Cardyn Brooks reviews two great reads for young adults
Teen Trailblazers: 30 Fearless Girls Who Changed the World Before They Were 20 by Jennifer Calvert, illustrated by Vesna Asanovic
Castle Point Books, an imprint of St. Martin’s Press October 2018
Teen and YA non-fiction
This sampler of biographic synopses for thirty inspiring young people starts with a brief introduction that includes this jarring line, “We’re lucky today: most women have the freedom and confidence to move in any direction we like.” It seems to require qualifiers related to socioeconomic status, ethnicity, and nationality. Fortunately, the contexts of sociopolitical and geographic circumstances are vaguely acknowledged toward the end of the introduction, which eased some of my concerns about the present-day relevancy of the content.
Arranged in chronological order by date of birth from the first century B.C. to the year 2000 with quotes from other (older female and male) trailblazers scattered throughout the text, Teen Trailblazers documents the bumpy evolution of ideas about feminine power. It also debunks every ignorant statement ever used to limit access to education, resources, and opportunities for girls and women. Scientists, inventors, political activists, journalists, entrepreneurs, artists, authors, philanthropists, environmentalists, humanitarians, athletes… Every category of human industry and concern is represented by girls and young women who have in the past and are currently expanding the boundaries of what’s possible.
Recent news-worthy influencers Emma Gonzalez, Maya Penn, and Jazz Jennings conclude this biographical teaser before Teen Trailblazers ends with interesting tidbits about the author and the illustrator.
The full-color illustrations pop with a vibrant opacity and the blunt forms of paper-doll construction as inspired by Matisse. They catch the eye and enhance enjoyment of text that is conversational in tone and accessible (with age-appropriate redactions) for young listeners and independent readers from elementary school to adult.
Just As You Are by Michelle Skeen and Kelly Skeen
New Harbinger Instant Help Books July 2018
Teen & YA self-help
At a time when the statistics regarding teens and mental health are trending toward higher rates of mental health imbalances, Just As You Are is a practical manual filled with proactive strategies for coping with life’s daily challenges. This mother-daughter team of authors addresses each sample scenario across a range of perspectives from generational, professional to lay person, and observational to personal points of view.
The dedication “To all teens who have ever felt different, unworthy, defective or flawed” succinctly encapsulates what it means to be human, regardless of age.
Arranged to generate a cumulative strategic momentum, each of the eight chapters examines a specific obstacle that prevents or inhibits individuals from fostering compassion, mindfulness, self-awareness, and self-observation as reflexive responses.
Use of second-person direct address supports a sense of emotional intimacy and trust between the authors and the readers. The establishment of the context of the book as a safe space is deepened with the sharing of experiences from teens about their private struggles connected to a specific theme, like feeling the need to hide certain aspects of themselves that they believe are inadequate or subject to ridicule. Their revelations end with a related journaling exercise.
Each section ends with “Try This!” exercises that build on each other from chapter to chapter. There’s also a chapter summary from Kelly in which she shares her own personal struggles and effective coping strategies before Michelle integrates all of the elements previously discussed into a “Putting It All Together” conclusion.
Just As You Are offers accessible steps to identify the source of negative thoughts that lead to negative beliefs, to override the fight, flight or freeze compulsion in situations that are not life-threatening, to recognize the differences between conscious choices versus subconscious reactions, and to understand emotions in the context of brain science.
Just As You Are discusses prescription medications, talk therapy, attitude adjustments, and physical activities as equally valid and valuable tools for preserving, reclaiming, and maintaining balanced mental health.
“Gratitude is a natural antidepressant.” [Page 98] “Physical activities, in addition to being a distraction, provide endorphins, which are a natural pain reliever and an antidepressant.” [Page 126] These two passages exemplify Dr. Skeen’s integrated approach to mental well-being.
The text ends with brief chapter overviews and additional references. Although this practical guide is for teens and young adults, seasoned adults who care about young people should find some helpful tips for recognising warning signs and for engaging in meaningful conversations with teens and young adults. Plus, the suggested self-evaluation and coping strategies are relevant for humans of all ages.
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