North Bay Woman

October 2017

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56 NORTH BAY WOMAN | F A L L 2 0 1 7 By Lisa Brookes Kift, MFT T eenage years can be treacherous and complex, as revealed in Lindsey Lee Johnson's first novel, "The Most Dangerous Place on Earth." Underneath the redwoods of the affluent community of Mill Valley, where Johnson grew up, a cross-section of stereotypi- cal characters come to life, based on her experiences as a local tutor and student at Tamalpais High School. She aims to be provocative so this novel may not be for the faint of heart, particularly if you are a parent with children tracking toward their own high school experience. Within the first few pages, an outlier middle school student, Tristan Bloch, is shamed and bullied on social media, leading him to pedal his bike to the Golden Gate Bridge and jump. Other themes include heavy partying, sex and cruel behavior. Mean kids Johnson says, "A lot of people think, 'What's wrong with kids today, are they meaner and crueler?' I don't agree. Social media has exacerbated the experiences of the same issues that teens have had. A lot of the issues that I was dealing with wouldn't have been spread across the world within a matter of seconds … we need empathy for that." She adds, "I've worked with hundreds of kids as a teacher and tutor … I came to the conclusion that these kids that I was meeting were just like kids I had gone to school with." Though she is a fierce advocate for teens, finding them profoundly misun- derstood, Johnson is clear that they also need to take personal responsibility where appropriate. The characters I asked if she has a favorite character in the book. "I love all the characters, but David Chu was my favorite. I can relate to him the most. He is like a lot of kids that I've known, a good heart, kind and compassionate, a well-mean- ing kid with a nice personality … but that's not enough in his world. That to me is so sad," she remarks. "I remember feeling that pressure when I was a teacher and growing up in Marin there was such a high standard … everyone around you is successful … it's the natural expectation to be successful in ways there is evidence of … a trophy…a reward… a grade.…David Chu's parents are extremely well-meaning and want the best for him… and they can't see what he does have and who he is. I think that's a challenge for parents sometimes. "Damon Flintov was labeled the 'bad kid' since kindergarten and still sees himself that way as a 16-year-old. I'm interested, Author Lindsey Lee Johnson discusses her first novel,which traces the treacherous journeys of teens in the Book jacket image courtesy of Random House

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