Teen People

The selection of teen magazines has changed since I was that age: there's ELLEgirl, teenVOGUE, COSMOgirl. I was half-expecting to see publications called Edge of Seventeen and Hand Mixer (a prepubescent version of Blender, natch) but those were merely figments of my imagination.

I opted for the March issue of another teen-centric magazine, Teen People. What I found were mixed messages. Early on, there's an ad for a plus-size clothing line. I made a mental note to commend Teen People for conveying to teens overly sensitive about their body image that it's okay to be bigger than a size 00.

A handful of pages later, I found a one-page profile on Nicole Richie's "sophisticated chic" look and how teens can mimic her style. Highlighting four different outfits on the rabbits-eat-more-than-I-do woman is fine, had Teen People not run a picture of Richie toward the middle of the book under the headline, "Dying to be thin?" The caption describes Richie as "skinnier than ever."  The story underneath discusses a poll asking if ultra-thin stars influence the way readers view their bodies. Almost half (46 percent) of the 11,649 readers polled said yes.

So it's OK to dress like Nicole Richie but not OK to look like her? I can draw that conclusion, but the majority of teens won't. They'll equate dressing like Nicole to having to look like her. Given the unnatural way society views body image, and how critical teens can be on themselves, I was disappointed to see such an unstable point of view.

Teen People hits the bull's-eye with a cover story entitled "The Faces of Meth" that profiles five recovering crystal meth addicts from all walks of life.

The March issue isn't completely seasoned with serious topics. The remainder of the magazine is peppered with light-hearted, upbeat and relevant content.

Teen People asked a handful of boys and girls who should pay on the first date, and a wise-beyond-his-age14-year-old summed it up best: "I think the boy should pay because a girl doesn't want a broke boyfriend. If a guy can't pay for dinner or the movies, what happens on Christmas, Valentine's Day and her birthday?"

A cover story on Kristin Cavallari from the MTV show "Laguna Beach: The Real Orange County" would have been better devoted to... oh, I don't know, someone with a God-given talent?

The magazine includes staple sections devoted to a question of the month (answered by both celebs and readers), horoscopes, embarrassing moments, advice Q&A and pop-culture quizzes.

I enjoyed a column penned by Kenny Chesney (ex-Mr. Renee Zellweger) about his favorite book (The Old Man and the Sea) and "Fan Club," a section where teenagers interview their favorite celeb.

There's a hefty number of pages devoted to the upcoming prom season, offering ideas for kids with varying budgets.

Educating fickle teenagers about serious topics while maintaining an upbeat, lighthearted backdrop is no easy task. Teen People walks the line while weathering an occasional stumble along the way.

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