This past week I read a book recommended to me by one of my teenage patients. “You said laughter is good for you,” he said, “Well, it’s hilarious!” This comes from a person who told me that my advice to read funny stories because it helps improve your mood is the best advice I’ve ever given.
Ben Philippe’s The Field Guide to the North American Teenager tells the story of Norris Kaplan, a Canadian teenager, after he moves with his mother to Austin, Texas. Characterized as a “field guide”, each chapter starts with a description of the individual or topic in the style of a guide. For example:
“Jocks and Cheerleaders
Identifying Characteristics: Muscular, rarely spotted without a water bottle, athleisure wear.
Habitat: The jock table, football stadium or other athletic field, keg parties.
Preening Habits: Extensive.
Mating Habits: Frequency of copulation typically overexaggerated.” (Page 22)
Like my patient said, this is a very funny book. While the plot is a common adolescent tale, Phillipe’s writing enhances this into something special. Since I spend all my days with adolescents, one of the elements I truly enjoyed was the variety of young people I met in this book. Each different character was ultimately portrayed so that their natural grace shone through.
This book was a reminder that the best part of my work is the people.
(Note: I read the 2019 Balzer and Bray edition of this book.)