|________________ CM . . .
. Volume VIII Number 3 . . . . October 5, 2001
I don't think there is one moment when you realize, This is it, this is who I am, what has happened to me is going to change my life forever. Instead there are a series of life-altering moments, beginning when you are born and ending when you die, and a great many of these seem to occur in your teenage years.In the "Introduction," the editor, Susan Musgrave, states, "In this book, seven writers look at pivotal moments in their teenage years - an event or series of events that forever changed their lives." The contributors of these autobiographical chapters are all previously published authors, and each brings her distinctive and readable style to the content of the individual tales they relate about "surviving" adolescence. A concluding two page "About the Authors" section provides very brief biographical information about them.
In "After the Flood," Melanie Little shares the decision she made regarding dropping out of competitive figure skating, an activity that had required her parents to make great financial sacrifices over the years, and the choice's aftereffects which included Melanie's developing an eating disorder, engaging in binge drinking and being gang raped while drunk. Carellin Brooks "Fourteen Turns" describes her experience of being a foster child in a "nice" upper-middle class home in which her "respectable" foster father declared that he wanted "to be the one to whom I lost my virginity." Carellin's response was to become an odd delinquent, one who was involved in drugs, alcohol and shoplifting while still being a good student. Eventually, safety is found in her grandmother's home. For Marnie Woodrow of "Will You Kiss Me?" what is was to be a "girl" was all clearly spelled out in the pages of Cosmo, but she found that she wanted to kiss her best friend, Andrea, and not, as the pages of the magazine taught, boys. Being part of a disintegrating family is what Madeleine Thien shares in "Home," while Marion Quednau's "Nerves Out Loud" takes the form of an extended letter written to a teacher who unknowingly had a most positive impact on Marion's life. As in the book's opening story, Karen Rivers deals with an extended eating disorder in "The Skinny One." Finally, Susan Musgrave's "Going Crazy, Wanna Come?" follows Susan's life through the acid-filled days of the late Sixties, a suicide attempt and her being committed to a psych ward where a visiting poet made the diagnosis: "'You're not mad,' he said. 'You're a poet.'"
Unfortunately, faint-at-heart selectors will likely run from this splendid title for its authors have all done "bad" things. Sadly, such unnecessarily cautious adult behaviour will deny today's teen girls the opportunity to meet the seven "girls" whose true and non-preachy stories contradict the adolescent egocentric claims that "no one has ever experienced what I'm experiencing" and "no one has ever felt what I am feeling!" Best of all, each of these in-print girls, now women, is more than just a survivor of her experience. Parents and teachers would also be well served by spending reflective time with Nerves Out Loud. Hopefully, the publication of this book will spark the production of a companion piece focusing on teen males.
Dave Jenkinson teaches courses in YA literature in the Faculty of Education, University of Manitoba.
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