Sunday, October 10, 2010

Get Real

Get Real: What Kind of World Are You Buying?
by Mara Rockliff

112 pages
published by Running Press

Description from Rockliff's website:

Can you change the world with your wallet? You already do.

This frank, teen-friendly manifesto reveals what you're really buying when you spend your money on a burger, a cheap t-shirt, or a cell phone--and points the way to better choices, both for people and the planet.

Start seeing the world for real, and discover how you can make a difference. You've got buying power--now let's see you change the world for good!

My comments:

Let me begin by saying that I agree with Rockliff's message, and think that this is a great idea for a YA book. Also, the design is fun: punchy graphics, compelling photos, and a funky red-green-aqua color palette.

In chapters like, "And All I Got Was This Lousy T-Shirt," "Trash Talk" and "Sweeter Treats," Rockliff encourages teens to think before they buy - about where their products are coming from, who made them, what will happen to them when they're no longer wanted, and whether they really need them. "Buys in the Hood" extolls the virtue of buying locally, and "Green Warriors vs. Greenwashers," provides tips to determine whether a company is really making an effort to go green or just trying to make it appear that way. Teens are encouraged to not only consume wisely, but to consume less.

The writing is casual and in your face, as if you are having a conversation with a very passionate, fired-up person. Rockliff throws a lot of inflammatory information at you without immediately backing it up with sources. There is an extensive list of books, articles, websites, and documentaries at the end, but no notes to show you which statements come from where. Unfortunately for Rockliff (and any teens who read this book and are inspired by the contents) people who assault you with their opinions are really annoying, especially when they can't provide any hard facts or expert sources.

There's also nothing more futile than trying to convince somebody of something when you can't explain it yourself. The chapter entitled "Franken Foods" provides an example of this. Rockliff says that genetically engineered foods are bad, but doesn't really explain why they are bad. Her main argument seems to be that they aren't natural. Genetically altered foods may be bad. However, as demonstrated with this NPR story about genetically engineered salmon, there is room for multiple opinions and open debate.

Besides the obvious passion that was poured into this work, all of those websites and other sources are the book's greatest strength. In addition to the lists at the back, some resources are featured in red "more" boxes that appear at the end of each chapter. These boxes don't make up for a lack of notes, but they do give inspired readers a handy jumping off point for more research.

The book is printed on recycled paper with soy-based ink. It was also printed in China, which just goes to show how hard it is nowadays to practice what you preach.

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