Weston, Carol. Private and Personal: Questions and Answers for Girls Only. Harper, 2000. ISBN 978-0380810253 347 pp. $
Carol Weston offers sound advice on appearance, puberty, popularity, friendship, family relationship, and love in this question and answer book for girls in grades 5-8. All the writing is garnered from letters received and replies sent while she wrote an advice column for Girl’s Life magazine.
Grouped by subject, each question is followed by a brief answer. Weston sympathizes, compliments, validates and advises in a positive way, offering sample things to say, suggesting the use of “I” statements, and recommends communication always.
Frequently, she slips up. For example, a girl who complains of a group of boys who type 60067355 (boobless) on a calculator and hold it upside down in front of her face because she is flat-chested is told “life gets easier after middle school,” and maybe as the dorks mature, they will realize they don’t need to put others down to make themselves feel better. She should have told the girl to tell an adult, that this is sexual harassment.
In another section, she advises a girl who no longer has a crush on the boy she liked to tell her friends thatshe couldn’t see what she ever saw in that dork. In other places, she recommends not talking about people in this sort of way!
Lastly, in cases of extreme gas and halitosis, she doesn’t make mention of medical condition or seeking the advice of a health care professional.
No further reading, websites, etc are cited at the end, although several are mentioned elsewhere in the book. Weston doesn’t credit any of her own sources, either. Surprisingly, she doesn’t include her mailing or email address for girls with other questions.
Still, this will be a popular book. The tone is chatty, reassuring, non-judgemental and empowering. The fun bright cover features retro 60’s style and a photo of four friends of different culture linked arm in arm. There are no graphics, and the layout is very simple, with the questions in bold and italics, and the responses in a regular font. Chapter and section headings have a funky font. While the format itself (an answer directly following each question) could have been less redundant by putting a few questions first, then addressing the issue as a whole, the book is very browsable in the Q&A layout.
While this book doesn’t have all the answers, it covers the major ones in a non-threatening way. Sure to be popular with middle school girls–and the parents who might want to know what their daughters are thinking about.