The Secret Life of Real American Teens

Since I like to read (when I can find the time!) and so do a lot of other people I know, I thought I’d post mentions of good books on this blog once in awhile, especially those that pertain to the subjects discussed here: parenting, kids, teens, life… It’s always a gift to receive a good book recommendation, especially for one you might not find staring at you in your local bookstore, so here’s a gift for you today:

My friend Bob Nelson, who teaches at a nearby high school and has been teaching high school psychology for many, many years, wrote and published a great book a couple years ago that I’ve been thinking about lately, as my older daughter starts preparing for high school in the fall (the same one where Bob teaches). 

It’s called 
Homeroom: A Shelter From the Storm and it’s still available at

Book Cover

I didn’t know quite what to expect when I read it– I first read it because, well, just because I know Bob and thought it would be neat for my book club to read a book and then have the author come speak to us (which he did). The surprise I received when I read it, and what any reader will receive, is a unique peek into the minds and worlds of real teenagers.  (And normally it’s hard to look into that world too closely at all, so I thank Bob for this candid glimpse!)

And what a glimpse it is. Though Homeroom is fiction, many of the characters are based on real kids that Bob has taught and it involves true events from Bob’s classroom, which at one time was very much like the “Homeroom” in the book for one period a day– a class where kids just hung out and talked. Set their own format, their own agenda.  Met kids from all walks of life. Reinforced teen stereotypes but more often than not, shattered those stereotypes by finally getting to know the people behind the labels (but not in a simplified way like The Breakfast Club– after all, we never got to see what happened to Molly Ringwald and pals after detention).  It is very touching and heartwarming to think that real teens reached out to each other in the ways that Bob describes– I read part of it on a subway in Washington, D.C. while chaperoning Girl Scouts on a summer trip, and wondered if they saw me crying over it!  Bob does a good job of transporting the reader outside the classroom and into the teens’ lives– a “magical” date involving an unlikely couple is an especially beautiful scene, worthy of a movie.  While the book has a recurring italic flashback to a kid who’s thinking about shooting up the school a la Columbine, don’t let these disturbing images keep you from the heart of the story– real kids experiencing real high school life, with all its trials and tribulations.  I think even well-read, “in the know” adults will be surprised at just how pressure-filled that life is, and how simple gestures of friendship can sometimes make a life-or-death difference. It was great to be able to go to Bob and ask, “Was so and so real? Did such and such really happen?” and find out that more times than not, it really did happen.  When asked what high school life has been like for kids in the years since he wrote the book, Bob said, “I think it’s harder for kids now, the pressures they face are even greater.”

I think I’m going to beg him for a sequel.

16 thoughts on “The Secret Life of Real American Teens”

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