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Adult Books 4 Teens
Inside Adult Books 4 Teens

This Beautiful Life

Helen Schulman’s book, centered on a family torn apart by the teen son’s sexting scandal, was yesterday’s New York Times front page Sunday Book Review, accompanied by a Book Review Podcast in which Schulman discusses the book.

The Pew Internet & American Life project includes many, many data resources on teens, including a 2009 report on Teens and Sexting. Its summary (which alone is well worth reading) includes the following statistic: “4% of cell-owning teens ages 12-17 say they have sent sexually suggestive nude or nearly nude images or videos of themselves to someone else via text messaging, a practice also known as “sexting”; 15% say they have received such images of someone they know via text message.” Considering that nearly two years have gone by during which technology has only become easier to use and more widespread, it is not surprising that the topic is showing up in literature. Big Small Girl by Rachel DeWoskin (FSG, 2011), reviewed in May, is another excellent example.

SCHULMAN, Helen. This Beautiful Life. 240p. HarperCollins. Aug. 2011. Tr $24.99. ISBN 978-0-06-202438-1. LC number unavailable.  This Beautiful Life

Adult/High School–Liz Bergamot and her family traded up their lifestyle from laid-back Ithaca, NY, for the high-powered social scene of New York City. As her brilliant and handsome husband immerses himself in his work, and their children, Jake, 16, and Coco, 6, move seamlessly into their new lives, Liz is left to work hard trying to fit in with the new social circle of which she is now a part. All seems assured for the family until the day Jake receives a sexually explicit email from Daisy, the younger girl he spurned the night before at a party. Without thinking, he forwards it to a friend for his response. From there, the email goes viral and Jake is held responsible for the action. His family must now deal with the issue legally, morally and emotionally. This story deals with an important and timely topic. The emotional depth of the story is with Liz and the impact on her family and her new friends, but Jake’s response of alternating fear, shame, and uncertainty is also portrayed. Richard tries to straddle his high-stakes job with trying to just make it all go away. And while she is in the middle of the situation, Daisy is not a central character. It is only at the end, years later, that readers are granted a small glimpse of what it might have meant to her. The language is graphic and the emotions are raw, but they are within the context of the story. Recommend this to mature teens who like stories that show the complexity of families and their responses in times of crisis.– Connie Williams, Petaluma High School, CA

Angela Carstensen About Angela Carstensen

Angela Carstensen is Head Librarian and an Upper School Librarian at Convent of the Sacred Heart in New York City. Angela served on the Alex Awards committee for four years, chairing the 2008 committee, and chaired the first YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adult committee in 2009. Recently, she edited Outstanding Books for the College Bound: Titles and Programs for a New Generation (ALA Editions, 2011). Contact her via Twitter @AngeReads.