I Got This! – What to Read When You’re Learning to Grow Up

I Got This! – What to Read When You’re Learning to Grow Up

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By Mira Wang

I’m 22 now, but when I was a teenager in the not-so-distant past, I read books to learn about myself and the world.

It started when I was small. I’d throw temper tantrums at the smallest of provocations, stomp off to my room, and read my favorite books.

By the time I hit adolescence, I had graduated from Junie B. Jones and the Babysitter’s Club and moved on to Harry Potter and a slew of Young Adult novels that routinely made me laugh, cry, and dream about who I could be.

I’d read these books over and over again until the bindings wore thin. After reading, I could come back to difficult situations a calmer and more empathetic version of myself. I could make better decisions, inspired by strong, independent-thinking protagonists, and work hard at the future I wanted to create.

To this day, reading is still one of my most effective coping mechanisms.

That’s why, as an intern at Preventing Alcohol Abuse in Chicago Teens (PAACT), I reached out to bookstores and libraries in Chicago to find really important books that could help Chicago teens grow, learn about themselves, and cope with stress.

Some teens might use alcohol when they’re dealing with difficult situations, but it doesn’t have to be that way. So many healthier coping mechanisms exist. In fact, according to the 2018 Illinois Youth Survey, most Chicago teens don’t drink at all. They have great things going on in their lives and don’t feel the need to use alcohol.

In my experience, books have helped me cope with stress better than anything else could. So visit your local library and borrow a book! PAACT is distributing free “I Got This!” bookmarks in all Chicago Public Library branches this month to celebrate the ways that teens are making positive choices around alcohol.

Now—as promised, check out this list of book recommendations from local Chicago librarians and book store managers.

On Finding Your Place in the World

“I’d recommend Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson. It’s a beautiful novel-in-verse (a memoir, really) about an African-American girl finding her way in the world.  It’s beautifully written and very delicately deals with watershed moments in her life as she moves toward embracing who she truly is. I connect with it because–although our backgrounds are entirely different–I too had to find out who I was and find my place in the world.”



On Finding the Inner Confidence to Express Yourself

Blankets, by Craig Thompson, is the story of a young man coming of age and finding the confidence to express his creative voice. It’s a graphic novel and memoir set against the backdrop of a Midwestern winterscape, and tells the story of the author’s small town life, Evangelical Christian family, and a lonely, emotionally mixed-up adolescence.

“Every single person that I’ve persuaded to read this book has loved it. I never heard a bad review of it.”

  • Chicago Librarian



On Learning to Deal with Stress

>“Be Mindful and Stress Less: 50 Ways to Deal with Your (Crazy) Life by Gina Biegel offers teens techniques for dealing with the anxiety-inducing situations in their lives that might tempt them to drink. Mindfulness exercises offer a healthy alternative to using alcohol or drugs as a coping method.”




On Dealing With a Parent’s Addiction

Hey, Kiddo,a graphic novel memoir written by popular comic book author Jarrett Krosoczka, shows how a teen is affected by a parent’s alcoholism and drug addiction. The graphic novel format makes it really accessible and engaging for teens. Hey, Kiddo was a finalist for both the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature and the YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults this year.”



On Learning the Facts About Drugs, Alcohol, and Addiction

High: Everything You Want to Know about Drugs, Alcohol, and Addiction, written by father and son David Sheff and Nic Sheff, combines facts with personal anecdotes. It’s appropriate for younger teens, which is a big plus, since most books about drugs and alcohol focus on an older teen audience.”



Let us know what you think about these books—or what other books you’re reading that helped you at a critical point in your life. We’d love to hear about them! Use the hashtag #IGotThisChicago and follow along at @IGotThisChicago on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. Happy reading!

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