One Hundred Young Americans, a Book by Michael Franzini

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
When Lexi was in the first grade, her mom told the teacher than Lexi was HIV-positive.

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
... Suddenly Ben sees his animal and takes aim. He waited for her to get to the perfect spot, and he launched the bowarrow. In the instant he shot, a much bigger elk ran between Ben and his target animal.

The bow arrow plunged into the left hind quarter of a 750-pound male elk, far from any vital organ. Ben was paralyzed. For minutes, he couldn't speak. He sat and stared at the ground, and his prey ran off.

Read more about Ben's story.

Katy, 17, Virginia
Nothing makes Katy angrier than when people blame video games for violence in the real world. "I don't have a violent bone in my body," she says. "I brake for butterflies. I'd rather wreck my car than hit a squirrel. I don't even like walking on grass because I might hurt it."

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
The other kids, especially the jocks, look down on the music kids. This one football jock named Rubio always messes with Josh. Like when Josh is sprinting down the hallway late to class, Rubio will stick his foot out, slamming Josh face first into the floor, sending his books flying everywhere.

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
Blessing is grateful to her parents for giving up so much to bring her to America, which she says really is the land of opportunity - although most teenagers here don't recognize that.

"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
Bentzy has never heard of MySpace. He's lived in New York since he was 11, but he lives in a different world from most American teenagers. "We are here for a purpose."

"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.

For more, check out Michael Franzini's website: One Hundred Young Americans, or get his book here.

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.

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who says "teens" are are negative? i'm tired of always being stereotyped, because of my age.. most of the people (yes i said "people" not not "kids" or "teens") in the book are strong creative positive productive loving dreaming.
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The Internet is already awash in negativity, and for the most part, I refuse to add to the pile. Maybe I'm a little old fashioned, but I believe in the old adage "if you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all."

I turn down the majority of review requests because I feel that I can't say anything positive about the product, even after delving deeply into it. You wouldn't believe some of the crazy requests I get (um, alien technology, anyone?) But I'd rather go without the money than having to say something superficial or untrue in the review.

I stand by all of Neatorama's sponsored reviews - they reflect what I genuinely feel about the product. True, I could have said something bad and still charge for a review, but I wouldn't feel right about it.

Advertising is an integral part of the web - many websites and blogs wouldn't exist (for free anyhow) if it weren't for ad income. I believe that there is still a place for honest, disclosed, and ethical review posts on this and other blogs.
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I'd like to see, just once, a negative sponsored review. Does the reviewer get paid if he doesn't like the book? Or does he return the money? Does Neatorama get any money? Does Neatorama even run negative reviews? Of course not. These sponsored reviews are B.S. They should run off to the right, with the other ads.
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As a recent high school graduate, the strangest thing about this book, judging from your selections, is how attractive and/or interesting all these teens are. The vast majority of teens that I know aren't, or at least not so strikingly.
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