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Our Last Best Shot: Guiding Our Children Through Early Adolescence Hardcover – June 19, 2000
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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.
Top customer reviews
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. We hear so much about the effects of divorce, teenage pregnancy, learning disabilities, overcrowded schools, alcohol and drugs, guns and violence, AIDS, and all the rest. It's refreshing to hear a sensible, rational voice that says, "Stop. Wait. Most teens are great kids, and we can help them become even better."
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.
Amazingly, this book was as enjoyable to read as a novel. I found myself staying up late at night to keep reading it. I think that any parent who reads this book will be rewarded with a calmer attitude toward their tween/teen and more confidence as a parent.