Elevate Difference

Louder Than Words: Marni

Louder Than Words is a series aimed at teenagers about teenage experiences. Atypically, the volumes are also written by teenagers. It may seem bizarre to ask teenagers to write memoirs—as Marni says, her siblings laughed—but Louder Than Words is dedicated to “reinforce[ing] the message that the experiences of teenagers and their perceptions and beliefs regarding [their] experiences have validity.”

Marni Bates comes from a dysfunctional home. Her parents are estranged long before they divorced, and her sister is her rival. Young Marni wants to be loved, so she plays into the manipulative games her father contrives. The shocking realization that her father sees her as a tool, rather than a daughter to love, is the first of many sledgehammers to Marni's self-esteem.

Trichotillomania is a stress-related disorder. People pull their hair out as a means of coping, not unlike cutting or other forms of self-mutilation. Marni begins to pull at her eyebrows, taunted about her unibrow, a term she doesn’t even understand. Soon she is tugging out her eyelashes, her bangs, and the hair behind her ears. She knows she’s gone too far, but she can’t stop herself. Still, she hides the results of her pulling well, giving the disorder free reign over her mind and body.

Marni is a self-possessed young woman. Nineteen at the time of her writing, she has come to a mature understanding of herself and the other people in her life. Teenagers often are not given credit for having this kind of self-awareness, and many times they’re not given an opportunity to prove they have it.

There are a few points in Marni's story that seem slightly bent by her lingering emotion. For instance, her descriptions of her father are not at all kind—but this is to be expected of someone who is still living this period of her life. Marni continues to battle her disorder, and it is because of this that the book does not really have a proper ending. The story stops, but is not over.

Marni does not make false promises or pretend she has reached a happily ever after. This may be one of the best messages for teens: acknowledging that life is not a series of neatly packaged stories with beginnings, middles, and ends.

I blazed through this small book in a matter of hours. The writing is human, humbling, and honest. The Louder Than Words could do a lot of good in high school health classes. I know I would have been happy to read it.

Written by: Richenda Gould, December 21st 2009

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