HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: Memo: To Myself When I Have a Teenage Kid
Author: Carol Synder
Publisher: Berkley Publishing Group, republished in 1988
ISBN-13: 978-0698205888 (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 069820588X (Hardcover)
ISBN-13: 978-0425099674 (Paperback)
ISBN-10: 0425099679 (Paperback)
Language level: 3
(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: Ages 13 and up
Rating: *** 3 stars (FAIR)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Synder, Carol. Memo: To Myself When I Have a Teenage Kid (published in 1983 by Coward-McCann Inc., 200 Madison Ave., New York City, NY 10016; republished in 1986 by Pacer Books for Young Adults, an imprint of Berkley Books, a division of the Berkley Publishing Group, 200 Madison Ave., New York City, NY 10016). Thirteen year old Karen Berman lives with her dad, an inventor; her mom, a writer; her two younger sisters, eleven year old Beth and Kindergarten age Jill; and her pet parakeet Bruno. Her best friends at Madison School are Allison and Scott, but she is secretly in love with Peter Raskin. She wants to ask him to the Sadie Hawkins Winter Switch Dance but has trouble working up the courage to do so. At home, there are always little problems with parents and siblings, so Karen writes, “MEMO: To myself when I have a teenage kid. It will not have a sister two years younger, and I will never forget what it feels like to be thirteen.”
Karen’s mother gives her the diary that she wrote when she was thirteen to help Karen understand both her mother and herself better. However, right before the dance, Karen gets in trouble at school for throwing a snowball that someone claims hit an old man, Mr. Alexandrov, and knocked him down, so the dance is cancelled. Will everyone blame Karen? Can she ever find the courage to let Peter know how she feels? What will happen? There is a good story here that makes several beneficial points, but there are also a few problems that some parents would want to know about. In addition to common euphemisms like “heck” and “darn,” one girl at school named Dana not only smokes but nearly every time she opens her mouth utters the “d” word. It is later learned that this girl has a learning disability. A couple of other references to “cursing” are mentioned as though everyone does it so it’s no big deal. Karen herself says, “God knows what reason,” in a rather casual way.
I suppose that some authors of books for young adults feel that they must include such things to make their stories sound “realistic” and “relevant” to today’s kids. Also, the book has thirteen year olds involved in wearing makeup and playing spin the bottle, post office, and other kissing games, and one kissing scene occurs. And the whole plot revolves around a dance, all of which characterize the typical public school experience. Worldly people may not have a whole lot of problems with these things, but godly parents who feel that society is pushing sexualization onto children far too early may not care for all the “boy-girl” emphasis. The plot would be much more appealing to girls than boys, but I would still suggest it more for older than younger teens. From a positive standpoint, the good lessons include learning to understand and respect parents, not judging others too harshly before knowing all their circumstances, and showing concern for the needs of others. I just wish that the language were better.