Unzipped: A Toolkit for Life by Matt Whyman

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Unzipped: A Toolkit for Life by Matt Whyman

Category: Teens
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: A common sense, no nonsense guide for all things male and adolescent. It's not preachy and it's great at building self-worth, while stressing that independence carries levels of personal responsibilty they might not have thought about.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 160 Date: August 2007
Publisher: Hodder Children's Books
ISBN: 978-0340945339

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There are dozens upon dozens of advice books for teenaged girls. Girls love to share. Boys are famously somewhat less forthcoming - unless it's with a bit of healthy bullsh... er, exaggeration. Girls are also more likely to ask for help than boys, who feel their reputation rests on knowing it all already. So Unzipped is a very useful little volume. It covers all the main subjects - puberty, the body, personal hygiene, parents, relationships, sex, drink and drugs. And it does it in good, plain English and a supportive, encouraging tone.

Author Matt Whyman is the agony uncle at Bliss and AOL. He's also been an advisor on youth issues to the Government's Chief Medical Officer. So he's got a handle on these things. He knows that boys won't and don't ask questions and so he also knows that the gaps in their knowledge are likely to be immense. He also knows that no adolescent likes to be patronised. And so he treads the tricky path of giving basic information without highlighting it as basic very well indeed. The advice on spots, for example, includes not using yesterday's towel that you left damp and screwed up on your bedroom floor. This is obvious to mother, but not to son who thinks everything requires a techno-fix, including spots.

The section on drugs is also well done (although relies a little too much on directing boys to the government's woeful effort Talk To Frank for my liking) because it doesn't even attempt to pretend that drugs don't make you feel good. This is such a cardinal sin in drugs advice, because as soon as teenagers dabble, they discover that drugs make you feel very good indeed and, by extension, all the adults who said they didn't are liars. Nobody, least of all adolescents, need to be lied to; but they do need to understand the possible consquences of enjoyment. And this is the approach Unzipped takes not only to drugs, but to all the other advice it gives on safe sex, drinking, smoking and all the other no-nos.

Amidst the practical advice, the book takes the kind of tone that aims to build inner self esteem rather than outward narcissm. It stresses being kind to yourself as well as to others and constantly repeats that if you treat yourself and others with respect, you won't go far wrong whatever you do. I like this; it's a simple truth but an all-pervading one. Jokes and quotes break it up whenever things are beginning to get too worthy or serious. My favourite:

What's the name of the insensitive bit at the base of the penis?

The man!

Snigger.

All in all, Unzipped is a friendly and down-to-earth compendium of basic common sense. It doesn't preach, it isn't squeamish, and it covers a wide range of issues. Although it doesn't go into huge detail, it does provide lots of pointers for where to go to find out more. There should be more like it on the bookshelves.

My thanks to the nice people at Hodder for sending the book.

Girls might like to take a look at Lisa Clark's Think Pink.

Buy Unzipped: A Toolkit for Life by Matt Whyman at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Unzipped: A Toolkit for Life by Matt Whyman at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy Unzipped: A Toolkit for Life by Matt Whyman at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Unzipped: A Toolkit for Life by Matt Whyman at Amazon.com.


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