Rooted Book Awards 2020: Best New Books for Teenagers
Well, one thing we can say for 2020: it was a good year for reading! Lockdown and quarantine provided us ample time to work through that stack on our desk or bedside table, and of course there were some new ones to add to the mix. Here are the best new gospel-centered resources for teenagers from 2020.
Best New Book for Teenagers
My Tech-Wise Life: Growing Up and Making Choices in a World Full of Devices by Amy Crouch and Andy Crouch
Nineteen-year-old Amy Crouch has accomplished something remarkable with this new book, in which she shares wisdom and insight about social media, gained through research with Barna and her own personal experience. She is both relatable and in touch with her audience, striking the balance between educating her peers and remaining a fellow struggler walking alongside them in the wilderness that is social media.
Growing up in a “low-tech” family (her dad is author Andy Crouch, author of The Tech-Wise Family) didn’t bother Crouch much. Even as she realized her family did things a little differently, she recalls a pretty happy childhood. Growing older, she waded slowly into the world of devices with her parents’ guidance and discovered the painful world of Instagram comparison and FOMO. After a weekend spent crying over Instagram, she finally reached out for help:
Eventually I realized tech couldn’t help me. So I sent my youth pastor, Bethany, a text for help. I didn’t say much, I just told her I was having a hard time and needed some love. We went to dinner together and I told her about what had engulfed me, about the dark, cold place those photos had plunged me into. She embraced me, she prayed with me, and she told me about bad photos of her own she had cringed over and the scars her self-doubts had left… and at some beautifully invisible moment, we both just began to laugh. We laughed because we suddenly saw the smallness of these insecurities; even the very worst pain our doubt put us through is nothing compared to the light and love of God. Three hours after I had been sobbing on my bed, broken by my ugly insecurities, I went home with a joyful heart full of the peace of community.
Through a combination of personal stories, research-based graphics, and practical tips, Crouch appeals to a broad base of young readers. Parent readers will glean useful perspective from her young adult point of view. Above all, Crouch assures her readers that knowing Jesus is better than any online relationship and His truth is solid ground in a world of social media distortion. This book would make great “required reading” for any young person receiving his or her first smartphone or computer, or for the longtime social media user who needs some wisdom to get out of unhealthy patterns. In a world of high-tech devices, this little book gives teenagers and families answers they can rely on.
Here are some other outstanding resources published in 2020 that will be very helpful to teens:
Doubtless: Because Faith is Hard by Shelby Abbott
Away from home (and their home church) for the first time, out from under their parent’s daily guidance, faced with challenges from professors and fellow students of differing beliefs, college freshmen commonly begin to question what they have believed with relative ease for most of their lives. As a college minister for over twenty years, Shelby Abbott has spent untold hours with students who wrestle with doubt. His new book Doubtless addresses anyone who experiences doubt, but he is particularly in tune with the concerns of young people. Starting with the premise that doubt does not equal unbelief, Abbott provides reassuring guidance for true seekers who are willing to “feed their faith, not their doubts.” Don’t be afraid to give this book to your questioning youth- he or she will find a gospel-centered guide through the wilderness of teenaged uncertainty.
Please see the Rooted Youth Ministry Podcast episode For the Teenager (or Youth Minister) Who Doubts: An Interview with Shelby Abbott.
In this intriguing book, Dr. Jeff Myers challenges readers to think about the ways Christians can put on blinders, avoiding the complexity of life and Scripture by accepting “easy answers” to life’s biggest questions. After spending a year in a Christian school that operated on rules and performance with no hint at God’s abundant grace, Myers came to a crisis of faith. Starting with the love of a devoted youth leader, over time he came to see “that my chosen worldview of unbelief was very narrow:”
That’s when I came back to Jesus and realized he wasn’t the one who was keeping me in bondage. Rather, he was the one who could set me free. Once my heart and mind opened to the fullness of Christ, I craved reality, with its clarity and mysteries, its beauty and its ugliness, its hopes and its fears, its dreams and its disappointments.
The book approaches ten cliches about the Christian faith and provides correction through Scripture and the gospel. It’s important for teenagers today because, as Myers noted, his own crisis of faith came when he was very young and taught a Christianity full of easy answers and devoid of grace. An excellent resource for thoughtful kids.
The companion book to Murray’s Why Is My Teenager Feeling Like This? for parents (which we recommend to in our parenting book awards), this offering follows the same format so that parent and child can read them together- or at least at the same time. Here, Panicky Paul, Controlling Colin, and Negative Nicole (among others) share their stories with the teenage reader, Murray provides biblical counsel, and then the hypothetical teen provides an “update” on how God is helping them. It sounds a little cute, but it works. Veteran counselor Murray has obviously spent years talking with teens because he does a wonderful job of speaking their language without trying to seem cool or talking down to teens. This volume teaches teens how Jesus meets them in their anxiety and depression, how the gospel helps them, and where to find Scripture that will speak truth into their darkness. Parents will likely benefit from reading both volumes, but no matter how the two books are used, Murray’s insights and counsel will help teens and families.