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Our Last Best Shot: Guiding Our Children Through Early Adolescence Hardcover – June 19, 2000


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Riverhead Hardcover; First Edition edition (June 19, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1573221600
  • ISBN-13: 978-1573221603
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.1 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,116,555 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

If you're someone who opens a book to read the last chapter first, you won't be disappointed by what you find in Our Last Best Shot: Guiding Our Children Through Early Adolescence. The final chapter, "Some Concluding Thoughts," offers sharp insights into the early adolescent years. "Early adolescence is partly about loss," writes author Laura Sessions Stepp. "Parents lose their children's unquestioning adoration; kids lose their innocence, and sometimes their faith in adults." She adds observations on a wide variety of topics--communication, respect, responsibility, and the influence of other adults--that can be used as a road map for parents trying to help their children navigate these years with success.

If you're looking for a book based solely on academic research and written by an expert, this one may not satisfy. However, Sessions Stepp, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist for the Washington Post, uses her keen observation and interviewing skills to uncover the world of today's young adolescents. After two years of conducting numerous in-depth interviews and extensive research into current developmental theory, she seamlessly combines the two in a book that is both engaging and authoritative. One of the most important points Stepp makes is in regard to the rapidity of growth--emotional, physical, and intellectual--that young adolescents undergo. She writes of recent research, "I was fascinated to be told that adolescence is a time of growth and change rivaling infancy in its speed and accomplishments." This relatively recent revelation gives an urgency to her argument that adolescence is "our last best shot" at helping kids grow into successful adults. Considering the value and likeability of this often overlooked age group, Stepp's wisdom and insights will benefit anyone who cares about and works with young adolescents. Our Last Best Shot is an opportunity to look at today's teens in a new light and see futures filled with hope and possibility. --Virginia Smyth

From Publishers Weekly

In the recent tradition of Reviving Ophelia and Raising Cain, Stepp offers an extraordinary look into the lives of children aged 10-15, with a bounty of commonsense advice on how to ensure that they blossom and thrive during the crucial prelude to adulthood. Stepp, a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter for the Washington Post, presents 12 case studies of actual boys and girls, along with their families, friends and teachers, with whom she lived over the course of a year. Coming from a variety of backgroundsAincluding urban Los Angeles, Durham, N.C., and the small farming community of Ulysses, Kans.Athese children are all trying to figure out answers to such questions as: "What kind of person am I?"; "What am I learning?"; "How do I fit in with friends?"; and "How can I create distance from adults yet remain connected to them?" Drawing on unlimited access to these somewhat troubled yet likeable kids, Stepp writes of their lives with remarkable understanding and compassion, vividly reporting on, for example, Chip's marijuana deal, Jack's joy in single-handedly constructing a birdhouse when left alone one day and Libby's frank conversation about oral sex with her girlfriends at the mall. These encounters illustrate the many valuable lessons Stepp offers parents: give kids responsibility, be aware of their friends, give them space, manage your fears, stay engaged. Agent, ICM. (July)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

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Amazingly, this book was as enjoyable to read as a novel.
Austin Family
Anyone that works with or has middle school age children must read this book.
Norseman
The book really helped me understand the way an adolescent mind works.
Jennie

