Teenagers are From Mars, Pre-Teens are from Venus: Linda Wolverton, Star Wind (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1986).
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if you could blame adolescent tantrums on an alien mind sucking device?
Camden comes back from summer camp to find her best friend Mitch spouting slang and shuffling like a teenager. He persuades her to join the “Kidsters” A bunch of them hang out in the hippy town of Venice, with WT3 who gives them all IDs (your intials and the number of children in your family) and has them play a game in which they are transported elsewhere. The game centers on a little grey box.
Despite realising that the “elsewhere” is microinaturisation (the orange sea is inside a can of orangeade) Camden begins to fall in line, learning the slang that they use, The Words, a form of TrueSpeak which limits expression. She also gets tired and hostile to her parents.
Along with this Camden begins to forget words and also to dream of a Bronze planet in which the Teacher has stolen all the words and only a few die hards hold out.
After a fight with Mitch and the other kidsters, Camden is cast out (she is less absorbed than they are and more inclined to ask questions which is dismissed as “grownie” stuff). Cast out she starts reading again and discovers how many words she has lost. She solves this by reading the dictionary for weeks. Finally she has a dream in which the Teacher holds the same grey power unit as WT3 uses. She twigs, and goes back to rescue her friends, by following WT3 into the back room and using his light-tunnel to the bronze planet.
At this point (the last 20 pages) the book goes badly askew. The Teacher tries to defeat Camden by humiliating her with memories. But Camden defeats the teacher by wishing her ill , convincing her she is wrong (the Teacher can’t take that at all and “stomped her feet, whimpering” . and finally Camden tells her she gives teachers a bad name. It’s all very mystical and in the mind, which hasn’t been part of the structure at all up to now, but is very good for Camden’s self-esteem.
Camden liberates the prisoners and in the weakest line of the book, the imprisoned Professor tells Camden “you’ve got your own way home” and encourages her to dream her way back to reality, even tho this time she didn’t come in a dream.
Once home. Camden pours the words from the grey cube back into her friends and they all promptly go back to being nice, well behaved pre-teens again.
I think this book is intended for pre-teens (as is Anne Fine’s brilliant, Book of the Banshee,) who still feel hostile to the weird behaviour of their teen siblings.