Donna Jackson Nakazawa does it again with her upcoming book, Girls on the Brink: Helping Our Daughters Thrive in an Era of Increased Anxiety, Depression, and Social Media. She blends real-life situations with scientific knowledge and analysis. And concluding the book with strong antidotes goes a long way to helping parents and mentors counter the toxicity of girls’ everyday lives.

Jackson Nakazawa breaks the content into three distinct sections: explaining the situation, exploring the science, and offering fifteen achievable antidotes. Through it all, she uses the lives of three young women to illustrate her points and balance science with reality.

This is a must-read for every parent, teacher, and health care professional. Jackson Nakazawa has already published several books about science, medicine, and brain health using women’s experiences and perspectives. Now she turns her eyes to the next generation. Considering the prominence of cyberbullying, among other concerns, the choice makes perfect sense.

Adverse versus Positive Childhood Experiences

Jackson Nakazawa previously wrote about the science behind adverse childhood experiences (ACES) in Childhood Disrupted. Significant ACES affect our lifelong health. But, here she revisits that information as it happens rather than decades down the line. By describing the lives of those three young women, the author illustrates the short-term impact of absentee parents, poverty, childhood sexual abuse, as well as other situations.

Conversely, Jackson Nakazawa also discusses the impact of positive mentors and community, such as teachers and nurturing social situations. Hopefully, seeing girls’ lives from this perspective will inspire more adults to truly listen to and support the young women in their lives.

Puberty and Hormones

Girls’ early teen years are made more complicated by the hormonal changes they experience. And girls experience puberty even earlier now. This means that the time between childhood and the teen years accelerates. Coping with the change is a struggle for girls and their families. Jackson Nakazawa shines the light of information and antidotes into this space.

It’s also worth noting that social media and popular culture over-sexualize girls and teens. The back-to-school styles are more provocative than ever. Girls judge themselves against adult influencers on TikTok and every other platform. Jackson Nakazawa explains why this is concerning and offers better ways to approach it with our girls.

My Conclusions

This book is full to the brim with information and ideas. Attempting to summarize every point would only do it a disservice. But as I worked my way through it, Jackson Nakazawa offered invaluable insights. Most importantly, she reminds us to listen to girls and provide them a safe space to talk out their challenges.

Jackson Nakazawa’s other books tell her own story, which also illustrates an important point. She repeatedly encourages parents, especially mothers, to deal with their ACES and trauma. Not only does it model positive behavior for girls, but it also helps keep the temperature down when girls’ teenage issues heat up.

It’s also worth saying that the author’s perspective is a feminist one. She reminds us that girls’ rights are human rights. And we as adults made this world, which challenges kids today, especially girls. That attitude resonates with my own and enhances Girls on the Brink.

Jackson Nakazawa is a mom as well as an author, so she’s got skin in the game. That adds to her nuanced understanding of 21st-century girls and teen life. This book is essential reading for moms, dads, grandparents, favorite aunts, and anyone who influences a girl’s life. Pick up a few extra to give as holiday gifts—I know I am.

Pair with The Angel and the Assassin: The Tiny Brain Cell That Changed the Course of Medicine, Jackson Nakazawa’s 2019 book. Or try some fiction with female teenage protagonists, like Angie Thomas’s The Hate U Give.


Many thanks to NetGalley, Penguin Random House, and the author for a digital advanced reader’s copy in exchange for this honest review. The expected publication date for this book is September 13, 2022.