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

49 of 49 people found the following review helpful By Lorin Buck on June 23, 2000
Format: Hardcover
This book is a must-read for parents of children approaching adolescence and for those in the throws of it, as well as teachers, grandparents, clergy, and others who come in contact with kids ages 10 to 15. By sharing her thoughtful, well-researched insights, Laura Sessions Stepp is able to help demystify what is often a difficult passage for both parents and teens.
As the mother of three boys, 12, 15, and 17, I found this book enormously reassuring. By talking intimately with young teens and their families and friends, Ms. Stepp found that despite the pressures and challenges to succeed, fit in, and experiment with independence, teens still want what they've always wanted: to be loved and accepted while they discover who they are. As a corollary to this, Ms. Stepp assures parents that the role they play is still crucial even as it changes, that their relationship with their teens is all-important even as it transforms.
We all know "it takes a village," but often we're not sure exactly what that means. At the end of each part of her book, Ms. Stepp lists several things "As Parents We Can..." do to encourage our teens in their growth and development, and involve other positive role models in their lives. These tips are distilled from the chapters that precede them, chapters that illustrate WHY it's important to act on this guidance.
"Our Last Best Shot" gracefully blends true-life stories with documented scientific research to give us a better understanding of all the influences at work in a teen's mind, from hormones to peer pressure. We get a detailed picture of the young teen that rivals all we know about infancy.
The writing is clear, frank, and best of all, positive.
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31 of 31 people found the following review helpful By sootica on April 16, 2001
Format: Hardcover
When my children were babies and toddlers, I found overwhelming amounts of information about their needs and care-- magazines, books, TV shows. Now that they are 15 and 9, I can't find much worth reading to help me with their needs. I found that this book was very helpful. The author interviewed many teenagers and profiled 12 of them in this book. The book is an interesting glimpse into their lives, and the lives of their families, and the unique problems they each face. Although this is not a "self-help" book, with prescriptions for how to solve the problems parents face, the final chapter summarizes the author's findings from the interviews and gives advice to parents. This summary should be copied and posted where every parent of a teenager will see it frequently because it's a very complete summary of things that teenagers need from their parents.
I am also starting to work my way through the books listed in the bibliography. It appears to be a great resource for further reading about adolescents.
Finally, I wanted to explain the reason I awarded only 4 stars. I felt that the book focussed too much on teenagers who have some kind of "problem": poverty, drugs, neglect, etc. Although the book was useful for all parents of older children and teens, I think it would have been better for me if there had been a few more middle-class kids who are doing well in school in the book. That's the kind of kids that I am dealing with, and they still have problems. I suspect that's the kind of kid a lot of... customers are raising too.
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Norseman on July 12, 2000
Format: Hardcover
As the crisis counselor in a public high school and middle school I found this book to share great insights as to what works and what doesn't with this age group. It is presented in laymans terms and easily captures the readers interest. There is so little written information on pre-adolescents and the battles they face. I'd love to see a follow up on the kids the author profiled in about 10 years. Anyone that works with or has middle school age children must read this book.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 16, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I am neither a parent nor a teacher, but I found this well-written, insightful book eye-opening.I bought it as a "suggested reading" gift for the parents of a young girl I have been mentoring, but could not put it down after reading the introduction! Ms. Stepp's intermingling of real life examples with research from the experts revealed so many things that a non-parent can do to change the world by helping children navigate early adolescence. Her inclusion of African American children among her subjects, and her sensitive treatment of the special problems their lives present brought her book home for me.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Eileen M. Klees on June 25, 2002
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I felt like I was reading "MY Last Best Shot" as I read through this book. I have three sons, ages 10, 12, & 13, and this book was lent to me by my middle son's teacher. I liked it so much I bought my own copy. Every chapter opened my eyes to something else I didn't know about or have not been doing with my sons. I strongly recommend this book to anyone with children near or at the pre-teen age level, particularly parents who find most parenting books boring, patronizing or unrealistic.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By David E. Levine on April 8, 2001
Format: Hardcover
The author extensively interviewed and spent massive amounts of time with each of 12 middle schoolers and early high schoolers in LA. Durham, NC, and a small town in Kansas. We get deeply into the lives of these youngsters and their families. We share everything from their triumphs to their getting into very serious trouble (one was suspended from school for a year for bringing an unloaded gun to school). What we learn is that this age group is one in which kids start to assert some independence and both teachers and parents have to give up some control. Stepp puts it well .. we must let kids climb the mountain but still retain enough control to keep them away from the edge of the cliff. Kids this age must believe that we are listening to them and care about what they have to say. Kids need good role models including adults other than their parents. This age group is so crucial to a child's development. The need for more independence is so important yet the dangers of serious mistakes is ever present. What I like about this book is that Stepp makes her observations and offers insights and comments without inserting an excessive amount of ideology. Msny books of this genre have political agendas, both feminist and conservative, This book steers clear of such agendi. This book is important reading for both parents and teachers. I recommend it.
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