You Can Change the World by Margaret Rooke – fifty stories of teenagers who have made a difference


The title really reveals the message of this book – it features the stories of those who, as teenagers, changed some element of the world around them. Some of the contributors are still young, even as young as thirteen, whereas others are in their twenties but recall their actions. Many have started movements, some have joined and enhanced them. Some have acted out of inspiration that has come to them while living their lives, others have transformed their entire life as a result of what has happened to them. There are those who have had a challenge in their health or ability to cope with school, who have transformed their activities and world view. Some have had issues with their mental health and found strength to cope and flourish. Often a trauma such as the death of a parent or sibling has brought them low, but then given them the inspiration to develop positive schemes. The people writing pieces in this book have had to survive and then thrive, and often done so by moving others to action. They have overturned expectations, challenged the limits of their backgrounds, and really changed the circumstances for themselves and others. This book is in some ways aimed at young people, but the principles of action and positive thinking hold good for people of all ages. It has been a fascinating read, and I am glad to have had the opportunity to read and review it.


In amongst these fifty testimonies or snatches of life there are authentic and sometimes moving stories of some great transformations as well as real efforts to make a difference. There are different attitudes to social media; some have harnessed for good and to enable big social efforts, others have rejected it as distracting. Some people have discovered and worked on a talent that they have had to fight to develop such as sport, including creating football playing opportunities for those with a physical disability. Some have changed perceptions of their sexuality, choices in appearance and very identity. Others have mounted campaigns to stop the cruel treatment of animals and the exploitation of the world’s resources. 


There are five sections in this book: Demanding Change, Never Giving Up, Finding My Voice, Challenging What Others Think, Discovering My Passion, Turning My Life Around,  and Helping Others. It includes stories of feminism and the realisation that the role of girls and young women should not be limiting but empowering. There is much here about those who have raised money and crucial awareness of such diverse matters as cancer, period poverty and difference in abilities, as unexpected talents and strength are revealed. Some revelations in the book relate to the opportunities presented by the teenage stage, in having a clear view of what needs to be done. It has much to say about the elements of teenage life that are so significant, including school, friendship groups, family and community. 


This is a positive picture of being a teenager in the twenty first century around the world. It acknowledges the challenges but also celebrates the opportunities created and taken up by determined, resilient and thoughtful young people. There ought to be several copies in every school library, public library and in any other place where it can fall into the hands of young people who can be inspired. The “Tool kit” section at the back briefly gives hints and tips of how to emulate these teenagers. A fascinating book of making a difference for all, this is a worthwhile and memorable read containing vibrant and exciting voices.   


As life gets busier around here (when will I put the tree up?) I probably won’t be posting a best books of the year type post, as I have so many that I want to posts reviews about that I will be continuing to post new reviews of a variety of titles. I have some new and older books that have been begging to be celebrated in posts, so watch this space.