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Young adult book reviews for ages 12 and up - middle school and high school students

*The Amazing Life of Birds: The Twenty-Day Puberty Journal of Duane Homer Leech* by Gary Paulsen - young adult book review

Also by Gary Paulsen:

Road Trip

Paintings from the Cave: Three Novellas

Flat Broke: The Theory, Practice and Destructive Properties of Greed

Masters of Disaster

Lawn Boy Returns

Woods Runner


Puppies, Dogs, and Blue Northers

Lawn Boy
The Amazing Life of Birds: The Twenty-Day Puberty Journal of Duane Homer Leech
by Gary Paulsen
Grades 6-9 96 pages Wendy Lamb Books June 2006 Hardcover    

Zits. Roller-coaster vocal tones. Improper thoughts about the opposite sex.

That’s right: it’s that special time in life called puberty. It’s a time when you’re no longer considered a tween, but you’re not quite a young adult. For many adolescents going through puberty, the ordeal seems like a never-ending nightmare.

Duane Homer Leech isn’t sure why these crazy thoughts or visions of women’s body parts keep popping into his mind – even when looking at a cereal box. After all, he’s only 12 years and one week old. Duane isn’t sure he’s going to survive this stage of his life; no matter how hard he tries to remain calm and act cool, everything seems to go wrong. First zits break out on his face. A cowlick protrudes from his head. He becomes clumsy and seems not to be able to control bodily movements. How does Duane handle the pressure?

He certainly doesn’t know how to contain it at school. There, he spills his lunch tray on the girl he’s trying to impress. He trips into a classmate during PE. He’s accused of starting a ringworm epidemic. The final straw occurs in the library, when he knocks over several shelves while reaching for a book about – you guessed it – puberty. Doo Doo, as Duane’s classmates call him, is sent to the principal’s office, where the administrator asks Duane if his strange behavior is due to drugs and promptly orders him to give a urine specimen.

At home, Duane has been watching a newly hatched bird learning how to care for itself. The comparison of the young bird’s attempts at growing up to Duane’s growth spurt supplies a strong analogy of life. We learn how to handle problems on our own with help from our parents, and from their modeling, we learn how to fly on our own. It’s such a simple comparison, but the results in the book truly stand out.

Duane’s family and friends are the supporting cast, and readers are given just a small glimpse of their personalities. His parents both seem out of touch, or perhaps it just seems that way because most adolescents don’t tune in to what is happening in their parents’ world. The sister offers comic relief with quick-witted one-liners. There’s definitely no love loss between the siblings. Finally, his friend Willy, to put it simply, is cool.

The short chapters resemble diary entries, and Duane’s voice – that of an angst-filled, puberty-stricken kid – rings hilariously true. Any adult who’s either a parent or worked with children fitting this age group will recognize the growing pains Duane encounters. Young adults will easily identify with Duane and, depending on how old they are, will be able to relate or will be given advance warning that the nerdy stage of their lives is just around the corner. And unfortunately, it doesn’t go away.

Gary Paulsen writes about young adults and the world they live in and observe the varying degrees of hardships people endure. This novel fits that general goal associated with his books and might be one of the funniest books to date.

The Amazing Life of Birds is an enjoyable, quick read offering humorous perils associated with adolescence and the desire to want to fit in. Readers will be thankful Gary Paulsen discovered the journal.

Young adult book reviews for ages 12 and up - middle school and high school students

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  LuAnn Womach/2007 for curled up with a good kid's book  

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