Brainstorm was more spiritual than I expected. I was looking forward to concrete examples of how to get my future kids in shape for the world, and I got breathing and meditation exercises instead. As a practicing psychiatrist, Siegel is very knowledgeable on the topic of adolescence, and it’s his clinical stories that I found most interesting; however, this book reads more like a textbook than anything else, and even though Siegel wrote this for both adolescents and adults, I’m not sure if these age groups (especially the prior one) can relate to what he’s written.
Most of us think of the period of adolescence – between the ages of twelve and twenty-four – as when our hormones go haywire and we do stupid things; “those crazy kids,” people shake their heads and say. Siegel aims to elucidate the challenges and benefits of that period of our growth and explain why adolescents feel the way they do by examining changes in the brain. As a book for both adolescents and adults, he provides Mindsight Tools as guidance for obtaining mindful awareness and a healthier mind and body.
Brainstorm is divided up into four sections, some of which I liked and some of which I didn’t like. I felt that sometimes the transition from subtopic to subtopic was a bit sudden, since this book isn’t tied together by a single “story.” I enjoyed reading about Siegel’s patients because it puts what he’s saying in perspective, so I wish that there were more real-world examples than explanations and facts.
Likewise, the four Mindsight Tools – which applies the concepts learned from each section – were useful at times and too abstract for me at others. For example, Siegel provides an awareness exercise (which he also has audio for online) that’s basically meditation, and I’m not sure how adolescents feel about actually doing it. I personally remember being subjected to a similar exercise when I was in my teens, and some kids actually fell asleep during the exercise. With that said, my favorite Mindsight Tools is the last one, in which Siegel describes seven activities (downtime, playtime, sleep time, etc.) that “keep your body healthy, your mind strong, and your brain continuing to grow in integrative ways throughout your life.”
And as a book catered to two different populations of readers, I think Brainstorm is more adept at reaching the adult population than the adolescent population. The writing style in this book makes it feel like a lecture given by a professor with a very soothing voice that makes me bored and sleepy at times. When Siegel talks about his young patients or his adolescent children, his voice inevitably shifts to that of an adult, and it makes him a little bit harder to relate to.
I also wish that this book provided more detailed references to studies and scientific methods; often the phrase “science has proven that…” is given, and I think the studies themselves would’ve been interesting to read about too.
For me, the best parts of Brainstorm are the comics that are interspersed throughout the text. They’re simple, cute, and witty, and made the book more enjoyable to read.
Overall, Brainstorm explains the workings of the adolescent mind in a somewhat abstract way, and I wish that there were more concrete examples and detailed explanations of the research in this area. However, there were stories that I could relate to and sections and graphics that I enjoyed, so I did learn something from this book. (Oh, and I learned how to make a brain with my hand! That was pretty cool.)