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Courier Article by Maryann Mori
Sunday, February 11, 2007

Teens Demonstrate Courage in Variety of Ways

In today's society it often takes courage to be a teen and face the various pressures thrust at young adults by their peers and the media. The following coming-of-age stories present teens who demonstrate a high level of courage.

Planting Seeds edited by Nancy Kovanic and Girls in Bloom Book Committee.

Girls in Bloom is an organization committed to bringing attention to issues faced by today's teen girls, and this book, the committee's first, effectively does that job. Written and published locally, this collection of short stories was written for, about and by girls in Evansville.

Courage abounds in stories such as LaKaija's retelling of cyber-bullying's effects on her family, Jessica's account of becoming a mother at age 17, and Patty's realization that her own negative body image is affecting her daughter's views.

Other stories tell of women (mostly teens) who have had the courage to overcome disabilities, eating disorders and the need to conform to a media-driven definition of beauty.

Created as a "snapshot in time," this book "is a microscopic view of what is happening (to girls) in the Tri-State community."

Dude! Stories and Stuff for Boys edited by Sandy Asher and David L. Harrison.

As the title states, this book is a collection of short stories and plays for guys. Protagonists and supporting characters range in age from 7 to 16. The stories vary from humorous ones, such as the boy who courageously attempts to thwart head massagers from being demonstrated at the mall when he believes the massagers are tools used by aliens to take over the Earth, to serious ones, such as the preteen who must find the courage to deal with his half brother's suicide.

Since many of the stories are super-short, this book is a good title to offer reluctant readers.

The editors describe the book's characters as "boys on the verge of something great"-- just like the book's guy readers.

Sold by Patricia McCormick.

Lakshmi is only 13 years old when her financially struggling father sells her to work as a house servant for a stranger in another town. It takes courage for Lakshmi to travel from her humble rural home in Nepal to the overwhelming cities in India. But it requires even more courage when Lakshmi realizes the truth: She has been sold into prostitution.

Faced with abuse, shame and abandonment, Lakshmi survives the ordeal by relying on her own courage and her mother's reminder that "simply to endure is to triumph."

The author's thorough research and spare yet powerful writing makes this story one that stays with the reader long after the last page is finished.

Big Mouth & Ugly Girl by Joyce Carol Oates.

High school students Matt Donaghy and Ursula Riggs demonstrate courage when their unrelated lives suddenly cross. Matt's outspoken personality is transformed overnight when he becomes a community outcast and suspect in a police investigation of bomb threats. It takes courage for him just to walk the halls of his own school.

Ursula's introverted personality is challenged when she must choose between her parents' advice not to get involved with Matt's situation and her own knowledge of what really happened concerning the bomb threat.

Both students come to realize that speaking up when it means risking personal survival is often the toughest test of courage.

Opportunities are available at the library for courageous teens who want to take a step toward leadership. Members of the Teen Action Group (TAG) can plan and present programs, suggest library materials for teen collections and offer input about teen-related topics. Meetings are held monthly.

Maryann Mori is teen services librarian at Central Library. She can be reached at (812) 428-8229. The opinions expressed in this column are personal and do not reflect policies or official recommendations of the library.