Puberty is awkward, especially when you're a space alien

Adolescence is a weird, weird time in anyone's life, when it's easy to feel alienated from your peers, your family, even your own body. In Tentacles Growing Everywhere, an interactive novella by Squinky, you get to watch the experience of puberty play out for three actual aliens as they write entries in what is essentially Livejournal.

Described as an "an incredibly queer mashup of Judy Blume, Babysitters Club, and pulpy sci-fi," you follow along as three childhood friends head off to new schools and blog about their problems with crushes, bullying, and of course, the awkwardness of their changing tentacled bodies.

Although most of the game involves simply watching the journal entries unfold, you occasionally get to make choices—and hear the anxious metacommentary of each character as they ponder whether they're oversharing and occasionally delete their thoughts instead of sharing them with their friends (and the world). It's an experience that should ring true for anyone who's ever struggled with how much of themselves they want to show to the internet, or even to their friends.

Tentacles Growing Everywhere originally came out in May, but it's now available at the convenient price of "pay whatever you want" for Windows, Mac and Linux. Read the rest

Boys might be hitting puberty earlier, too

Several studies have now led to a scientific consensus that American girls are hitting puberty earlier. Now, a new study suggests that the same might also be true of boys. The New York Times has a very good article on this that gets into the nuances of the research and explains what this information might mean (and what it doesn't mean).

There are a couple of key things that I found to be particularly interesting:

• There's enough evidence now that scientists generally agree girls are growing breasts at a younger age than they used to. But it's a lot less clear whether or not their periods are starting earlier, too. In fact, the evidence accumulating on that is leading scientists to start wondering whether breast development and menstruation aren't as closely tied together as we previously thought.

• It's a bit difficult to know whether this study in boys actually represents a real change because earlier research on when boys hit puberty — essentially, the stuff this study is comparing modern boys against — is often flawed. One 40-year-old study mentioned in the story established guidelines for how all boys should be developing and when based solely on photographs of 228 white boys from a London juvie facility.

• Even if both boys and girls are hitting puberty earlier, scientists acknowledge that the social results are very, very different. Parents don't particularly care when their 9-year-old son's testicles get bigger. Parents are deeply concerned when their 9-year-old daughter grows breasts. Read the rest