Taking the teen challenge

Updated: Jun 24, 2019, 07:40 IST | Dalreen Ramos

A 16-year-old turns critic to review a new book that hopes to get teens to introspect on their ambitions, with activity boxes for motivation

Taking the teen challenge
The illustrations, according to Colaco, are just doodles and not impactful

Not many books start with a contract. But The Teenager's Guide to Life, The Universe and Being Awesome (Hachette India) does. Written by best-selling English author Andy Cope along with Jason Todd, Andy Whittaker and Darrell Woodman, the first couple of pages are a set of clauses. The first one reads, "I do solemnly swear to read this book, cover to cover, within the next two weeks". And since the book is targeted towards teenagers and aimed at getting them to introspect on their ambitions, who would be a better judge of it than someone who still has that suffix to their age? So, we reach out to 16-year-old Armand Colaco, for his thoughts.

First impressions

Colaco describes himself as someone who enjoys historical fiction and humour. "I like PG Wodehouse and Arthur Conan Doyle. But I haven't seen many self-help books for my age group," the Kalbadevi-resident shares, adding that that's what makes the book stand out. Cope's title is divided into four chapters namely Brilliant You, Brilliant Impact, Brilliant Future and Brilliant Moments. The first chapter, for instance, encourages teens to explore their definition of success.

Armand Colaco. Pic/Suresh Karkera
Armand Colaco. Pic/Suresh Karkera

Dumbing down

"It's not something I would pick. And actually even the book guesses that a parent has probably bought it for us," Colaco says. Occasionally, the 10th grader also felt like the title was talking down on teenagers. He points to that very first clause of the contract which addressing the teen in a first person narrative reads, "I mean, I've got time for social media, games consoles, watching cat videos, practising my selfie so for the next fortnight, I'll do a little less of those things and a bit more reading." But Colaco attributes the statement to a mere generalisation, and adds, "The language is dumbed down. The illustrations are fun and have a Wimpy Kid series kind of vibe. But I'm not sure what they're trying to do. They didn't make the book impactful, and were at times distracting."

Some life lessons

The book also carries activity lessons and motivational quotes in boxes, such as one that mentions that the difference between "try" and "triumph" is just a little "umph". The book also serves as a diary in a way, according to Colaco, as one can pen down their regrets or people to look up to. This makes it extremely personal, and even Colaco thought it to be too personal for sharing. "The book can be helpful because even though the things outlined in the book is something you already know, it's usually at the back of your head. We're always thinking about what we want to be and this tells you that you shouldn't focus on that but on what kind of a person you want to be,"
he says.

Overall impact

Another notable thing, according to Colaco, is the book's universal appeal. "Even though it is written by a British author and there are terms like GCSE [the academic qualification for secondary education in England] mentioned, I could relate to everything," he states. But the teenager still recommends that book is more suitable for a lower age bracket, like 12 to 13-year-olds. "I understand that from the author's point of view it is a constant battle to engage with the reader, thus the oversimplified language. But teenagers should be treated as equals."

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