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Child & Adolescent Development: Overview

Review of "Treacherous Love"

By Anonymous Teenager, Beatrice Sparks (Editor)
Avon Books, 2000
Review by Su Terry on Dec 14th 2001
Treacherous LoveTreacherous Love: The Diary of an Anonymous Teenager by "Anonymous Teenager" and edited by Beatrice Sparks is another volume in the Spark's gallery of "diary formats" works on teen social problems. Treacherous Love deals with the issue of sexual abuse by a teacher and how the relationship finally resolves itself.

Treacherous Love is set in a suburban any town, USA. Fourteen-year old "Anonymous," aka "Jennie," is having difficulty finding any love in her life. Her parents have separated, her Dad has vanished, and her Mom is using pills to cope that turn her into "not Mom." Bridget, her girlfriend, has a boyfriend and he has commandeered all her time and attention. Into her empty life comes Mr. "JJ" Johnston, a substitute mathematics teacher. JJ is funny, eager to listen, and very supportive. He compliments her, writes her notes, buys her gifts, and soon is gently caressing her neck and shoulders. JJ has moved from being "the greatest teacher EVER!" to "MY BOYFRIEND" and finally, to much more.

Treacherous Love is written in the format of a diary covering a year in the life of Jennie. Sparks does diaries well, very well. It was, in fact, the diary format that brought Sparks fame and fortune with her Go Ask Alice (1971). Since 1971, she has "edited" a number of other teen diaries on topics ranging from pregnancy, cults, gambling, HIV/AIDS, and street gangs. The diaries and "true-life accounts" are supposedly garnered from Spark's clinical work with troubled teens. There is, however, some speculation that Spark's books are not real diaries, but actually composite of her cases or even possibly completely fictional. It is not for me to debate this issue here, but as a review, I feel it is my responsibility to mention it. Either way, her books present very realistic pictures of what teenagers might experience in rather difficult situations. For Sparks willingness to confront these very controversial topics in a realistic manner, for this alone, Sparks deserves praise.

Treacherous Love is excellent book. It is slow paced, but that is what makes it so believable. JJ is a master at the art of seduction. His technique is neither too fast nor too much. His early advances are very subtle and can fall into a "questionable" or "gray area" for appropriate student-teacher behavior. [What is and is not appropriate is made clear in the "Question and Answers" section at the end n the book.] As an adult, it was easy to notice the subtle ways in which he gently manipulated Jennie into his web while all the time protecting himself and his reputation from discovery. Jennie, however, is not an adult and written from her point of view, it was easy to see how and why she fell victim to his charms.

Beatrice Sparks is a family and adolescent therapist. She holds a Doctor of Philosophy in Human Behavior. Her books have won the American Library Association Young Adult Notable Award, the Christopher Medal, School Library Journal Best Books, and Quick Pick for Recommended Reading by the American Library Association. Dr. Sparks was a 1996 National Book Award Judge for Young People's Literature. Her first venture into teen literature was Go Ask Alice (1971) that became an instant bestseller and made for TV movie. She has since edited many diary format works on topics such as AIDS (It Happened to Nancy, 1994), cults & the occult (Jay's Journal, 1979), runaways (Almost Lost, 1996) and teen pregnancy (Annie's Baby, 1988).

Treacherous Love is guaranteed to hold teen readers' attention. While labeled for "Young Adult" it is neither graphic in language nor sexual description. It is, in my opinion, appropriate for young teens and mature pre-teens. If, however, Jennie in Treacherous Love seems to "goody-two-shoes" for your taste - try Leslie's Journal by Allan Stratton . The story line, home situation, and characters are very similar. One noticeable difference is that main character, Leslie, at fifteen, is rebellious and tough while Jennie, at fourteen, is obedient and docile. (To read one is to read the other.) I would highly recommend either book. I would also highly recommend that parents read this book and discuss its content with their sons and daughters. For the teen readers, these books are a safe way to learn the warning signs of "inappropriately behavior" between teens or between an adult and a young person.

© 2001 Suzanne Garrison-Terry

Suzanne Garrison-Terry
Education: B.A. in History from Sacred Heart University, M.L.S. in Library Science from Southern Connecticut State College, M.R.S. in Religious Studies/Pastoral Counseling from Fairfield University, and a M.Div. in Professional Ministry from New Brunswick Theological Seminary. She is currently completing a Certificate in Spirituality/Spiritual Direction from Sacred Heart University (July 2001). She is a Licensed Minister of the United Church of Christ and an Assistant Professor in Library Science at Dowling College, Long Island, NY.

Interests in Mental Health: I am interested in the interplay between psychology and spirituality. My current research focuses on the role of hormonal fluctuation during puberty, pregnancy, and peri-menopause as a stimuli for mystical experiences. Through the study of autobiographical accounts of the mystical experiences of "historically accepted" female Christian mystics and additional biographical information, I am analyzing the connection between the onset of mystical experiences and biological data/symptomology for the potential existence of hormonal fluctuation or irregularity. If this sounds like an unusual topic, nota bene how many medieval female mystics began having "vision" on or about the age of 40!

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