Dare to Be You

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Matthew Syed (text) and Toby Triumph (illustrator), Dare to Be You: Defy Self-Doubt, Fearlessly Follow Your Own Path and Be Confidently You!, Hachette Australia, September 2020, 160pp., RRP $19.99, ISBN 9781526362377 

Confession: I do not LOVE the trend in some children’s and young adult books of have minimum five different fonts per page and eye-wateringly bright coloured pages. 

When I picked up Dare to Be You by Matthew Syed, I was concerned that I would not be able to objectively review it because it contains the aforementioned cornucopia of fonts and some very orange pages. However, I was extremely pleasantly surprised by the contents. 

Dare to Be You is essentially a self-help book for tweens and young teens. Matthew encourages the reader to confront ‘Kid Doubt’, the attitudes and opinions of others that stop people doing the things they love because they fear the disapproval of others. He talks about how awesome it is to be different, kind, and resilient. Matthew backs this information up with examples from his own life, research, and real-life examples from people like Greta Thunberg, Emma Watson, and Coldplay. Best of all, there are action plans included that encourage the reader to move from ideas to action. Dare to Be You doesn’t sugarcoat the fact that change is difficult or that you will encounter ‘bumps in the road’. However, it also includes enough gentle reminders about what is at stake and what is possible if you just dare to be you. 

My only critical observation about this book is that the author is British which means that there are cultural references within the book that aren’t necessarily meaningful for Australian readers. For example, the author talks at length about his obsession with an English footballer, Kevin Keegan. However, the bulk of the book would translate well to most Western cultures.  

This book could be an excellent resource for young people struggling with anxiety, friendship issues, self-esteem issues, or just the general challenges of growing up and figuring out who they are. It is the kind of book I wish I had had growing up (quite probably at that age I would have enjoyed the bright colours and whacky fonts). 

I would highly recommend this books for readers aged 9 years and over, for teachers, guidance officers, chaplains and others working with this age group, and for older readers who might need a reminder that who they are is pretty awesome and that it is never to late to follow their dreams. 

Reviewed by Anne Varnes 

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