The trouble with food, sex and money

15th September 2000 at 01:00
THE BLISS SMART GIRL'S GUIDE TO SEX. By Kerry Parnell. Piccadilly pound;3.99. WISE GUIDE TO EATING. By Anita Naik. Hodder pound;3.99. LIFE THIS WAY SERIES: Stress City! Don't Give Me Grief. By Elaine Sishton and Charlotte Russell. Hunt Publishing pound;4.99 each. COPING WITH CASH. By Peter Corey. Scholastic pound;3.99.

Problems, problems, problems. Sometimes it seems that life between 12 and 18 is nothing but grief and that adults are just determined to rub your nose in it. As a 15-year-old boy said to me the other day: "All we ever do in sex education is list the diseases you can get." In response to this doom-laden approach, many teenagers tend to joke. The same lad added: "My favourite is groin beetles."

He and his age-mates of the opposite gender might appreciate The Bliss Smart Girl's Guide to Sex , which strikes just the right tone. It is chirpy, yet reassuring on such medical matters as "Can you bleed to death if you get your period?" and "Can you still get pregnant if you do it standing up?" (I hope you all know the answers.) It is also solidly down to earth on the importance of relationships, on being true to yourself and on comparative penis size. No section is longer than a magazine column so that anxious readers do not have to look too far for what they need.

Eating in the Wise Guides series is a breezy teenspeak guide to bulimia, anorexia and a healthy diet, although I can't be alone in feeling that if I read about those "five portions of fruit and veg a day" just one more time I shall buy a season ticket for Cadbury World. As youmight expect in a series with Susie Orbach advising, the book ends with a big boost to the self-esteem. Self-esteem is the key to many adolescent problems, and wise teachers will use bolstering self-esteem as a way to help teenagers tackle difficulties.

Two books by Elaine Sishton and Charlotte Russell in the Life This Way series adopt a more adult-to-child tone, but they still have a positive quality and an immediacy that more grown-up volumes could learn from.

Stress City! looks at problem areas from families to drugs to friendship groups, and offers down-to-earth advice - "Think before you badger an adult. Is it worth the hassle or can you let it go?" - of the kind your older cousin might provide. Don't Give Me Grief! looks at transitions of all kinds, from bereavement to moving school, and in a friendly, "buck up old thing" style suggests that yes, life has its ups and downs but also yes, it 's still worth it. Both books are excellent and could provide a base for PSHE worksheets.

Peter Carey's Coping with Cash is an amusing crash course on how to manage money. A lot of it amounts to guileful tips on how to manage your parents into giving you money, but for some teenagers they are much the same thing. It does include an explanation of VAT, but I looked in vain for a breakdown on the national debt or, indeed, the Marxist theory of surplus value. Still, it does not mention the five daily portions and it is very funny about book tokens, so it'll make a welcome addition to the PSHE bookshelf.

Victoria Neumark

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