The Owners Manual for Driving Your Adolescent Brain, by Terrence Deak, PhD; JoAnn Deak, PhD; illustrated by Freya Harrison

The Owners ManualAdolescence is never easy. We know to expect many of the changes we encounter: girls growing breasts and curves, boys voices deepening, and everyone growing hair all over parts they used to be scared to wash. These are the “normal” changes. We throw them at our pre-adolescents, and hope that’s enough. “If you have any questions, you can always feel free to ask me,” parents say.

Statements like that are why teens are so adept at eye-rolling. “Yeah, you hold your breath on that, mom, when I have a pubic hair question.”

Not gonna happen.

“The Owner’s Manual for Driving Your Adolescent Brain” will not answer questions about how to get other kids to like you. It doesn’t teach you how (or what) to shave, nor does it deal with genitals of any kind.

“The Owner’s Manual for Driving Your Adolescent Brain” takes your pre-teen on a super-smart EPCOT ride explaining how the brain has worked during the first ten years of life, and how it’s going to change in the second decade. It has a fun, light-hearted approach to what can be a turbulent period. Once the brain gets fired up for adolescence, all manner of things happen, and this book serves as an excellent primer, a clearly worded resource your teen can keep and revisit as needed.

There are examples of how choices affect which part of the brain gets stimulated, and to which degree: Does your brain grow more by donating canned goods to a food drive? Or by serving in a soup kitchen? As you’d expect, the latter choice stimulates more brain sensors. Pretty obvious, right?

But “The Owner’s Manual for Driving Your Adolescent Mind” explains WHY it’s different physiologically, and WHY there’s a greater positive effect.

The writing in “The Owner’s Manual” is absolutely key. I’ve read books about brain physiology. I fell asleep in some of them. For this book to work, the writing had to be hip, but not pandering; kid-savvy, but not overly parental.

The Drs. Deak nailed it. They use a few examples Carl Jung wouldn’t have used—comparing the nerves’ myelin sheaths to the rubber insulation on iPod earbuds, e.g.—but Jung could stand to lighten up a bit. Freya Harrison’s illustrations are fun but informative, and a valuable tool to assist learning.

In all seriousness, if you have a child who’s nine or so and a good reader, I would absolutely, without reservation recommend buying him or her this book. The tone and writing are uniformly positive. Better still, the Drs. Deak start off each section with a concise, clear neurological concept, then break it down so anyone can read and understand it.

Your child is not going to read this book, then miraculously avoid all of the usual adolescent dramas. What it does is answer every teen’s constant questions: “No! It isn’t just you! And here’s why girls who played kickball with you yesterday want to kiss you today.”

I think parents should read this book, too. It would be ideal if you could open an ongoing dialogue with your teenager, and be able to refer to chapter and verse, et voila, the problem du jour goes away. It won’t work that way. This book is good, but it ain’t magic.

Kidding aside, there is a goldmine of valuable information here. Buy it. Read it. And for cryin’ out loud, keep it handy. My ex-girlfriend has twin ten-year-olds—truly awesome kids, whom I love to pieces. On November 6th—the date this book is expected to be released—I will be buying three copies for her and the kids, plus another for my godson.

These are tough times both to be an adolescent and to raise one. “The Owner’s Manual for Driving Your Adolescent Brain” focuses on some of the toughest changes our kids face, and gives good, clear advice how to handle it. In a journey this perilous, it’s nice to have a good road map. This book is that map.

Most Highly Recommended

(nb: I received an Advance Review Copy from the publisher Little Pickle Press  via Edelweiss)


About tom

B.A. in Literature, Minor in Film Theory and Criticism, thus meaning all I’m trained is to write blog posts here. Neptune is my favorite planet–it vents methane into the solar system like my brother does. I think Chicken McNuggets look like Pennsylvania, Illinois, and Indiana. There are times when I’m medicated, which is why I wrote about McNuggets. Buy some today and tell me I’m wrong! Anyway, Beyond that: mammal, Floridian, biped.Good Night, and Good Luck. Besos, tom
This entry was posted in Best Books of the Year, Books, Non Fiction and/or Commentary, Science: from Anatomy to Zoology, series, Young Adult. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to The Owners Manual for Driving Your Adolescent Brain, by Terrence Deak, PhD; JoAnn Deak, PhD; illustrated by Freya Harrison

  1. Thanks for your review. Little Pickle Press is excited for “The Owner’s Manual for Driving Your Adolescent Brain” to hit the shelves. Although the publication date is November 25th, those interested in a pre-order option may do so via Amazon at, at a significant discount. We’ll let you know when the eBook lands on the virtual shelves. It will also sell at a significant discount prior to the bound book publication date.


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