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Book Review

"Not Much Just Chillin'" by Linda Perlstein
Review by Laura Ramirez

Middle school is a confusing time. No longer children, yet barely young adults, middle schoolers are an enigma to themselves, their teachers and their parents. How can a parent guide their child through this challenging time?

After spending a year immersed in the world of middle school kids, award-winning journalist, Linda Perlstein, has some answers. Perlstein takes us on a journey into the hearts and minds of five suburban Maryland middle school kids, who will remind you of your own children and give you insights into their closely-guarded lives.

"Not Much Just Chillin'" is not your typical book on parenting. Initially, I was a bit put-off by its docu-drama style. A few paragraphs later, I understood the reason behind Perlstein's design. By getting the parent to identify with the details of the preteens' lives and then presenting the research findings, Perlstein gives us tools to reach our children. As parents, our most resourceful tool may be the depths of our compassion.

"Not Much Just Chillin'" is an expose of adolescent angst, push-pull feelings about growing up, and preteen confusion about burgeoning sexuality and gender roles. Although this is a time when most teens push away parents to carve out their own identities, it is a time in life when teenagers need their parents most.

"Not Much Just Chillin'" is a significant work. Never before has a book given us such an "in" into the lives of middle school children. Although we were all once in middle school, those angst-ridden preteen years are a time of life that most of us would rather forget. Maybe denial is one reason many parents give up on their children during this time. Compounding this is the sadness and confusion that parents often feel when they realize that they have been shut out of their children's lives. With the help of this book, parents will put their children's behavior in perspective and gain insight into how best to navigate the road ahead.

Although the book offers compelling insights into the lives of middle school children, it does get bogged down in trivial details. Keep reading, though--the real-life examples will illustrate how to give your middle school child what is needed in the moment--whether it is guidance, tough-love, a nudge toward responsibility or the willingness to be a silent witness, ready at a moment's notice to offer a helping hand.

Rating: Highly recommended
Audience: Parents, teachers, principals and counselors of middle schoolers. Also recommended for parents of preteens and 5th and 6th graders. Read it now to prepare you for the road ahead.
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Price: $24.95 Hardcover

Book Recommendations:
Uncommon Sense for Parents with Teenagers Dr. Mike Riera
The Sex Lives of Teenagers: Revealing the Secret World of Adolescent Boys and Girls (Plume, $13). Dr. Lynn Ponton
Positive Discipline for Teenagers by Lynn Lott and Jane Nelsen. Prima Press 2000.
How to Talk with Teens about Love, Relationships, and S-E-X: A Guide for Parents by Charles and Amy Miron. Free Spirit 2002.
8 Simple Rules for Dating my Teenage Daughter, and Other Tips From a Beleaguered Father (Not That Any of Them Work) by W. Bruce Cameron. Workman Publishing Company, Inc. 2001
It's Perfectly Normal: Changing Bodies, Growing Up, Sex & Sexual Health, by Robie H. Harris, Candlewick Press, 1994. Aimed at pre-teens and teens, this well-illustrated text discusses puberty and sex with humor and compassion.

The "What's Happening to My Body?" Book for Boys: A Growing Up Guide for Parents and Sons (1987), by Lynda Madaras with Dane Saavedra; and The "What's Happening to My Body?" Book for Girls: A Growing Up Guide for Parents and Daughters (1987), by Lynda Madaras and Area Madaras, Newmarket Press. Both books give a reassuring presentation of puberty and sex.
Keep Talking-Conversation Starters for the Family Meal. Barbara Z. Carlson, co-author of Putting Family First-Successful Strategies for Reclaiming Family Life in a Hurry-Up World. Over 250 questions will have the entire family thinking, talking, listening and laughing around the table. $12.95

Teen Sexual Issues Related Books and References

Changing Bodies, Changing Lives: A Book...
by Ruth Bell

Coping With Teenage Motherhood (Coping)
by Carolyn Simpson

Our Bodies, Ourselves for the New...
by The Boston Women's Health Book Collective

Young, Poor, and Pregnant: The...
by Judith S. Musick

Sex Smart: 501 Reasons to Hold Off on Sex
by Susan Browning Pogany

The Underground Guide to Teenage...
by Michael Brasso

What's Happening to My Body? Book for Boys ...
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What's Happening to My Body? Book for Girls ...
by Linda Madaras

Readings in Tween and Teen Sexuality

by Bartle, Nathalie. Venus in Blue Jeans: Why Mothers and Daughters Need To Talk About Sex (Houghton Mifflin, 1998)

Blake, Jeanne. Words Can Work: When Talking About Sexual Health

Elkind, David. Reinventing Childhood (1998)

Eyre, Richard & Linda. How to Talk to Your Child About Sex (1998)

Gabriel, H. Paul. Anticipating Adolescence: How to Cope With Your Child's Emotional Upheaval and Forge a New Relationship (Henry Holt: 1999)

Gordon, Sol. How Can You Tell If You're Really In Love?

Gordon, Sol. Raising a Child Responsibly in a Sexually Permissive World

Gurian, Michael. A Fine Young Man: What Parents, Mentors, and EducatorsCan Do to Shape Adolescent Boys in Exceptional Men (J.P. Tarcher, 1999)

Haffner, Debra. From Diapers to Dating: A Parent's Guide to Raising Sexually Healthy Children (New Market Press: 1999)

Johnson, Toni. Understanding Your Child's Sexual Behavior: What's Natural and Healthy (New Harbinger: 1999)

Laasar, Mark. Talking To Your Kids About Sex (1999)

Leight, Lynn. Raising Sexually Healthy Children (Avon Books, 1991)

Lickona, Tom & Judy. Sex, Love, and You - Making the Right Decision (Ave Maria Press, 2003)

O'Malley, Wm. Young People . . . and You Know What:Eroding the New Paganism (Resurrection Press Ltd, 1993)

Roffman, Deborah. Sex & Sensibility - A Parent's Guide To Talking Sense About Sex (2000)

Woody, Jane. How Can We Talk About That? (2002)

Books to Use With 8-10 Year Olds

Audry, Andrew & Schep, Stephen. How Babies Are Made (Little Brown & Company, 1969)

Mayle, Peter. Where Did I Come From? (Lyle Stuart, 2000)


Blake, Jeanne. Raising Healthy Kids. Families Talk About Sexual Health.

Roseman, Lennie. If You Can Talk to Your Kids About Sex, You Can Talk to Them About Anything (East West Media)

Roseman, Lennie. How to Talk to Kids About Sex, Love, and Responsibility

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