Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The Adolescent Owner’s Manual by David Laing Dawson MD, reviewed by Jennifer Mook-Sang

Bridgeross Communications http://www.bridgeross.com/ , Dundas, Ontario, 156 quickly-read pages, $16.50 at chapters/indigo/coles

A writing friend recommended a thriller by David Laing Dawson.  He thought I’d enjoy this Dundas author who includes local colour in his stories.  I checked out Dawson at the Burlington Public Library and found a mystery that I put on hold (and thoroughly enjoyed).  But there was another of Dawson’s titles on the shelf—The Adolescent Owner’s Manual.  Not a work of fiction.  Curious, I also put this book on hold.  And am I glad I did. 

My own adolescent is nearly out of the woods, but as I read Dawson’s book, I laughed with glee each time I recognized someone I knew in the anecdotes he recounted.  I felt truly that Dawson must’ve hidden himself away in our family home and was retelling my life, only with a huge helping of humour to ease the pain.  Not only did he seem to understand what my two teen boys were like, but he also seemed intimate with the workings of my friends’ relationships with their daughters.

The author explains what I have long suspected, that, “Boys, when they turn about 15 or 16, become stupid.  Girls, when they turn 13 or 14 become evil.”  I appreciated his honest and attainable mandate for dealing with adolescents, which is, “Your goal should be to get your adolescent child into adulthood, alive, healthy, preferably educated and skilled, without a major drug problem or criminal record or pregnancy.  Anything more is icing and a pleasure to behold.”  And all this while competing for their attention with a world full of cell phones, iPods, computers, and televisions.

The former chief of psychiatry at Hamilton Psyciatric Hospital, Dawson’s credentials are impressive.  But it’s the dry wit that coats his instructions which makes this book immensely readable.  He doesn’t accuse, belittle, or coddle the parents to whom he directs his wisdom.  He leaves one with the idea that, “I can do this.  Perhaps I can survive the next 1, 3, 7 years with my child.”  And he acknowledges that there are those teens who may need something more than parental guidance and intervention.  For these he offers specific advice. 

My only criticism of this book is that it ends rather abruptly.  I would have liked more of a wrap-up than the brief paragraph on with the book finishes.  The best part is that this manual will reassure most parents that their children are not aliens and are actually developing quite normally.  As a general guide to living with your adolescent in today’s world, I’d highly recommend this book. 

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Jennifer Mook-Sang lives in Burlington and is always looking for a quirky read. She is the owner of one adolescent and one who managed to survive her care into "grown-uphood." Now she hearing from the older one exactly what went on during that high school band trip. She has decided to tell the younger to keep his stories to himself.

See Brian Henry's schedule here, including creative writing courses and writing workshops in Kingston, Peterborough, Toronto, Mississauga, Brampton, Georgetown, Oakville, Burlinton, St. Catharines, Hamilton, Dundas, Kitchener, Guelph, London, Woodstock, Orangeville, Newmarket, Barrie, Gravenhurst, Sudbury, Muskoka, Peel, Halton, the GTA, Ontario, and beyond.

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