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This is probably the last book review I’ll be allowed to write for a while.

Hachette were very kind to send me a copy of All I Know Now: Wonderings and Reflections on Growing Up Gracefully by Carrie Hope Fletcher and because my children are closer to being teenagers than I am, I thought it would be a valuable read. 


After all, being a teenager is a bit like giving birth in that the finer details vanish from your memory leaving you with a nostalgic haze that almost half convinces you that it “wasn't that bad” when in reality it was much, MUCH worse.

So anyway, I had high hopes. Carrie is in her twenties, a vibrant YouTube phenomenon who is appearing in Les Mis and is the sister of Tom Fletcher from McFly. You know how I know this? Carrie told me, many, MANY times in just the first few chapters.

Issue 1 with this book: If you are going to “relate” to the average teenager, probably best not to spend every other page lamenting being a theatre child and having a famous brother; I'm fairly sure most teenagers can’t relate.

Carrie is also well educated and eloquent. In fact, unlike most teenagers, she uses the word eloquent, casually interspersed with TXT SPK. Now I admit I have absolutely no knowledge of which end of the spectrum is more likely to appeal to teenagers but for the love of all that is holy, PICK ONE.

But my really big issue with this book, and the one that will consign this book to my next charity shop drop, is a section near the start of the book that deals with “firsts”; and in particular, first kisses. 
"If you treat your kisses like they're gold, as if you only have a limited supply of them, you'll only ever want to give them out to the people who you trust them with and who really deserve them ... Looking back I wish I had pushed them away and let them down kindly, rather than giving away a precious kiss that I could have used on someone who I really wanted to share it with."
Now I was surprised by this section, not least because in an effort to familiarise myself with Carrie, I had visited her YouTube channel and watched the video where she reveals her book cover.  I noticed, that sitting in the background like some benevolent feminist cheerleader is Caitlin Moran’s  most recent work.

It's fair to say my heart dropped when I read the same tired morality being trotted out for a new generation.

You don’t need to “save yourself”. You will not get worn out by allowing yourself to experience every kind of kiss and it drives me seven kinds of crazy when people pretend otherwise. Affection does not use you up, not every kiss has to make the angels weep.

If you want to support teenagers, you know what a better message would be? Do everything, try it all once, but do it on your terms. Find out what you like, find out what you don’t and do it safely. You will walk away from some people with a handshake and a “thanks for the memory” and you hold on to others like they are your oxygen. 

Both those things are OK. 

I'm sad to say the tone of the book stayed pretty much the same from there on in.

There is a slightly patronising section about being brave enough to ask a teacher to repeat a homework assignment and pondering "what on earth would we have done if no one had plucked up the courage to ask? ... Sometimes asking questions doesn't just help you out, but the people around you too".

And I think that is where I realised why this book is quite so jarring: Carrie is caught in the same trap as the rest of us in that she is too old to write about being a teenager without coming over as excruciatingly patronising.

You don't have to take my word for it; I did a little experiment and opened the book at random to be faced with this gem:
"If someone misunderstands the way you meant something, it's not their fault for being sensitive. You may not have meant it the way they've taken it, so you can't be blamed for purposely being hurtful, but it is your fault for not being clearer or not thinking it through before you said it."
I just can't even with this book. Just stop, STOP talking to your audience as if they just swallowed a kidney!

It has taken me a long time to publish this review because it feels horrible to take someone's work and throw it under the bus but I don't want any other parent to buy it hoping that might provide relevant and robust guidance to their young adult on how to grow up gracefully.

Also, please never ask your teenager to grow up gracefully.

I was sent a copy of this book free to review. The opinions expressed are my own, in all their glory. I shouldn't have to tell you that, clearly nobody would actually pay me to express views like this.

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