The Glass Castle, by Jeannette Walls

2 Stars


While some David Sedaris style humor wouldn’t have been misplaced in The Glass Castle, I did understand and expect that this would be a serious memoir of abuse. Despite my rating, I admire how Walls tells a story of alcoholism and mental illness with love. Though the story’s matriarch seems to be a case for forced sterilization, The Glass Castle is uniquely written in such a way that it’s unlikely she would pick up on the implications within them, were she to read it. I respect that the author wasn’t willing to hurt her mother, no matter who she was. However, while this book lacked Sedaris’s dark humor, it did mimic his anecdotal writing style and it just… didn’t work.


I’ve read dysfunctional memoirs, humorous memoirs, and dysfunctionally humorous memoirs. While the latter two can be told in Walls’s campfire style of individual stories, the former works much better as one cohesive tale. The problem with The Glass Castle is that it’s so deeply depressing, you don’t want to read the next woeful childhood drama; and you don’t need to, because the last one was wrapped up so neatly. Where Jenny Lawson kept me engaged, because I couldn’t wait to read more about her ridiculous shenanigans, Walls made me want to pick up some paranormal romance and escape this horrible and bleak world for some alien sexy times. The story wasn’t bad. The writing wasn’t bad. Thank heavens the ending wasn’t bad, because it was tough to get to it.

Review Word Count: 250


The Teenage Brain, by Frances E. Jensen

3 Stars

teenage brain

This book falls into a hole. It’s really quite technical for everyday reading, but Jensen has made a clear effort to “dumb it down.” At times, this is useful, but others, the effort is wasted, because I honestly cannot imagine anyone reading this if they don’t work directly with teenagers and/or have an interest in psychology. While I appreciated the diagrams and charts, teachers, librarians, social workers, and such will understand the language well enough without some of the more simplistic examples.

The science is sound enough. The experiments mentioned are relevant, though they’re also a bit obviously biased at times. While Jensen knows her psychology, however, she struggles with the social aspect of teens. She references her own teenagers several times, but mentions that they were in high school in 2005. I graduated in 2006 and I can guaran-damn-tee that teenagers, high school, and the entire social dynamic tied up between them has changed exponentially in the last 10 years. For example, on page one, she’s horrified that her son would want to dye his hair a non-natural color.

Walk into a public high school today and I’d say a good quarter of them have non-natural hair color… in the suburbs.

In general, I enjoyed the book. I’m fascinated by the effect of media on children and feel that teenagers are often overlooked, lumped in with adults. We worry until they aren’t cute anymore. Jensen doesn’t. She’s just a little out of touch with current teens.

Review Word Count: 243