Like many children who grew up in the nineties, I know who Elizabeth Berkley is—she played Jessie Spano on the popular, heavily syndicated Saved by the Bell. So when Ask Elizabeth (Putnam, March) came into the office, I snatched it up out of curiosity (and perhaps fear). As it turns out, it’s getting a lot of attention. It’s an off-shoot of her non-profit workshops and web forum, “Ask Elizabeth,” which aim to promote the well-being of adolescent girls worldwide. The book presents itself as “group diary” and “life handbook for teenage girls,” offering stories, declarations, and questions by teens, and advice from experts and Berkley herself on issues key to a girl’s emotional life: self-esteem, body image, love, loss, friendship, and family. I was skeptical, but Berkley makes for a dependable confidante, and the book covers the topics adequately and creatively. Even the scrapbook-like design is alluring, if a bit difficult to read at times. Yes, I am a softie for girl-power self-esteem boosting (and maybe nineties sitcom stars), but Ask Elizabeth does exactly what it sets out to do, and does it well.
In a kind-of-similar but far more superficial vein, Lo Bosworth (right-hand gal to Lauren Conrad on MTV’s The Hills) poses as a BFF figure and addresses teen self-worth through the lens of boys and relationships in her January paperback release The Lo-Down (Simon). The reading is appropriately light, complete with quizzes, self-esteem–building exercises, and activity ideas. To the audience of Hills fans she’s speaking directly to (or at), Bosworth’s voice will sound cool and cute, her teachings wise and trustworthy. Non-fans, on the other hand, should be wary—the advice may fall flat if you couldn’t care less about the celebutante dishing it out.