Obakin begins by getting into the effects of peer pressure. He aptly describes it as "a personal conflict between the mind and body", with external influences pulling one way, and morality suggesting another. This conflict is a constant theme throughout the book, even the cover spots a two-faced teen, one visually clear-headed and the other riddled by vices. Obakin is aware of peer pressures negative consequences but manages to share them in a way that is less preachy, and more a statement of fact. He anticipates the counterarguments of the young reader, such as the plague of bossy parents. He establishes middle grounds of understanding. The chapter ends like every other, with an exercise, almost as if to say that inactivity even in learning, must be left behind.
Having raised the issues, Obakin proceeds to provide solutions in the second chapter. Here as with the rest of the book, he uses pop culture as a point of reference with the young reader. The movie Mean Girls is a smart choice not only because it narratively deals with his subject matter, but because its lead actress Lindsay Lohan is a real-life example of what goes wrong when a teen gives in to pressure. Obakin draws from the film to teach peer-pressure defying principles. Though based in the United Kingdom, the author draws from his roots in using the popular African adage "show me your friends and I will show you who you are" to encourage the wise selection of friends and acquaintances.
In chapter three, the youth coach transitions from mentor to guru with philosophical ideas like the need to pay attention to one's inner voice. It's a nice change of pace but Obakin grounds the writing again, stating obvious but often neglected truths like "there will always be someone who is more beautiful, stronger, and more talented" than you. In today's world of overly positive motivational speaking, Obakin is bold enough to let teens know that life won't always be a bed of roses, as he states in an earlier chapter. Here he shares personal life stories that add an extra layer of intimacy to the body of work.
The Holy Trinity of vices is Drugs, Alcohol and Sex. The penultimate chapter of Perfect Teens Do (Not) Exist tackles the first two head-on. Gbenga Obakin continues his bold streak, unlike most, he doesn't outrightly condemn drug and alcohol use, but rather encourages moderation. He shares cautionary tales of how addiction has led to death and destruction. Drug addiction is an expensive habit Obakin suggests, and it may require theft to indulge. Consequently, crime-fighting may be more effective by dealing with the fundamental problem of substance abuse, as this book intends to do. In this chapter, Obakin deploys statistics and asks the young reader not to become one. He manages to draw a chuckle or two but leaves the reader with no doubt that this is serious business. Even though this is the longest chapter in the book, the author admits that words would never be enough to discourage someone from drug abuse, only free will, thus reaffirming the need for one to make the right choices.
"You need to take responsibility and protect your space from distractions" is perhaps the single most important takeaway from chapter 5. Obakin criticizes the perils of the internet but is savvy enough to know that there is no helping it. The information overload is here to stay, the teens only power lies in being deliberate about what they expose themselves to. With the clarity of a John C. Maxwell, Obakin elaborates upon the attitudes needed for success like contentment, self-awareness and failing forward.
Taken as a whole, the language of Perfect Teens Do (Not) Exist is conversational. Obakin isn't speaking to a nameless, faceless crowd of teeming teens. He is seated on his living room couch, having a heart to heart with a niece or a nephew. The wealth of practical knowledge in the book is sure to produce better-informed teenagers. Teenagers who -armed with the proper information- can now put away the weapons and vices that cause crime and commotion in society. The chapter-ending exercises force quiet reflection, no doubt a tactic to encourage some of the virtues he promotes in the book. No deep, complex truths exist here, but the simplicity cannot be mistaken for naivety. Gbenga Obakin knows what's going on, and despite the challenges the 21st-century teen faces, he knows exactly what they need to keep on going.
By Wayne A. Samuel
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