Book Review, "Boy Crazy!"
Full title: Boy Crazy! Keeping Your Daughter's Feet on the Ground When Her Head is in the Clouds
Written by: Charlene Giannetti & Margaret Sagarese
Review By: Nancy Brown, Ph.D
As a developmental psychologist who thinks that teenagers are wonderful, creative, and powerful, I knew I was in trouble within the first few pages of this book. Any time puberty is described as a deficit or an oncoming hurricane with emotional turbulence and romantic tornadoes, I tend to run for cover. Once the authors said that a girl's tween years are tinged by the pursuit of true love, I was sure this was going to be a long book, and it was.
The authors' goal seems to be helping parents create a pattern of communication that would allow us to deliver what they call "romantic intelligence," which is a noble goal (helping girls avoid self-defeating romances). However, I would never have believed that anyone would think the tender ages of 10 to 12 were the right years to do that.
I was traveling with six young teens while reading this book. And I just kept looking at them, trying to find the girls the authors describe: viciously competitive girls whose major goal in life is to achieve the highest social status possible; girls who victimize their peers with mean-spirited remarks or subtle put downs; and sneaky, scheming girls whose parents are trying to teach them how to avoid unhealthy relationships. Instead, when looking at the teens that I was with, I saw nice, loving, caring girls. In other words, the girls who the authors describe as getting used, abused, and snubbed by the socially elite girls.
It never fit for me. The authors seem to normalize this abusive friendship style while telling us how to protect our daughters from abusive romantic relationships instead of giving parents tips on how to strengthen families and support systems around tweens, so that they are self-assured, confident, and part of a group that protects them and encourages them to treat everyone as they wish to be treated.
The authors talk about the impact of Web sites that show college males pursuing a life plan focused on drinking and sex, but they never question what preteens are doing with access to those Web sites and how parents can monitor their children's Internet use.
Another mixed message was that the authors stated that during middle school nearly all young adolescents hit the wall academically and school mattered less. This statement was made after they said that instead of caring about algebra and Spanish classes, "love lessons" should matter more to tweens.
OK, it was not all bad – the authors encouraged parents to talk to teens and did quote research that reported that asking questions about a child's friends, activities, and school work resulted in kids who drank less often, delayed sexual activity, and experienced less depression. They also discussed the support needed by gay, lesbian, bisexual, or questioning youth and how dangerous the Internet can be – as well as the sad fact that we are teaching our daughters to be dissatisfied with their bodies. However, the positive "take home messages" were sometimes hard to find.
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Reviewed by: Adolescent Interest Group
Last reviewed: August 2013