Child & Adolescent Development: Overview

Review of "100 Things Guys Need to Know"

By Bill Zimmerman
Free Spirit Publishing, 2005
Review by Christian Perring, Ph.D. on Jun 17th 2005
100 Things Guys Need to Know

100 Things Guys Need to Know is aimed at pre- and early-teen boys who are entering adolescence.  While it does address some issues of puberty and sexuality, those are not the book's main focus.  Rather, it is about masculinity and what it means to be a "guy."  Obviously it is a list, although it is illustrated with drawings and there are some comic strips that help to make important points.  It is organized into six sections: You, Body and Mind, Family, School. Relationships, and Future.  Zimmerman uses simple language and keeps the tone light and positive.  The book is multicultural, full of examples of men who have coped with difficulties, and has lots of lists of suggestions about what to do. 

Many of the points Zimmerman makes are based on a survey with 12 questions he did of 500 boys between 9 and 13.   Many of the questions are open-ended and allow the responder to explain answers, and Zimmerman uses quotations from many of the responses.  These help keep the feeling of the book personal and easy to relate to. The book identifies what parts of life boys feel in need of advice about, and supplies the advice.  It starts out with "10 Macho Myths" and proceeds to set out ideas that sound pretty sensible. Some of the 100 items boys need to know include "Divorce Isn't Your Fault," "Older Family Members Can Share Their Wisdom," "Guys Can Resolve Conflicts," "You Can Survive Test Stress," and "You're Normal."  Other items give interesting or useful information. 

Zimmerman's book is very much aimed at American culture, and it has the sort of earnest bland attitude you find in some children's television.  Presumably a good many boys respond positively to this sort of material, and even those who are skeptical might find some useful facts and ideas here.  Presumably also there are not many available books for boys providing this sort of advice, so Zimmerman's book could serve a useful function. 

However, I have to admit that I'm unenthusiastic about this book, mainly because when I think back to my childhood I can hardly imagine reading a book called 100 Things Guys Need to Know and I can't imagine it being very useful.  Maybe my family was especially dysfunctional, but I don't see anything useful here about how to deal with meeting your father's new girlfriend after the divorce or what to do when parents give you inappropriate amounts of responsibility.  At several places the book suggests that if you are not sure what to do, you should ask a trusted adult.  But what about those boys who don't have any adults who they can trust and who can give good advice?  What do you do if your parents are pre-occupied with an ill relative, or they themselves are dealing with substance abuse problems or mental illness?  My feeling is that many boys will tend to have complicated lives and very particular difficulties they have to face, so platitudinous advice is not going to get them very far. 

Nevertheless, this book could be a starting place for some boys who are not sure what to do or are in need of some pretty basic ideas about adolescence, school and family. 

 

© 2005 Christian Perring. All rights reserved. 

 

Christian Perring, Ph.D., is Academic Chair of the Arts & Humanities Division and Chair of the Philosophy Department at Dowling College, Long Island. He is also editor of Metapsychology Online Review.  His main research is on philosophical issues in medicine, psychiatry and psychology.

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