The Bottom Line
Book by David L. Marcus; 338 pages. Subtitle: Why Teenagers Get in Trouble and How Four of Them Got Out
Ever wondered what goes on in one of those therapeutic boarding schools for troubled teens? Author Marcus takes readers on a 15-month journey with Group 23 at the Academy of Swift River in Massachusetts as they survive wilderness outings, truth-telling sessions, rituals and restrictions, breakthroughs and fallbacks, and a field trip to Costa Rica. It's a tough place to be a fly on the wall.
- Compelling stories, well-told.
- Gives a good inside view of residential programs.
- Includes teens with a variety of problems.
- Shows both strengths and weaknesses of program.
- Includes "Memo to Parents" to help them apply book's lessons.
- All the kids' problems seem to come down, in one way or another, to mistakes their parents made.
- Some families are more sympathetically drawn than others.
- It hurts to think of your own child going through anything like this.
- One part of the students' experience is never discussed: Having an author follow them around.
- Prologue: Summer Vacation
- Part I Truths and Half-Truths
- Part II Shames and Blames
- Part III Forgiveness
- Epilogue: "So Many Fake People in the Real World"
- Memo to Parents
- Author's Note (Describes how the research was done)
Guide Review - Book Review: What It Takes to Pull Me Through
The chapter introducing one of the bright, talented and deeply screwed-up teens profiled here is subtitled "Every Parent's Worst Nightmare," and isn't that the truth. No parent wants to think about forcing their child to go away to a residential program for a season of deprivation and hard therapy. But more than that, no parent wants to think of their child descending into the depths of drug abuse, sex abuse, failure and isolation in which these teens have bottomed-out. This is a book that breaks your heart pretty much before you even get out of the prologue.
Some of the kids profiled here are more lost than others when they start the program. Some have more trauma to deal with; some have more lies to face up to; some have more lethargy to shake off. Some can't adjust to the rules or shed their old habits and flame out. At the end, all of the graduates are stronger than when they came in. But that's not the same as being strong. This ain't a fairy tale, and happily ever after is relative.
"What It Takes" is a worthy cautionary tale for all parents, and a useful preview for those who feel their kids are already walking down this road. But put on your thickest skin before reading it. The answer to "Why teenagers get in trouble" turns out to be, more often than not, "Clueless parents." Divorced, working, and adoptive parents in particular take a lot of hits here -- mostly, it seems, just for doing what it takes to get themselves through.