Books for Teens: The Art of Getting Started At

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The Art of Getting Started At
Razorbill/Penguin Canada
age 13-18
By Laura Langston
288 pages

Synopsis from Razorbill:

Sixteen-year-old Sloane is given the biggest opportunity of her life—a chance for a film school scholarship—but she only has less than two weeks to produce a video. She also has to work with Isaac Alexander, an irresponsible charmer with whom she shares an uneasy history.

Then comes a horrifying discovery: Sloane finds a bald spot on her head. The pink patch, no bigger than a quarter, shouldn’t be there. Neither should the bald spots that follow. Horror gives way to devastation when Sloane is diagnosed with alopecia areata. The autoimmune disease has no cause, no cure and no definitive outcome. The spots might grow over tomorrow or they might be there for life. She could become completely bald. No one knows.

Determined to produce her video and keep her condition secret, Sloane finds herself turning into the kind of person she has always mocked: someone obsessed with their looks. She’s also forced to confront a painful truth: she is as judgmental as anyone else … but she saves the harshest judgments for herself.

I’m always looking for young adult books for my oldest daughter. The main character Sloane having a video go viral on YouTube caught my attention at first since my daughter follows a number of her favourite bloggers and vloggers on YouTube. Of course The Art of Getting Started At is so much more.

You might be thinking that a story dealing with an illness, albeit non-life threatening, wouldn’t be an entertaining read for young adults but The Art of Getting Started At focused more on Sloane’s reaction to her condition than the condition itself. Of course teen angst with the catty Bathroom Brigade, a loyal friend, and a “hot” film partner round out the teen experience. I loved that the main character, Sloane, is a strong female role model with a desire to follow her dream and focus on her talent and smarts over her appearance. She’s a character I would gladly accept as my daughter’s friend if Sloane was indeed a real person.

That’s all good but what really kept me reading was Sloane’s personal struggle of self after being diagnosed with alopecia.

Until I started losing my hair, I thought I was confident. More than confident…But it was false confidence. I was judging others and finding them wanting so I could cover my own fear of not measuring up.

Sloane’s struggle had me thinking. Many of us want our daughters to focus more on their brain, talent and inner beauty than how they look and it is easy to be in that position when everything is going well. I don’t know if I would have the same courage I currently have if something were to happen to change my appearance. Is that shallow? I don’t know but The Art of Getting Started At did a good job stirring these thoughts in my head. I think they’ll stir the same thoughts in my daughter’s head.

The Art of Getting Started At touches on a number of issues relevant to teens such as relationships with friends and family, character, pure pressure and wanting to fit in as well as dealing with divorce and mom versus step-mom. Dealing with a health issue requires support from those close to you. Sloane has to struggle with her mom being away and dealing with her step-mom Kim whom she believes hates her. Beyond a few choice obscenities other teen hot topics like alcohol, drugs, and sex aren’t in the book making it approachable to the tween reader.

You can find a copy of The Art of Getting Started At at your local bookstore or at Penguin Random House Canada. Visit our Kid’s Books section for other great book recommendations.

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