Sellers said she plans to keep copies of "A is for Awkward" in her office, hoping it will help her current, as well as future, students.

"It may have been written and designed for the middle school years, but I still think it has such an encouraging message and such a positive message, that it would be very appropriate for high schools. They would enjoy it," Sellers said.

Jacobsen hopes to have a copy of her book in every middle school in the U.S. Right now, "A is for Awkward" is available at Amazon, Malaprops and Barnes & Noble.

"A is for Awkward" - A Girl Scout Gold Award project turned published book.

Aryelle Jacobsen is the "I" in G.I.R.L. in every sense. An innovator. Creator. Maker. Visionary. Collaborator. Outside-the-box thinker. Solution finder.

So when it came time to begin her Gold Award journey, Aryelle thought back on her own middle school experiences. She remembers the move from elementary to middle school as a chaotic time- where she was trying to find good friends and activities while at the same time battling typical teenage anxieties and fears. She often turned to artwork as a way to express her feelings.
With encouragement from her mom and the push to earn her Girl Scout Gold Award, Aryelle decided to take her drawings and the advice she had been writing down to the next level. She recruited some of her friends to help with additional artwork, began putting her thoughts together in simple and relatable words and gathered resources on topics from bullying and special needs to eating disorders and depression. From there her book, A is for Awkward- a Guide to Surviving Middle School, was born.
"I wanted to give kids a friendly resource they could use- one that lets them know it's ok to feel alone or awkward as a teen," she said. "I also wanted them to realize they have so many good resources around them- adults and friends that love them. This message of love and encouragement is what I want kids to know."
Along with her book, Aryelle created 12 lesson plans that middle schools can implement into their curriculum. Written with her high school literacy coach, the plans are divided into three groups- Interactive, Creative Projects and Independent- and two Asheville middle schools have already incorporated the materials into their classrooms.
With further promotion of her book and working to speak to teachers and guidance counselors through continuing education opportunities, Aryelle hopes to see her book used in middle schools across the country. She also hopes to turn her lesson plans into requirements for a future Girl Scout patch. 
"Instead of putting each other down, we can help build each other up. That's what this project has been all about- youth empowerment," she said. "As part of a Girl Scout troop, I have also felt so empowered. Girl Scouts has really helped unite us together. Gaining independence, courage, confidence, everything Girl Scouts stands for, has truly been an awesome experience.
Aryelle is a senior at AC Reynolds High School in Asheville and is the daughter of Tristan and Doral Jacobsen. She began her Girl Scout journey as a Daisy and is currently a Girl Scout Ambassador in Girl Scout Troop 30077. She is also one of GSCP2P's council nominees for the 2017 Young Women of Distinction Award, an award presented by Girl Scouts of the USA every year to 10 young women from across the nation in recognition of their Girl Scout Gold Award projects.

Local Author In Haw Creek

Our neighbor, Reynolds High School student and band member Aryelle Jacobsen, has written and published a book about being in middle school called A is for Awkward, which is getting considerable notice in our community and beyond. The book is a guide to surviving middle school and intends to help struggling preteens who are experiencing the changes which come with entering the sixth grade to weather those changes with less anxiety. Aryelle hopes that by reading this book, these youths will know that they are not alone in experiencing the awkwardness of growing into adulthood.

Aryelle JacobsenWLOS did a segment discussing the value of this book in August where Doris Sellers, principal of Reynolds H.S., said that she would keep copies of the book in her office for her high school students because is so encouraging. Our local sweet shop, Ultimate Ice Cream (where Aryelle works) named a favor after the book: “I is for Ice cream” and recently hosted a book signing. Aryelle herself got support and encouragement from her peers along with a foreword by Olson Huff, a well-known pediatrician in Asheville. The book is now available on Amazon as well as locally in Barnes & Noble and Malaprops. The book will be available in a teachers addition soon and Aryelle has is creating a business plan to launch workshop series available to school systems and is working with local school to pilot key concepts. For more information, check out the website

Aryelle lives across the street from Bulman field on Redwing Lane with her mom Doral, Dad Tristan, brother Cayden and dogs Trina and Carlos. She was born in Asheville and played softball for many years across the street from her home. She will be attending college next year and plans to someday open a school. Maybe even in Western North Carolina!

Buncombe Country Schools Communications Department

Ever wish middle school came with a field guide? A.C. Reynolds High School junior Aryelle Jacobsen has you covered.

Her book, “A is for Awkward,” alphabetizes the complications of adolescence and how to deal with them.

“This is a book on how to survive it and gain the best experience,” she said. “It’s all about developing confidence.”

Each page features a concept – like “B is for Brave” or “T is for Time Management” – advice related to the topic and original art by local teens.

Aryelle Jacobsen - Author

“It’s written by teens for teens,” Jacobsen said. “It doesn’t have a lot of complicated language. It’s personable and relatable.” She is writing a curriculum to accompany the book to make it easier for educators to use it and interact with students.

“I could have really used this book in middle school,” she said. “Kids’ confidence levels are made or broken at that age, and that influences the decisions they make. It’s a really crucial time in a kid’s life.”

Jacobsen hopes the book will encourage younger students and help them develop an attitude of optimism and gratitude. She tested curriculum ideas at Cane Creek Middle School earlier this year, and
she’s working with some of her teachers on lesson plans.

“She has excellent, engaging strategies to get children interested in the book,” said Laura Mayer, an instructional coach at A.C. Reynolds. “Middle schoolers are drawn to it, and I think it’s really helpful for them.”

Jacobsen also used the book for her Girl Scout Gold Award project, and she has been nominated for a National Young Women of Distinction award, a Girl Scout title that recognizes outstanding 10 Gold Award projects that address national or international needs.

“This project has really helped me to learn about what I love personally and what I can pursue as a career path,” she said. “I have a passion for helping people.”

Jacobsen said her book should be published sometime this summer. After her senior year, she plans to study public health in college and work on more programs to boost teen confidence.

An Awkward Team In Action

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Recent Endorsements

  • I am so proud of the students of AC Reynolds High School who wrote and illustrated this book designed specifically for middle school students as they live through adolescence. Often, during this age, students experience issues of bullying and social adjustments that they are unsure of how to deal with to have an emotionally healthy teenage life.

    – Doris Sellers is principal at A.C. Reynolds High School in Asheville, North Carolina, and a 2017 Wells Fargo NC Principal of the Year Finalist for the Western region

  • Aryelle shares her positive outlook on life by sharing some practical advice and blending it with a wonderful collection of original artwork. This is a great resource for preteens, their parents, teachers, and other caregivers

    – Gerri L. Mattson, MD, MSPH, FAAP, is a Pediatric Medical Consultant with the NC Division of Public Health, Children and Youth Branch, North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services.

  • The message of encouragement is positive, creative, and relevant. It is directed toward being proactive as a young teen to prepare to face the issues before they actually experience some of the more difficult times of these awkward years of transition. My appreciation and thanks to our students for having the compassion and insight to create this wonderful book.

    – Doris Sellers is principal at A.C. Reynolds High School in Asheville, North Carolina, and a 2017 Wells Fargo NC Principal of the Year Finalist for the Western region

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