Wildhood: The Epic Journey from Adolescence to Adulthood in Humans and Other Animals is a delightful exploration of adolescent animals of all kinds, including penguins, wolves, hyenas, whales, birds, and humans. The authors, a biology professor and a science journalist, show how teenagers of all species learn to feed themselves, navigate hierarchies, stay safe, and find a mate. (Curiously, they discuss feeding themselves last!) They are able to knit together stories of completely different animals into a satisfying whole and convincingly present key elements of the life of teenagers and young adults: risk taking (even in rodents, who are eaten by owls mostly as adolescents), quick learning from others’ bad consequences of risky behavior (rather than their parents, seen as too old, and too staid), anxiety (shelter dogs who are attacked as adolescent are likely never to shed their fear-based aggressive tendencies), privilege (yes, even with scrub jays, who inherit their territories from their parents), and, my favorite, the ability to sometimes overcome privilege deficits through deft social navigation (by a young hyena, in the book).
They also introduce two wonderful words, which really should exist in English: mamihlapinatapai, the awkward longing of a young would-be mate, and zugungruhe, or migration anxiety. A great science book that reads like a novel.
Speak No Evil is the story of a friendship between a white, rather spoiled girl and a black, gay boy that will turn deadly. It raises all kinds of interesting themes but only one manages to develop into a nuanced story: the reaction of the boy’s father, a Nigerian immigrant, to the unacceptable homosexuality of his son. For the rest, the book oscillates between the ridiculous (teenagers at their posh private school assuming that they will all go to Princeton or Harvard) and the tragically overdone
seems like exploiting the black lives matter movement
The Driest Season opens with the heroine, fifteen-year old Cielle, finding her father hanged in their barn, a suicide. What follows is a strained funeral, serious concerns about the financial survival of the family, and boyfriend troubles and college decisions for her and her older sister. The story starts on a strong note, with a swirl of necessarily concealed emotions and a small cast of characters with deep ties, but slowly seems to fade away with a rather humdrum ending. Relish the first half!
Good Me, Bad Me is a chilling thriller, even more chilling because written by a mental-health nurse, that tells the story of the teenaged daughter of a serial killer, who reported her mother to the police and is temporarily sheltered by her therapists’s family (which seems to be a very bad idea to begin with!) She is bullied in her new school, and she will want some revenge, somehow. I guarantee you will keep reading!
I’m going to say that Thing We Have In Common is a mystery, since it contains a crime, and a serious one, the disappearance of a teenager, but the focus is on one of her classmates, a fat, friendless, and bullied classmate who is fascinated by the popular girl and convinced that a mysterious man is watching her and may bring her harm. The action is mostly in the girl’s mind, with short interactions with her mother and stepfather — and eventually the police. The peculiar logic of teenagers is perfectly captured, all the way to the disturbing, unsettled ending.
History of Wolves stars a wise-beyond her years teenager living with her ex-hippy parents and often parenting them rather than the other way around. When a new family moves in by the lake where she lives, she becomes their babysitter, and eventually the helpless witness to the death of their little boy. The story captures perfectly the cruel world of high schoolers who routinely reject whoever does not quite fit in, the claustrophobic lifestyle of the newcomers, and the lost word of her parents. It meanders a bit at times but the relationships between the little boy and the babysitter and between the babysitter and the mother illuminate it.
His Bloody Project describes itself as a historical thriller, but one that is entirely made up — a good thing, since the author wisely avoids exposing dry trial transcripts and instead devotes most of the book to a supposed autobiography of the killer, a teenager who likely could not have written the text. The autobiography is interspersed with testimony from his neighbors, his lawyer, and a criminal psychologist who views the accused as a member of an inferior race and treats him accordingly as subhuman. Along the way we discover the tough life of sharecroppers in Scotland in the late 19th century (no wonder so many Scots emigrated to find better lives elsewhere) and the suffocating nature of village living. We will never know exactly what happened, and that’s a good thing.