"The generation gap between teens and their parents is bigger today than ever before," said photographer Michael Franzini, author of ONE HUNDRED YOUNG AMERICANS, a book from HarperCollins that goes on sale this week at all major bookstores.
Franzini -- a photographer, writer and Emmy-winning director -- traveled over 30,000 miles with his crew to photograph and interview a diverse group of 100 teens in all 50 states.
A crew of 8 people worked for half a year to identify the group of 100 young people that best represented a cross section of American teens.
The composition of this group matches census data for gender, race and sexuality. The group includes every kind of teenager: jocks and band geeks, gamers and stoners, emo kids and rappers, goths and vampires.
Unlike previous generations, today's teens have unlimited access to information, entertainment, social networking and more. Franzini calls them the "Instant Access Generation."
They have grown up with Google, MySpace, and text messaging. They have also grown up with broken families, war abroad, and a mass media assault at home.
100 YOUNG AMERICANS shows American teenagers as they want to be seen. It gives a rare glimpse into their private lives and the many social issues they wrestle with on a daily basis.
The book includes hundreds of lush photographs, as well as a narrative on each of the 100 teens. Key issues addressed include the following:
-- Social networking sites -- About half of all American teenagers have a
profile on MySpace, through which they have developed large networks of
on-line friends, sometimes numbering in the thousands. But, as several
of the teens in this book point out, MySpace has also become a platform
for a new wave of bullying and predation.
-- Cliques, identity and popularity -- High school cafeterias are as
rigidly divided as ever, along the old lines of race, class and gender.
But, thanks to the Internet, cliques that would not have taken root in
the past -- or would have been much smaller -- are now thriving and
often span the globe. For some teens, Instant Access means that the
world is a less lonely place.
-- Sex -- More than half of American high school seniors have had sex and
almost one third of all girls get pregnant before they turn 20. Yet,
along with a rise in sexual freedom and experimentation, there has also
been a surprisingly successful safe-sex and abstinence movement in
America, strengthened by the new information technologies. A number of
the teens in this book are proud of the fact that they intend to wait
-- Drugs -- Most teens know where to get marijuana, and many know where to
get cocaine or crystal meth. But today's young people have also
learned how to get high on the drugs they find in their parents'
medicine cabinets. Several teens in the book talk about their
life-shattering experiences with drugs, including prescription drugs
like Oxycontin and over-the-counter medicines like Robitussin.
-- Gang violence -- Many of the kids in this book describe their
experiences with gangs, but the most powerful representation of
gang-driven destruction is a graphic one. The last image in the book
is of a young man lying in a coffin, a 13-year-old victim of a drive-by
-- Religion -- Many of the teens in this book are deeply religious, some
in spite of their parents' atheism or agnosticism. Although it is
often blamed for the spread of violent and pornographic images, Instant
Access has also brought many young Americans closer to God.
-- Family -- More than a third of all American families are stepfamilies.
The stories in this book make it clear that kids who live with
stepparents face added difficulties. But they also address the
problems of "helicopter parents" who-aided by cell phones-intrude into
their kids' lives, direct their activities, and inhibit their growth
These are just a few of the topics covered in 100 YOUNG AMERICANS, a book that captures the beauty and complexity of American youth today.
"With the budget and crew dedicated to the creation of this book, we could have made a feature film," said executive producer Brett Henenberg, who supervised the production and accompanied Franzini to all 50 states.
The book's web site http://www.100youngamericans.com/ includes many images from the book and stories about 25 of the 100 teens.