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Reviewed by Tammy Ruggles for Readers' Favorite
Crying, Learning, and Laughing: Why Students Visit the Teen Center by Tamika M. Murray is an award-winning parenting guide focusing on teens. The author is a social worker and writer, using both skills to understand and help teenagers and the professionals who work with them. Murray does a great, empathetic job of relaying the anecdotes of her time in a teen center as a case manager, with real names changed to numbers to protect identities. Some schools have a youth services center, some don't, and adolescents visit it for different reasons. Some go because they are depressed, or are bullied, abused, or neglected, doing self-harm, or are battling mental health problems. Murray pulls back the curtain on the daily lives of teenagers, which encourages readers to understand and seek to help the teens in their own lives.
Being a social worker turned writer myself, I relate to Murray's motivations in writing a helpful guide for struggling teens and their parents and to let the world know that there are people who care, and services and professionals who can help, no matter what the circumstance. In this book, you will cry, learn, and laugh with the author and the teenagers she writes about. Yes, times can be dark, but they don't have to stay dark, and Murray's words act as a guiding hand to lead you into the light. If you don't have a teen center in your school, or even if you do, this book will make a fantastic resource. I like that Murray says she doesn't have all the answers and encourages readers to seek professional help in time of need.
The book begins with an overview of services and devotes a chapter to each social issue it addresses, like dating, violence, pregnancy, grief, bullying, suicide, etc., but it doesn't end there. It provides information that a teen can use after school, like further education, scholarships, job hunting, and more, and it wraps up with a collection of valuable resources. This isn't a dry book about case management, and you'll get to know the author in her role and as a real person. If you're looking for a well-rounded and thoughtful book on teen advocacy and parenting, complete with discussion questions, look no further than Crying, Learning, and Laughing: Why Students Visit the Teen Center by Tamika M. Murray.