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Bri Meets Books

Children's and YA literature reviews.

Category Archives: louder than words

My internet connection has been having problems – this is without images and posted later than I would’ve liked.

I’ve decided to write a collective review of the first three Louder than Words books, because each title is around 150-170 pages, and I feel this kind of review will cover them more thoroughly than three short reviews.

I’ve blogged about the series before, but here’s a quick refresher: It’s a collection of memoirs, consisting of blog entries, diary pages, poems, etc, of teens in their own words.

Chelsey by Chelsey Shannon:

When she was fourteen, Chelsey’s father, a cruise ship entertainer, was violently murdered. The teen had already experienced parental loss with the death of her mother, to Leukemia, when she was six. Orphaned, Chelsey channels her emotion and anger creatively with writing. Shouldered with the burden of continuing school in the midst of being uprooted from her home, wanting to remain where it’s safe and familiar, she comes to terms with the loss. Chelsey finds solace in words, and eventually applies to the writing program of a performing arts school.

Emily by Emily Smucker:

Emily’s plagued with dizziness, stomaches, and fevers lately. Eventually, she learns she has West Nile, and it’s incurable. Suddenly, all of her plans for senior year put on hold. Now even the simplest things like traveling and attending classes are a struggle. Despite her diagnosis, Emily tries to continue her life as normal, even as her friends go on with their lives, while she’s left behind. A Mennonite, Emily’s faith both gives her strength and makes her question God’s plan with her diagnosis, until she finds peace with her situation.

Marni by Marni Bates:

Marni’s father is basically a stranger, her parents are divorcing, and school’s anything but easy. Unable to cope with the stress surrounding her, Marni begins plucking her eyebrows. At first it’s just heeding her sister’s beauty advice, until the urge to pick extends to her eyelashes, then hair. Scared to confront her family with the truth, Marni confesses to a classmate her habit and is met with disgust. Finally, after a talk with her mother, Marni finds a name for his disorder: trichotillomania and learns she’s not alone.

Each of the books in the series has an editor’s touch (Smart Girls’s mastermind, Deborah Reber), but the final products still bear the teen’s words. There’s almost a sense of voyeurism here – as if we’re reading an online journal we’ve stumbled upon. Within each account of the girls’ ordeals, I got a real sense of the author’s personalities from their writing – from Emily’s quirky sense of humor with her wryly-named cane, John McCane, to her diatribe against pink jellybeans. In their respective books, Chelsey’s complex search for an appropriate religion, and Marni’s resilience despite an absent father and troubling stress disorder stand out. The stylistic choices among the three authors differ, also reflecting the girls’ personalities well. Chelsey describes her ordeal chronologically, while Marni and Emily favor a more free-writing approach, using flashbacks and random anecdotes.

While I enjoyed all three books, Marni really struck a chord with me with its account of Trichotillomania, as I had a coworker and classmate who was stricken with the disorder. Reading a first hand-account of “trich” let me see what she was going through, as her situation was similar to Marni’s.

There’s been a deluge of biographies for adults on the market, but little for teens. Before Louder Than Words, “real” accounts for teens were the anonoymously-penned Annie’s Diary or Go Ask Alice. Now with the introduction of Marni, Emily, and Chelsey, Louder Than Words offers true stories teens were able to relate to, and definitely fills a niche. In the back of each title, readers will find book club discussion questions providing talking points for teens and parents.

Copies for review provided by the publisher.

Release Date: August 2009
Publisher: HCI Teens
Format: Paperback


I have the above three titles to give away to one winner. Simply leave a comment on this post to enter. Contest begins August 12, 2009 and ends September 9, 2009.