If I’m So Smart, Why Aren’t the Answers Easy?: Advice From Teens On Growing Up Gifted
Delisle, J. & Schultz, R.
ISBN: 978-1-59363-960-0
Prufrock Press

BOOK REVIEW (Davidson Institute) – Based on years of survey research, If I’m So Smart, Why Aren’t the Answers Easy? shares the comments of hundreds of gifted teens on their experiences with giftedness.

Reviewed by the Davidson Institute for Talent Development.

Since 2003, gifted individuals have been sharing their thoughts on giftedness on the Gifted Kids Speak website (http://www.giftedkidspeak.com/), and Drs. Robert Schultz and James Delisle have compiled the insights of hundreds of contributing teens to bring readers If I’m So Smart, Why Aren’t the Answers Easy? By sharing stories “from gifted teens for gifted teens,” the intent is to fill a niche that helps students learn more about giftedness firsthand and allows reflection on peer advice to propel them toward self-discovery and self-development.

While the bulk of the book lists teen comments to questions about growing up gifted, there are also several longer stories included, as well as a number of “Your Turn” reflective exercises that prompt readers to help make sense of the topics for themselves. All of this is within the framework of engaging pop-culture references (from Big Bang Theory and Lady Gaga factoids to Charlie Brown and Oscar Wilde quotes) and friendly remarks from the authors that briefly provide context and commentary for each of the issues addressed. These topics include friends, expectations, school, family, the future and more.

Chapter 1 begins the book by examining the fundamental question “What is giftedness?” including teen comments on what they think being gifted means, how they found out they were gifted, what the best and worst parts of being gifted are, etc. Here are a few examples of how the teens responded:

  • “Giftedness is having exceptional abilities and being motivated enough to use those abilities to create wonderful things” –Girl, 13, Iowa
  • “Gifted is like the plague. You get identified and everyone around you changes the way you are treated” –Boy, 13, West Virginia
  • “Being gifted is a joy when I’m around people who understand that labels are only cheap ways to compare people. It is horrible when the comparisons pit divergent groups against one another” –Boy, 16, Colorado

This book not only gives readers a glimpse into how gifted teens feel about themselves and their giftedness, but it also gives readers a glimpse of some prevailing attitudes toward peers, teachers, and parents, making it a great book for anyone involved with giftedness to read as well. For example, survey respondents address questions about how parental bragging and comparisons make them feel, what they wish their parents would discuss with them, and what makes them happiest at home:

  • “My parents never talk to me about being smart. Most of the time I get the feeling that they just don’t care.” –Girl, 13, Kentucky
  • “They often say, ‘Don’t embarrass us by turning into some sort of bookworm. Play sports, get dirty outside and enjoy yourself.’” –Boy, 15, Alaska
  • “Because of my abilities, my parents expect me to be very responsible and to always keep my grades high. I sometimes feel they have asked me to grow up faster than normal…. They tell me they just want me to be happy, but at the same time feel that is only possible by engaging in high-paying, high prestige careers.” –Girl, 15, Iowa

These teen voices speak to parents, teachers, and other gifted teens in ways that no one else can. And these comments not only span the gamut across the United States, but there are also contributions from teens from Australia, Germany, England and more. It is important that these gifted teens from around the world be heard and that they know that there are others out there like them, for as one survey respondent put it, “The best thing about being gifted is knowing that I am not mentally deranged or otherwise atypical. I worried about why I was so different from other kids—obsessed about it really. Once I was identified and began meeting other highly gifted individuals, I felt a sense of calm. There were other people like me. It was wonderful to know” –Girl, 15, Belgium.

This book can serve not only to inform readers about gifted teens’ experiences but also to remind gifted teens of the liberating truth that they are not alone.

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