Book review: You – The Owner’s Manual for Teens

Posted on September 19, 2011 
Filed Under Anita, Book Review, The Star

By Anita Matthews
Published in ParenThots, The Star, Sept 19, 2011

A Guide to a Healthy Body and Happy Life
By Michael F Roizen, MD; Mehmet C Oz, MD; and Ellen Rome, MD
Publisher: Free Press

I had reservations when the editor emailed a snapshot of the book cover to check out. What do two men who found fame largely through talk show host Oprah Winfrey’s largesse know about teenagers? Furthermore, the third author’s name – a woman’s – was half the font size compared to the men. All the more reason to pick up the book and find out what the two men had to say about happy and healthy teenagers.

Nice bits

The book is large with decent-sized fonts and double spaced lines. It was easy on the eyes. The chapters are divided into sections that matter most to teenagers: Skin, sex, sleep, stress and more. The book discusses the biological changes in teenagers and how that affects the way they think when armpit hair, breasts, pimples and erections physically manifest on their young frames. That the information is presented simply without the typical jargon found in textbooks earned You a big plus on my list of good reads.

What I love most is the artwork that shows how different parts of the body function and the consequence of illness or ill care towards oneself. My favourite artworks are those that depict the way the brain behaves, the arrival of zits and what happens to your heart and lungs when you are stressed. The artwork is cute and strangely enough, reminds me of Desperate Dan of the Beano comic fame. You get it at a glance.

Each chapter ends with a question and answer section on what the authors consider essential “stuff-teens-need-to-know” and a tip sheet of fantastic five steps to success.

The authors do not talk down the teens but try their best to use “teen speak” which works some of the time. They have even included a line from famed hip hop group Black Eyed Peas. On other occasions, the tone comes across as trying too hard to fit in. Some jokes fall flat and are not the kind the teens would find hip or hilarious.

And the teens thought it was …

The authors also tend to focus on superficial bits such as looking good and did not spend enough time on the importance of teenagers cultivating their emotional and spiritual quotient. The section on feelings and emotion is thin, at best. This is ironic considering the teen years are among the most tumultuous periods of a person’s life. Personally, the absence of real substance in this area was sorely felt as I am currently dealing with teens wearing their raging hormones 24/7. Unpredictable behaviour and mood swings are the order of my day.

However, I asked both my teens to read the book to get their feedback. My daughter scoffed. My son, who also scoffed, deigned to pick up the book for a quick read. He later told me that teens are not going to race to read the book because “no teenagers are going to read about themselves from a book.”

Anyway, he generously offered his opinion. He thought some of the information presented was “lame” and not consistent to what he had heard from his friends. But this could be due to the book’s American context. He liked the graphics too and found them easy to understand. He also liked the section on illness caused by poor dietary habits and wished it were more comprehensive. Most of all he enjoyed the section on exercises and recipes and he agreed it would appeal to teenagers. From his feedback, I safely assume that unless a teen has intent, the book won’t hold a candle to peer feedback.

Last word

Still the book does serve some purpose, at least in reminding parents what teenagers go through and how parents can monitor and mentor their physical, emotional and mental growth.

You was based on an earlier effort by Roizen and Oz titled You – The Owner’s Manual which was aimed at teaching adults the inner workings of their bodies. Roizen and Oz found that many teenagers were using the first book as a reference. This prompted the writing of the teenager’s version. For that they roped Rome to contribute her insights.

However, I felt that Rome should have been given a larger role in this book as a check on her background showed she is the authority on children and teenagers. Neither anaesthesiologist Dr Roizen nor cardio surgeon Dr Oz are experts in paediatric medicine.

The book merely scratched the surface of issues surrounding the teenager’s growing up years when it could have done more. Perhaps we may see that in the next edition.


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