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OK for teens wanting a quick-reference tool...
on December 7, 2005
In When Nothing Matters Anymore, Bev Cobain offers a teen-friendly reference guide to adolescent depression, complete with self-help suggestions, counseling resources, and case studies of teens who sought help for their illness and now lead "normal" adolescent lives. Cobain is a credentialed author: a certified registered nurse, a mental health professional, and a recipient of the National Mental Health Association's Green Ribbon Award for efforts on behalf of teen depression awareness; however, the book reads like Cliff's Notes of a more comprehensive text - as if Cobain simply compiled the bullet-point lists, sidebars, and quick-reference statistics from an American Psychiatric Association web listing for teen depression. When Nothing Matters Anymore relies little on Cobain's personal observations and extensive experience, and too much on peppy, inspirational messages from its case study teens.
The book is structured in two parts: What's Wrong? and Getting Help and Staying Well. What's Wrong? is primarily diagnostic, providing a checklist for the reader to determine whether he or she is depressed, explaining the varieties and causes of depression, and outlining the correlations between depression and chronic illness, sexual abuse, sexual identity, drug use and addiction, eating disorders, and "perceived differences" from peers. Getting Help and Staying Well highlights treatment options, suggests ways to seek help from family or trusted adults, and lists self-help activities for readers undergoing treatment. Both sections include "Survival Tips" that a health professional might suggest to any teen: Get Exercise, Have Fun, Eat Good Food, etc. There are some practical suggestions, like journaling and creating mood charts, and there is a chapter dedicated to the important topic of teen suicide, but the book as a whole rarely digs below the surface of the illness and underestimates its audience's desire (and perhaps ability?) to understand depression more fully.
One aspect of the book that seems borderline inappropriate is Cobain's ad nauseam referencing of her cousin Kurt, the popular lead singer of grunge band Nirvana, whose suicide shocked the MTV youth culture in 1994. Perhaps this approach is an effective way of securing "street cred" amongst teen readers, but this hook feels opportunistic at times, particularly in "A Letter to Kurt Cobain," a three-page, sappy, metaphor-heavy eulogy in which Cobain rues that Kurt's handlers wouldn't give her the access that could have prevented his suicide. I understand the intent is to show the readers that she cared for someone they cared about and saw the beauty of his music and the tragedy of his death as they did, but to a non-teen reader, it rings hollow. Had Cobain been close with Kurt, a reader might not bawk at this inclusion, but she mentions that she did not know Kurt "personally," a fact that makes the multiple, casual mentions feel like name-dropping.