Cover image for Our last best shot : guiding our children through early adolescence
Our last best shot : guiding our children through early adolescence
Stepp, Laura Sessions.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Riverhead Books, 2000.
Physical Description:
359 pages ; 24 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
HQ796 .S8268 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
HQ796 .S8268 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf

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Young adolescence, between the ages of ten and fifteen, is often dismissed as a baffling period, mistakenly lumped together with the later teenage years. Yet is perhaps the most critical time in the human life cycle, a fateful juncture at which unmatched physical and intellectual growth, expanding creativity, emerging moral sensibilities, awakening sexuality, and maturing emotions powerfully converge. Unsure of what constitutes "normal" behavior, parents can fail to distinguish between behaviors that signal healthy growth and those that indicate real trouble. Without this knowledge, they are in danger of forfeiting their last best chance to affect decisive changes.After writing a series of award-winning articles on young adolescents, examining the existing scientific literature, and conferring with social scientists and educators, Laura Sessions Stepp set out across the country to meet and observe young people and their families over the course of a year. Through the stories of average young people she met in urban Los Angeles; Durham, North Carolina, and rural Ulysses, Kansas, she helps us navigate the landscape of adolescence.To be placed on the shelf alongside Mary Pipher's Reviving Ophelia, Michael Gurian's The Wonder of Boys, and William Pollack's Real Boys, Our Last Best Shot is a book parents and educators cannot afford to miss. Bibliography.

Author Notes

Laura Sessions Stepp is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who specializes in covering teenagers and young adults for the Style section of The Washington Post . Her work has appeared in such publications as Parent , Child , Working Mother , Reader's Digest , and Harvard's Nieman Reports . She has twice been a resident scholar at the National Academy of Sciences, has served as a member of the U.S. Surgeon General's Healthy People 2000 panel on adolescence and chairs the board of advisors of the Casey Journalism Center on Children and Families at the University of Maryland. Stepp, who has three grown children, lives outside Washington, D.C., with her husband.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Stepp focuses on adolescents, a period that represents the last best opportunity a parent has to prepare a child for successful adulthood. She interviewed dozens of youth but profiles 12. Her subjects come from various U.S. regions, and they represent a cross section of races, family structures, economic status, and school performance. Stepp talked to parents, teachers, and child psychologists. From the adolescents, she draws a frank and open portrayal of modern youth through discussions about school, parents, sex, and drugs. The book is divided into sections on finding out who the children are as individuals, on how they fit in with friends, on what they are learning, and on how they connect or distance themselves from adults. At the conclusion of each section, Stepp offers advice to parents on dealing with the specific topic raised; and she provides an overview of social issues facing youth. But the individual portraits are the most engaging and revealing portions of the book. A valuable resource for parents of adolescents. --Vanessa Bush

Publisher's Weekly Review

In the recent tradition of Reviving Ophelia and Raising Cain, Stepp offers an extraordinary look into the lives of children aged 10-15, with a bounty of commonsense advice on how to ensure that they blossom and thrive during the crucial prelude to adulthood. Stepp, a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter for the Washington Post, presents 12 case studies of actual boys and girls, along with their families, friends and teachers, with whom she lived over the course of a year. Coming from a variety of backgroundsÄincluding urban Los Angeles, Durham, N.C., and the small farming community of Ulysses, Kans.Äthese children are all trying to figure out answers to such questions as: "What kind of person am I?"; "What am I learning?"; "How do I fit in with friends?"; and "How can I create distance from adults yet remain connected to them?" Drawing on unlimited access to these somewhat troubled yet likeable kids, Stepp writes of their lives with remarkable understanding and compassion, vividly reporting on, for example, Chip's marijuana deal, Jack's joy in single-handedly constructing a birdhouse when left alone one day and Libby's frank conversation about oral sex with her girlfriends at the mall. These encounters illustrate the many valuable lessons Stepp offers parents: give kids responsibility, be aware of their friends, give them space, manage your fears, stay engaged. Agent, ICM. (July) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

It's pretty much agreed that adolescence is a tough time. So difficult, argues Stepp, that at the onset it is "our last best shot" at helping our children grow and thrive, encouraging their creativity, keeping emotions channeled, expanding their knowledge, awakening their dreams, and letting them go. Parents, she continues, are universally confused over what's normal and what leads to trouble, a problem that causes them to do the wrong thing or else nothing at all. Through case studies of 12 children in Los Angeles, Durham, NC, and Ulysses, KS, Stepp shows readers the intricacies of teens' lives, their schools, friends, and families. Here, the problems of early adolescence (ages ten to 15) are compounded by society: broken homes, lack of friends at school, crime in neighborhoods, animosities between races, poverty, ADD, drugs and alcohol, and more. Kids need to find something they're good at, and they need adults-not their parents-as friends and role models. Each chapter concludes with an analysis of the teen's life and how problems could be alleviated. Stepp, a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer at the Washington Post, draws in her audience; her skill ate writing case studies is so exceptional that readers will come away feeling as if they know the kids very well and emphasize with the lot that society has dealt them. This is extremely positive and excellent book; recommended for teachers, parents, and community adults.-Linda Beck, Indian Valley P.L., Telford, PA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.