Over the summer, I made it my goal to read as many novels as possible, especially because I seemed to have a lot of downtime at work. As I put together my reading list, I realized something: I have never read a nonfiction book related to feminism or women empowerment. I also realized that the only time I came close to reading one–in a high school lit class as a choice novel–I switched with my friend who wanted to read it more than I did. Looking back, I shouldn’t have traded with her.
If there was a list of authors teenage girls had to read from, I think Mary Pipher would be at the top. I’ve had my fair share of epiphanies over the years, but Reviving Ophelia definitely caused the most enlightening one. In the book, Pipher recalls her experiences in counseling teenage girls and, on occasion, their parents. Many of the girls feel frustrated, do not care about school anymore, or are just completely different people than how they used to be before puberty. One girl becomes smitten with Prince’s music and quotes his lyrics during her counseling sessions. Another teen refuses to go to school because the problems of middle school consume her life. All of these stories are unique and upsetting, but there is one underlying theme: most adolescent girls have a hard time dealing with emotions and problems because they seem beyond their control, and it’s no easy matter trying to help them.
For example, when I was in middle school, I would come home from school angry with my parents for no good reason. I started noticing habits of my mom’s that would bother me to no end, I couldn’t stand to be teased by my other relatives, and I felt that most of my friends talked about me behind my back. Before reading Reviving Ophelia, I thought that my hormones had affected me more than anyone else or that it was a factor of being around the same age as my more outgoing siblings. Now, I feel much better knowing that there was nothing wrong with me. I went through the same sort of things millions of other girls go through and I was very fortunate that nothing worse happened, especially studying habits. However, it would have made a world’s difference if I had read the book before middle school.
Though it would have been great to read the book years ago, I suggest going and reading it the next chance you get. It takes a lot to look back on our teenage years and see how terrible we acted and how much we’ve matured, and Pipher’s book can help us do that. Suppose you were more mature back then and weren’t so angry all the time. What would reading about a book that never really applied to you help with anything? Reviving Ophelia does a phenomenal job of making the reader sympathize for the patients and their troubles, so by reading the book you can apply your knowledge with other teenagers in your life—cousins, siblings, children you babysit for, etc.—and give them a break for their perpetual angst. Even better, you can pass on the book so that they can get a head start on knowing the consequences of puberty and changing hormones.
Once again, I highly recommend Reviving Ophelia as resource for reflection and understanding. It’s too late to fix our mistakes from our teenage years, but we can always look back on them and make amends with those we may have confused or hurt.