HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: Start Talking: A Girl’s Guide for You and Your Mom about Health, Sex, or Whatever [An Inside Look at the Details Even She Doesn’t Know!”]
Authors: Mary Jo Rapini and Janine Sherman
Cover Illustrator: Buffy Espersen
Publisher: Bayou Publishing, 2008
Language level: 1
(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)
Reading level: For teenage girls, perhaps 10 and above, and their moms
Rating: 4 stars (GOOD)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Rapini, Mary Jo, and Sherman, Janine. Start Talking: A Girl’s Guide for You and Your Mom about Health, Sex, or Whatever [An Inside Look at the Details Even She Doesn’t Know!] (published in 2008 by Bayou Publishing, 2425 Nottingham, Houston, TX 77005). I am perhaps not the best person to review a book about health, hygiene, and sex instruction for teenage girls because first I am a guy and second I have only sons. However, it was sent to me, and I agreed to review it, so here are my thoughts. The authors cite some startling statistics which indicate how important it is for parents, and especially mothers, to talk with their daughters about these matters. “Recent studies repeatedly demonstrate that the average adolescent has sexual intercourse for the first time at 15 years of age” (p. 89). “Recent studies have indicated that 88% of people have premarital sex” (p. 118). Yet, as the Introduction points out, daughters are commonly reluctant to approach their mothers for advice due to fear of punishment or embarrassment, and mothers often hesitate to engage their daughters in health-related dialogue because they feel shy, inadequate, or poorly informed.
Thus, the authors state, “The goal of this book is to empower mothers and daughters with accurate and comprehensive knowledge so that they can have the open, relaxed, and informative conversations about sex and female health that every young woman needs and deserves” (p. 14). There are chapters on menstruation, routine health care, sexually transmitted diseases, sexuality and relationships, birth control, body image, and developing one’s passions. As I read through Start Talking, which won both a Mom’s Choice Award and a Parenting Media Award, I found that it contains a lot of very useful, practical information. However, there are a few areas where some people may strongly disagree. For example, “As parents, abstinence until marriage sounds like a great idea for our daughters. Unfortunately, as a public policy, it has not proven particularly effective” (p. 13). I have seen numerous studies and surveys with copious statistics which reach an entirely different conclusion.
In the chapter on birth control, the authors do say, “The thought of abstinence is a wonderful one; we support it” (p. 117). Yet they also say, “If your child is thinking of having sex, it is reasonable to strongly encourage abstinence, but making it the forbidden fruit will not keep her from doing it….If you feel she is having sex or about to have sex, then—yes—equip her to be safe. Let her know you may not agree with her decision, but she and her safety are extremely important to you” (pp. 135-137). Based on deeply held religious convictions, some parents may simply not feel comfortable with this approach. Also, in discussing abortion as a form of “birth control,” the question, “How do I decide if I should terminate a pregnancy?”, is answered, “It is the woman’s choice, since she will have to ultimately live with whatever choice is made.” Of course, it is a woman’s choice, but, again, there are those with the deeply held religious belief that it is always a wrong choice. Obviously, a family’s religious views must be taken into consideration when making these kinds of decisions. As with any other work by human beings, one may utilize those suggestions which are applicable and reject those which are deemed inappropriate. But the main conclusion of the book is still quite valid. “The best steps to prevent sex before the age of eighteen [or we might add before marriage, WSW] involve good communication between you and your daughter” (p. 112).