Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Review: If I'd Known Then

Summary: If you could send a letter back in time to yourself, what would it say? Following in the tradition of the bestselling What I Know Now™ comes a new collection that will speak directly to young women. Editor Ellyn Spragins asked women under forty to write letters to the girls they once were, filled with the advice and insights they wish they’d had when they were younger. Readers will recognize familiar names as well as meet new voices in these wonderfully candid missives, including: author Hope Edelman; actress Jessica Alba; Olympic soccer gold medalist Julia Foudy; activist Zainab Salbi; actress Danica McKellar; and author Plum Sykes. A perfect gift at graduation or for any important young woman in your life, If I’d Known Then offers rare glimpses into the personal stories of extraordinary young women-and will inspire readers to live their best lives. -- Da Capo Press

IF I'D KNOWN THEN by Ellyn Spragins is a wonderful book for any teenage girl in your life. There are countless words of wisdom from 35 successful women who write letters to their younger selves. The author interviewed each of these women and learned valuable information about them as both children and adults. Each section begins with a few pages of background on the "famous" woman. A letter that the woman wrote to her younger self follows each brief bio. Most of the women chose to write their letters at a time of major change in their lives. I found both the background information and the letters equally interesting.

What I enjoyed the most from this book is that young girls can see that they are not alone with their insecurities -- even the most popular girls have lots of doubt about themselves. In middle school and high school, I didn't always like myself very much. I was very insecure about my looks, my athletic abilities, boys, etc. How I would have loved reading letters like these and seeing that famous, successful women had a lot of the same feelings that I did.

Here are a few snippets from the letters that I found to be insightful:

"Whatever you do, do not spend one second worrying about what kids your own age think." -- Jessica Alba, actress

"Sometimes you are your own worst enemy. Don't be so serious. Don't despise where you're at. Instead, try enjoying it. Realize that you can't make everyone like you -- there's always someone who won't." -- Natasha Bedingfield, singer/songwriter

"As overwhelming as events will be, remember that getting to the other side of them will bring a cascade of new opportunities into your life." -- Bethany Hamilton, professor surfer

"Being treated as a dork will color who you are forever. You'll know that you are a survivor. You'll fear few things. You'll have a great dose of humility, and you'll understand vulnerability -- which will be crucial to the creative person you will become." -- Kimberly Williams Paisley, actress

I could have pulled quotes like these from each of the 35 letters in this book. I know that more than a few of the letters will resonate with each and every reader as they look back on their teenage years. Even at 39 years old, I found this book to be very comforting -- I wasn't the only one with these feelings!

While I was reading this book, I kept thinking about what I would write to my younger self. First and foremost, I would probably say "Grades aren't everything." I'd also tell myself, "Julie, those guys that you think are so awesome are so not right for you. You will meet an amazing guy your sophomore year in college who is your perfect match." What would you tell your younger self?

3 comments:

Heather Johnson said...

thanks for the great review! I passed on the link to tons of moms of daughters in my address book.

Julie P. said...

Heather,

Thanks for sharing with your friends. I really appreciate it!

J. Kaye Oldner said...

What a cool book! My daughter isn't there yet, but she will be soon enough. I love to see books like this talked about.