Express Yourself by Emily Roberts

This was a book I chose to sit and read with my 12 year old on a long trip recently. We’d read and discussed the examples from the book and then talked to see if we could find parallels in her life. She then used the strategies in the book to see if she could solve issues she had with others at school using that advice. While there is some fantastic advice that she found useful, I also had some reservations on some areas.

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The heart of the book is encouraging girls to be the directors of their own life. As such, a lot of the examples use that cinema metaphor for dealing with life’s difficulties. It’s a good approach but admittedly my daughter isn’t really into movies and so a lot of the references went over her head or weren’t relevant. Everything from writing your script to directing actors (a teen’s friends). The emphasis is on stopping and really thinking about the situation – and to put oneself in the others’ shoes to keep conflicts from escalating.

What I didn’t like is that the author pretty much says to not trust any one – not friends (who are “continually making bad decisions = so how can you trust them?”) or parents (“your parents may think they understand, but life was different for them – so any advice they give you could be a bit outdated”). Then, a bit later, “Sure, you’ve seen more movies or heard how others have said they’ve handled these things before, but that’s them, not you.”  I don’t know that an alienating approach has to be used in order to teach girls to be independent and confident. I’d rather see a balance of knowing when to handle a situation on her own and when getting advice from peers/adults might provide more insight. The book scarily seems to be pushing an “it’s me vs everyone!” attitude that I found disturbing.

That said, there are great examples of actual situations that were very useful. Although at the 12 year old end, my daughter was a bit young for the book, I do feel that older teens can read the book on their own and get a lot out of it. Personally, I do find it useful to create a non invasive/intrusive dialogue around the examples to let my daughter verbally reason out how to handle the difficult situations.

As with most psychology oriented books in the last five years, the focus is on CBT (cognitive behavior therapy) and being aware of one’s actions. This is especially true for teens, who perform their most dangerous and damaging actions because they don’t think things through. But the book is written to teens and is a fairly quick and easy read.

Naturally, in the age of helicopter parenting, teen girls especially need help developing their independence and confidence. With the reservations above, this book accomplishes that. Reviewed from an advance reader copy provided by the publisher.

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