Navigating our modern world is tough enough as an adult, let alone as a teenager. In Am I the Only One? Treena Wynes, a social worker with fifteen years experience working with teens, sets out to create a quick and honest guide to the challenges, and possible solutions to the many, many problems teens these days face. This is a book written directly for teens, and even though a couple sections focus on giving advice to caregivers, the bulk of it is straightforward, simple, and perfect for anyone in the 13-18 bracket.
Wynes focuses primarily on healthy bodies and minds – discussing puberty, eating disorders, mental wellness, and emerging sexuality in a non-judgmental way. She encourages open communication, but also recognizes that many teens may not be able to talk to their parents, or that their parents might be the root of much of their stress, what with high expectations and pressure to conform. Wynes also touches on social media and how it can be a very positive source for friendship and belonging, but the dangers it can also present.
The parts on mental health, including eating disorders, were very well done, and as I said before, non-judgmental, which is very important. As someone who battled depression that went undiagnosed through about grades 6-10, and then finally got treatment when self-harm and increasing thoughts of suicide came into the mix, I know all too well the statistics Wynes quotes. “You can’t fix depression on your own.” Wynes has bolded in the center of the page, and that can not be more true. Touching on mental illness without stigmatizing it is so important for teens, and Wynes does a fantastic job of it.
The only things that I think could be improved in a later edition of “Am I the Only One?” are both MOGAI (Marginalized Orientations, Gender identities, And intersex) related. Although it is very true that during puberty and the teen years, the majority of teens go a little sex crazy, there are also those who realize they don’t, or very rarely, experience sexual attraction at all. Asexuals are even more marginalized than bisexuals (which I was very pleased to see Wynes recognize), and a line reassuring those who find themselves completely disinterested in sex that they are normal too would have been great. It also would have been nice to see a little more about gender identity itself, although there is a great line about your identity not being defined by your body parts. A little more direct equation with this and identifying as trans or nonbinary would also have been refreshing to see.
Wynes also uses some little case studies to demonstrate how other teens might be going through the exact same things, and how really, no one is ever alone, even if it feels like it sometimes. Overall this is a very good guide and I think it covers nearly all the capital ‘b’ Big issues that teens have to deal with in an educational and engaging way.
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