Changes - A self-help book for adolescents.
Grade 6 - 9 / Ages 11 - 14.
"It was Friday night and I was cruising with my friends. I was in the front with Mack who was driving. We had had a few beers, maybe a few too many.
We had called it a night and were driving back to my house. I was talking to Leo, who was in the back seat. I never saw a thing. Leo yelled, "Watch out!" I heard the squeal from the tires trying to stop. Then I felt myself being lifted out of my seat. My head crashed into the windshield. That's all I can remember.
When I opened my eyes, I realized I could not move my head."
Changes is a book of short stories that are written to help adolescents deal with contemporary issues they face. This collection of stories is a very good tool in the hands of teachers working with adolescents, or students who are engaged in peer counselling or group discussions.
Each story is preceded with a thought-provoking quotation from world-famous individuals, and followed by thought-provoking questions or exercises. The stories are written to appeal to both boys and girls. Vincenzi uses different styles of writing, including science fiction and romance. Many are written in the first person. Each one deals with the problems that adolescents today face, from peer pressure to lack of motivation, conflict, dating, self-esteem, pregnancy, etc. Most of the stories represent both sides of the coin - a young person who has confidence and is succeeding, and another who lacks self-esteem and is headed nowhere. "The Future Starts Now" shows what happens when a boy doesn't use the opportunities he has before him, and ends up in a dead-end life. A time machine gives him the chance to make amends, and life is much happier when he tries hard and adopts a positive outlook. In "Acceptance" a young girl who allows herself to fall into verbally abusive relationships with boys realizes from discussions with her friend that she is not worthless, and that boys will like her if she expresses opinions and stands up for what she thinks. The stories honestly present the whole range of emotions that teenagers deal with, and acknowledge that even when a teen determines to change the direction of his or her life, change does not come easily or quickly.
The book is designed to be used in the order the stories are presented. With a teacher's direction these stories can be very helpful to open up discussion about teens' concerns. "The Survey Says" are the results taken from an actual survey of middle school students. The 14 skills surveyed represent typical concerns of middle school students, such as how to be friendly, how to accept criticism without becoming angry or ashamed, how to be responsible, how to be independent for your age, and how to be self-confident. The chapter offers suggestions to master each skill. The exercises following each of the stories refer back to the applicable skills, ask the reader to determine with which character he or she identifies, and assign a writing project for the reader to offer solutions to the character's problem.
Used as instructed, Changes can be an excellent resource for teachers to open up discussion with their students about these difficult issues. Hopefully, by opening the doors to discussion, adolescents will be more able deal with their inner conflicts and societal problems, or seek help if needed.
Harriet Zaidman is a Winnipeg teacher/librarian.
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Copyright © 1996 the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
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