I found this one sitting in my stacks and added it to one of my challenge lists with the thinking that I have a child racing towards the teen years so I should start reading along and preparing myself. After reading this book, I can see a good reason to follow the adage "Ignorance is bliss." Yowza! I am not ready for some of the challenges in this book. Will I be ready in a year? Probably not. But I don't think I get to stop the train now. My own personal state of panic aside, this was an interesting read. Very few of the writers focused on the really big issues you see in the news so frequently: drugs, alcohol, teen pregnancy, etc. Instead, they mostly confined themselves to the everyday irrationality of teenagers. They detailed frustrations, challenges, hormonal swings, and heartbreaks but the essays in here gave equal time to the overwhelming love the writers all felt (feel) for their teens, who amidst strife and chaos, are untying the apron strings and emerging from the chrysalis of childhood. I suspect that it's still hard to see exactly who the teens will be as adults, but these famous writer parents seem, for the most part, to be enjoying watching the transformation. The essays do run the gamit from humorous takes on the moodiness we all expect of teens to the pain of watching as your two oldest run away again. In the first essay, W. Bruce Cameron writes, "Congratulations! You are now the proud new owner of a teenage daughter. Please read this manual carefully, as it describes the maintenance of your new daughter and answers important questions about your warranty (which does NOT include the right to return the product to the factory for a full refund)." This essay stands in sharp contrast to Debra Gwartney's heartbreaking essay about her struggles with her daughters. Her essay details her attempt to change the situation after her daughters run away the first time but towards the end, she writes, "In the end, they had to go and keep going until they decided to return. I must have known that on some level, hard as it was to accept. When they left the second time, I didn't try to stop them."
Obviously, experiences with teenagers are as varied as the teenagers themselves and this book doesn't make any claims to be a parenting manual or even to dispense advice (except in the most flip and humorous of ways). It isn't designed to scare the pants off of parents (although some essays did have that effect on me) nor is it designed to fool them into a sense of complacency about the trials of living with teens (no chance of that!). It is merely an entertainment, filled with well-written and interesting essays about a time of life that no parent escapes. And on that level, it fulfills its purpose. As in most collections, there were essays I enjoyed far more than others. Some were better written than others. And as is often the case with specialized collections such as this, I'm not convinced of its universal appeal but for parents who can stomach reading about the teen years, this is a pretty decent choice. For my own part, after reading this, I have decided that "Dee Nile ain't just a river in Egypt, baby." If I ignore it hard enough, maybe I won't even notice the teen years as we plow through them here, right?!