For those who suffer from it, anxiety is a wily beast, constantly nipping at the heels. As Toronto writer and film producer Polly Wells deftly illustrates in Freaking Out, anxiety can be a particularly complex challenge during the teen years, when rapid change and insecurity are the norm.
This collection of 13 personal stories from teens across North America explores the spectrum of anxiety, from angst to severe disorders. Each narrator reveals the source of his or her anxiety, which includes the death of a parent, an acute fear of dogs, and separation from family – related in a moving story about a teen’s refugee experience – and explains how the issue escalated into a debilitating problem. The teens describe how they learned to manage their anxiety, often with the help of a therapist or psychiatrist.
With each account running eight to 10 pages, the book can be read in short bursts – a structure that works well for an audience grappling with its own problems. While the circumstances resulting in each teen’s anxiety vary, the narratives are neatly tied together in an afterword by clinical psychologist Stacie B. Isenberg, which explains the disorder and offers advice on where to seek help. A concise but valuable resources section also points readers to related books, websites, and hotlines.
The lone drawback is that some of the accounts are “hybrid stories” with multiple sources. These entries feel at odds with the intimacy of the first-person narratives, and verge on undermining the honesty that makes the teens’ experiences relatable.
Freaking Out shows anxious teens they’re not alone, and sometimes that makes all the difference.