Archive for the ‘teens’ Tag

Parenting Gone Awry   Leave a comment

Imperfect Birds

Anne Lamott’s Imperfect Birds is either a wake-up call or a near-miss experience for parents and their kids. Either way, it’s a disheartening look at teenagers, parenting, and community. The first paragraph sets the tone: “… a teenager died nearly every year after a party and kids routinely went from high school to psych wards, halfway houses, or jail.” The first thing I’d do is move, no matter how idyllic the little town, where the story’s set, with its appealing proximity to San Francisco.

Lamott writes with purpose, honesty and humor. Yet her characters are not likeable. Rosie is an entitled high school senior, facing real and difficult situations where peer pressure, availability of drugs, and opportunities for sex are abundant. Elizabeth and James, Rosie’s mother and stepfather, know these dangers exist, but are reluctant to parent. Why should they? Rosie’s a good student and involved at church. Plus, as a consummate liar she successfully overrides her parents’ arbitrary concerns.

It doesn’t help that Elizabeth is a recovering alcoholic – except it should. She shouldn’t be such an easy mark. James doesn’t fare much better, although he tries. Elizabeth’s fault is her desire to be Rosie’s friend first and parent second. The book does lend itself to a discussion about parenting.

If Lamott’s goal is to show how blind loving parents can be, she’s successful. When Elizabeth and James finally see the light, it’s not through their personal epiphanies, rather from Rosie forgetting to keep the wool over her own eyes.

Imperfect Birds
Three Bookmarks
Riverhead Books, 2010
317 pages

Stopping is Not the Same as an Ending   2 comments


Hazel, the insightful narrator of John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars, is a 17-year-old who’s fought cancer most of her life. While talking about another book, she could just as easily be talking about this one: “But it’s not a cancer book, because cancer books suck.” Green has written much more than that, and it comes nowhere close to sucking.

This is about living with the knowledge of death’s inevitability loitering closer than it does for most, especially the young. Hazel meets Augustus at a cancer survivor’s support group. Eyes meeting across a semi-circle of young adults in varying degrees of bad health may not sound romantic, yet it’s the beginning of a beautiful relationship between two young adults who teeter alarmingly near to death’s grasp.

Hazel is an endearing character: intelligent, witty and aware of what she has in life, versus what she might be missing. She does not want to be defined by her diagnosis. Although Augustus might be a little too good to be true, he is fun and expands Hazel’s world.

Through a shared passion for the book that is “not a cancer book,” which simply stops with no real ending, the pair find a way to look toward the future. They want to know what happens. Yes, this may be a metaphor for their lives, but it’s far less dismal than that.

A few plot twists help overshadow the novel’s predictability. The story’s beauty is based not on what’s lost, but is grounded on what’s gained.

The Fault in Our Stars
Four Bookmarks
Dutton Books, 2012
313 pages