Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Book Review: My Teenage Werewolf

This book warranted more than the sentence or three that I give the other books I've read.  That's partly because of my strong reaction to it, and partly because of the strong reactions I got from my teenage daughter and another teenage girl who was visiting and saw it on the coffee table.

Both of them were offended by the title:  My Teenage Werewolf.  And when they found out the premise of the book, they were no less offended.  Author Lauren Kessler wants to "understand" her 12-year-old daughter better, so she shadows the girl at school, summer camp, at the mall, and on athletic fields.

My daughter was horrified--and relieved to discover that I had no intentions of similarly invading her life.  Even if there was a book deal involved.  Perhaps especially if there was a book deal involved.  (A lot never gets said here, because my daughter is 15, and I need to respect her privacy.)

I read the book because I wanted to find out how this mom managed to "embed" herself in her daughter's academic and athletic world.  How did she talk a school principal into allowing her to follow her daughter around all day?  And if she spent her day following her daughter around, how did she get anything else done? (There was frequent mention of lattes in the book, so I'm guessing copious amounts of caffeine were involved.)

I'm the first to admit that I don't have the ideal relationship with my teenage daughter.  We butt heads a lot.  Sometimes it's hard to remember that I'm the adult here, and that part of being 15 is being irrational, mercurial, and even selfish at times.  But part of being 15 is also being industrious, generous and energetic--all of which she is, and often in surprising ways.

Teenagers are on their way to growing up, and they are trying to make their way in a challenging world.  While I agree that it's a good thing--actually, a necessary thing--for parents to be involved and engaged in their kids' lives, I know that as teenagers learn to do more and be more, parents need to step back and let that happen.  Within reason, of course.  There's less hand-holding and more listening, often for things that are not said.  I felt that Kessler was busy trying to relive her own teenage years through her daughter, and that's never a good idea.  Other times I felt that Kessler was using her daughter as a means to an end (see "book deal" above.)  That's not a good idea either.

I'm not looking for the "ultimate bonding experience" with my daughter.  Sometimes I'll settle for enjoying our mutual favorite Panera sandwich, Asiago bagel with veggie cream cheese, with her.

Disclaimer:  This is a completely uncompensated review. I borrowed the book from the library.

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