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My Girl: Adventures with a Teen in Training    by Karen Stabiner order for
My Girl
by Karen Stabiner
Order:  USA  Can
Little, Brown & Co., 2005 (2005)

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* *   Reviewed by Anise Hollingshead

My Girl is the story of one mother's relationship with her teenage daughter. Confronted with endless advice books that detail the supposedly inevitable horrors of teenage adolescence and what they do to the mother/daughter relationship, Karen Stabiner decided to write a book about her own experiences with her decidedly normal daughter. She rejected the idea that teen girls inevitably become neurotic and hateful people.

This saga begins with Sarah turning twelve, a year filled with changes for her and her mom. She is graduating from elementary school and will attend a new private school. The application process is similar to applying to colleges, so they are unsure if she will be at the same school as her friends. No worry, though, Sarah ends up getting accepted into her first choice, along with several friends. This is just one of the many changes coming, as Sarah moves into new friendships and activities. Karen's relationship with her daughter does suffer a few bumps here and there, but, as she suspected, none of the supposedly unavoidable teen traumas happen.

This is an entertaining look at teen girls, and their moms. The author is a writer whose own friends are vastly different from each other. We see how she takes their advice, observes their lives, and applies some of it to her own experience. It's comforting to relive our own endless agonizing over the little things we have to decide on for our children, and whether we're making the right decision or screwing up their lives forever, and see it all ending up the same way. Some of the things she worries about seem trivial, but they are real problems to her, and to many of us also at different times. However, we do want Karen to lighten up a little and not worry so much, or apologize to her daughter so often.

My Girl does debunk the myth that all teens are psychotic. Instead, it successfully presents anecdotal evidence that most teens are perfectly ordinary. True, Sarah's life is a little more privileged than most, and more stable than many, but most of her social problems with other girls cut across all classes. We do have to wonder what lies down the road past the age of fourteen (my youngest daughter just turned fifteen, and we're having our most interesting year yet), and also how this saga would have played out if Sarah had to share her home and parents with multiple siblings.

Despite the fact that this is a book about ordinary people living ordinary lives, with no riveting horror stories to enthrall or titillate, the prose is well-crafted and entertaining. And, it's a comforting book, in that we've all been there and done that, and it's fun to read about other people saying and doing the same silly things we've said and done. The author doesn't take herself too seriously, and her laid-back humor is present throughout the book, which makes a nice choice for afternoon reading.

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