Being a teenager isn't easy. With various social minefields, clothing styles that change by the minute and academic stresses, each day seems fraught with danger: Is that boy going to be nice to me? Am I good enough to make the team? Should I give in to peer pressure about drugs and alcohol? Am I too fat? It's a wonder any kid makes it through these years.
Enter two new books for adolescents, For Teens Only: Quotes, Notes and Advice You Can Use by Carol Weston (HarperCollins, $8.99, 384 pages, ISBN 006000214X) and No Body's Perfect: Stories by Teens About Body Image, Self-Acceptance, and the Search for Identity by Kimberly Kirberger. Both these titles provide invaluable advice to young people on how to survive and flourish during the difficult coming-of-age years.
Carol Weston, author of Girltalk and the Melanie Martin books, talks directly to teens with advice straight from her heart and mind. Each short essay in her new book starts with a quotation. With wise words from notables like Pablo Casals, e.e. cummings and Wallace Shawn, along with up-to-date advice from such successful female role models as Jennifer Aniston and Alicia Keys, Weston's breezy book offers advice that young adults may actually take to heart. Never didactic, always comforting, Weston writes in a just-chatting-with-you-on-paper style, and she knows her audience. A grown-up with valid advice, she's more like a fun aunt or older cousin than a mom or a teacher.
One of the book's most provocative pieces begins with a quotation from Lisa Kudrow: "This is who I am. Not everybody has to like it." What follows is Weston's direct style at its best. "You don't have to like everybody. Not everybody will like you. And that's okay. . . . When people are not friendly, let that be their problem, not yours. Focus on the people who are your friends. And on pleasing yourself." Hear, hear!At the beginning and end of this appealing book are a few pages of inspiring quotations. I know many teens who keep journals of meaningful lines they hear in music and read in poems and books. This volume will be a treasure trove for them. In her new book No Body's Perfect, Kimberly Kirberger, author of Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul and Teen Love: On Relationships, A Book for Teenagers, has compiled a variety of poems, essays and stories by teenagers that address issues surrounding body image, food and self-acceptance. Though the stories vary in length and quality, they are heartfelt, moving and, in some instances, devastating. No problem escapes the insightful reflection of these young, mostly female, writers. Difficult topics like anorexia, bulimia, drug addiction and alcohol abuse are discussed with unflinching honesty. The raw scabs of young adulthood are exposed here, but Kirberger also offers hope between the covers of her book. There are chapters brightly titled "Give Yourself a Break" and "Stay True to Yourself" and "Ask for Support." Young people who are recovering from the ravages of adolescent choices write some of the hopeful pieces; others are simply the words of supportive friends who care about their suffering peers and offer encouraging words. Many read like journal entries complete with the horror and angst of new pain and the joy of self-discovery and healing. Kirberger has also created a fill-in-the-blank journal to accompany her new book. The No Body's Perfect Journal (Scholastic, $8.95, 384 pages, ISBN 0439426391) offers exercises in self-reflection along with writing activities all perfect opportunities for young readers to stop, ruminate and record their feelings about peer pressure, body image and conformity. These new books are the perfect way to open up sensitive discussions about how to deal with the everyday stresses of being a teen. Leave them on the bedside or coffee table for your youngster to find, and they're sure to discover words of wisdom on negotiating the bewildering road to adulthood.