I find brains fascinating. Not easy to understand, but fascinating nonetheless!

Sarah-Jayne Blakemore’s latest booking, Inventing Ourselves, is my latest effort to get my head around (!) this amazing 3 pound mass of tissue in our skull.

I gave it 4 stars – here’s why:

Summary

What I like most about the writing of Sarah-Jayne Blakemore is her concentration on the teenage brain.

This book is a really useful, clear and concise summary of the state of knowledge on how the teenage years are played out in terms of brain development and function.

It is written with lay-people in mind and is therefore very accessible – avoiding all that impenetrable language and medical jargon that so often puts such writing out of reach.

The clever science is set in the context of what adolescence ‘feels‘ like – how we experience this transition from childhood to adulthood. This keeps the goal of understanding more about the teenage years clearly in sight throughout. At no point did I feel I was being swept along by scientific writing that left me having read the words but not having really understood the meaning.

That the information is kept focussed on the teenage experience, whilst narrating what research tells us about what’s going on in the brain, is perhaps this book’s greatest achievement.

Strengths

– The content is both logical in its order and thorough in its scope

– The language is accessible without being patronising – not an easy balance to get, I imagine

– Lots of research is quoted, but the reason for each study makes sense in light of the surrounding narrative and progress through the book

– In a quiet way, this book is a warning shot to other sometimes trite and broad-stroke writing on the brain. It is clear what we can and cannot say as a result of research

– I like the fact that mental illness as it emerges and plays out in adolescence is covered here. This is a humane as well as a scientific book

– I got a sense from this book that the author likes teenagers. For someone working with young people, this made the book all the more enjoyable!

‘The teenage brain isn’t broken. Adolescence is a period of life when the brain is changing in important ways: we should understand it, nurture it – and celebrate it.’ – Sarah-Jayne Blakemore p.202

Weaknesses

I always struggle with this bit, as I am not a naturally critical person…

– I found the voice of the narrator of the audio book grating. Far too posh for my liking – the pronunciation was clunky and sounded affected. But that’s about the voice reading the book, not the content itself…

– My only extra ‘want’ from this book was a little more on what we can do to help teenagers navigate adolescence more smoothly. There is a little of this but a summary section would have helped – to draw together the threads that run throughout.

Options

Get the paperback – here

Get the audiobook – here

 

Also by Sarah-Jayne Blakemore – The Learning Brain: Lessons for Education (with Uta Frith)

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© Jonny Matthew 2018

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