This is the second review I've done for photographer Michael Franzini's book One Hundred Young Americans (the first one was for his website) - and I'm still in awe over what he and his team have accomplished.
In a nutshell, One Hundred Young Americans is a portrait of the youth culture in America today. Michael traveled to all fifty states (30,462 miles!) to find out what it means to live as a teenager today. He photographed and interviewed mainstream kids like the preps, popular kids, and athletes, as well as the fringe kids like the goths, skater punks, and emos.
Before I got the book, it was already clear that his task of assembling 100 teenagers that represented American was a difficult one, but exactly how difficult was only apparent once I delved into the book.
The project started with an analysis of the census data for gender, race, religion, and sexual orientation. Their goal was to have a balance of city/suburban/rural and rich/middle-class/poor, as well as mainstream/fringe kids. The team approached teens in malls, on the streets, and in schools to ask them to participate. Thousands sent in forms and for nearly half a year, Michael and his team reviewed hundreds of teens that potentially filled their needs.
The real work started when he started traveling to meet these young people: first, Michael had to convince the gatekeepers (i.e. the parents) that his project was real. This wasn't an easy task since over 90% of them thought that he was either a scammer or a predator. One father was so fearful that during their first meeting he had a claw hammer in his hands, just in case there was some clobberin' required.
The end product, however, was worth all the trouble: Michael and his team were able to put together not only a beautifully designed photo book, but also one filled with some shocking, some sad, and some heartwarming but all interesting narratives about the lives of today's young Americans.
If you have a teenager at home, this book will give you an insight into what their real lives are like. If you are interested in the youths of America today, or if you like to read amazing stories - check out these six excerpts from the book:
Lexi, 15, California
The teacher cleared out half the classroom and made Lexi sit by herself so she wouldn't infect the other children. The teacher would follow her into the bathroom and once sent her home for spitting. Her only friends were the lunch ladies in the cafeteria.
Later that year, her mother died of AIDS.
Read more about Lexi's story.
Ben, 18, South Dakota
Read more about Ben's story.
Katy, 17, Virginia
Katy spends hours each day playing Gears of War. She'd love to be the number-one pro gamer in the world, but she says she's not nearly good enough. "If I could just make the top 100, I'll be the happiest person alive."
Read more about Katy's story.
Josh, 17, Michigan
In spite of the abuse, Josh and his band mates decided to go to school in full Kiss regalia one day. "All the preps and jocks made fun of us, but we didn't care, because we weren't who we were before."
Read more about Josh's story.
Blessing, 18, Massachusetts
"Coming from the third world, I can see all the opportunity surrounding me," she says. "I can make something of myself here."
Read more about Blessing's story.
Bentzy, 19, New York
"We are not here for enjoyment. God created us to do something. And the something isn't to play basketball all day or to eat pizza. If teenagers in America knew this, it would be good."
Read more about Bentzy's story.
Note: This review is sponsored by Michael Franzini's One Hundred Young Americans book. Although I am compensated for this review, the words and opinion (with the exception of the quoted text) are all mine. There was no editorial pressure to write only positive reviews.