In 2009, Americans spent more than $11 billion on self-improvement products; the average reader clearly believes he has room to grow.
“Brain Snacks for Teens on the Go!: 50 Smart Ideas to Turbo-Charge Your Life” by Alex Southmayd, who is a 12th grade student at The Groton School, a prep school in Groton Mass, has just entered the fight vying for a piece of this large pie.
At the tender age of 17, the author now finds himself fighting behemoth brands such as “Who Moved My Cheese” and “Rich Dad, Poor Dad.” As it turns out, he fares quite well.
Southmayd is not selling any revelations or divinely inspired epiphanies. He collects useful wisdom and helpful tips – the aforementioned “Brain Snacks” – and unassumingly shares them with the world. As the author himself acknowledges, he is “turbo-charging,” not remodeling, the reader’s life.
The book’s hook is simple: “Written for teens, by a teen,” and the author stays true to his promise. He understands the wide variety of “teen issues” and jumps around covering all of them, from time management to acne.
Luckily, the author never falls into self-seriousness, thereby losing his connection with his audience. At the end of a potentially preachy “Brain Snack” about compound interest, Southmayd appends two silly couplets to lighten the tone – “O, there hath not been more of a fickle friend!/It may bring you to your demise, your end/Or, treat it kindly and it will treat you same/Bringing with it health, wealth, wisdom and name.”
Each pithy brain snack/chapter brings together a variety of sources, from “my Headmaster at Groton School, Mr. Commons” to the American Dental Association, to illustrate a greater point. The author’s eclecticism ultimately sets “Brain Snacks” apart. By handling all these different sources from completely different contexts, Southmayd weaves a fabric that clearly shows the mind of an adolescent at work.
The book is devoid of ideology because it puts together so many different stimuli – coaches, books, blogs – with the author compiling them rather than structuring them around a thesis. The reader could almost imagine a day in the life of Alex Southmayd by reading the book – class with “(his) English teacher Mr. Fry,” squash practice with his coach Mr. Taylor, training for crew, peer tutoring, early bedtime.
After researching the self-improvement world, I found “Brain Snacks” to be a breath of fresh air. It is simple, direct and well-documented. Southmayd offers a rich picture of all of his stimuli and influences, creating a very readable product.
Since the book’s message cannot be summed up by a catchphrase, it is a worthy read from “Brain Snack #1: How to Feel Great” to “Brain Snack #50: Make-a-Difference Day.”
“Brain Snacks for Teens on the Go” will certainly make a great holiday gift for any teenager, and can be found at Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com
Press Release by Edoardo Saravalle who is the editor of Circle Voice, the student newspaper at Groton School where Southmayd is a student.