Synopses & Reviews
Millions of parents struggle to grasp what goes on in their kids heads, on their computers, and among their friends. As an education correspondent for U.S. News & World Report
, David L. Marcus wrestled with similar questions while reporting on the maze of pressures American teenagers now face a resurgent drug culture, proliferating temptations and threats on-line, skyrocketing suicide rates (three times higher than in the 1960s), and more.
To find answers, Marcus gained unfettered access to students, staff, and parents at the Academy at Swift River in western Massachusetts. The kids who come to Swift River have already headed down some of the dangerous paths that all parents fear their children may take drug use, violence, theft, Internet addiction, eating disorders, even prostitution. Known for combining rigorous courses, wilderness survival, and group therapy in an intensive fourteen-month program, the school helps troubled teenagers regain emotional health.
With the cooperation of the kids at Swift River, their parents, counselors, and teachers, Marcus gained full access to students group therapy sessions and journals; he discovered astonishing crises and surprising truths. He focuses on four remarkable kids who run the demographic gamut: a southern girl whose privileges cannot save her from sinking into drug abuse and unsafe sex; the self-destructive son of teachers grappling with his anger about being adopted; a black kid from a tough New York neighborhood who is silenced by consuming depression; and a once high-achieving Florida girl broken by the death of her mother.
While uncovering what drove these kids and their parents to Swift River, Marcus opens the blackbox of the teenage mind. As he reveals the intense, dramatic process that sets most of these kids right, he weaves a taut, absorbing tale and charts a path to hope that any kid, any parent, can take.
"Motivated by a personal quest as a journalist and father, Marcus set out to report on the difficulties of being a teen today, and focused on the transformation of four troubled adolescents. His subjects engaged in activities like sneaking out of the house to have sex with multiple, random partners; stealing credit cards; snorting heroin; and engaging in self-mutilation. Their parents, desperate to help, sent the teens away from home, to the exclusive, $5,000-a-month Academy at Swift River in Massachusetts for 14 months of group therapy, wilderness survival and intensive academic courses. Marcus deftly intersperses his sharp observations with heart-wrenching statistics about the often crushing pressures of modern teenage life. The truth Marcus uncovers is significant, but not surprising: parents need to stay actively involved and interested in their children's lives. In the end, we're not even sure Swift River's program works: 'nobody... could reliably predict who would triumphantly stride across the stage for graduation... and who would end up in a lock-down facility.' However, as readers peer in from the outside, they learn to pinpoint the events dealing with the death of a parent; being the victim of bullying; fighting overindulgence and emotions that sent these (and many other teenagers) careening off their promising paths. Agent, Andrew Blauner. (Jan. 14)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"The reporting is detailed and gripping, the analysis thoughtful, the conclusions chilling....[H]ighly recommended." Library Journal
"[A]n astonishing profile of troubled teens....This is a revealing and engrossing look at the recovery process for troubled teens." Booklist
The author reveals the intense, dramatic process that sets teens in crisis back on the right path at the Academy at Swift River, a school known for combining intensive academics, wilderness survival and group therapy. He charts a path to hope that any kid and parent can take, whether in crisis or not.
The Academy at Swift River specializes in one of the toughest tasks a school can undertake: helping teenagers in crisis regain their bearings. During a fourteen-month academic term at the school, the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist David L. Marcus witnesses the intense process that turns these kids around.
In his time on campus, Marcus gets to know a diverse and remarkable group of teenagers: a former straight-A student reeling from the death of her mother, a teachers' son grappling with anger over being adopted, a southern girl immersed in drug abuse and unsafe sex, and a boy from Queens overwhelmed by depression. Granted full access to the Swift River proceednigs, Marcus is given the rare chance to observe the students' struggles and see their transformations from the inside. In What It Takes to Pull Me Through, he charts a path to redemption that any teen, any parent, can follow.
About the Author
David L. Marcus has been an education writer and foreign correspondent at U.S. News and World Report, the Boston Globe, the Miami Herald, and the Dallas Morning News, where he was the cowinner of a Pulitzer Prize. A former Nieman Fellow at Harvard, he is a contributing editor at U.S. News. He is frequently invited to speak at schools and conferences.
Table of Contents
Prologue: Summer Vacation ix
Part I Truths and Half-Truths
1. "I Hate You, Dad" 9
2. Psychological Scavenger Hunt 18
3. Back to Basics 33
4. The Counselor and the Teacher 44
5. Mary Alice: "Every Parent's Worst Nightmare" 51
6. Bianca: "I Can't Do Anything Right" 56
7. Stoners, Wiggers, and Wanna-bes 66
8. "Y'all Had No Clue" 76
9. Tyrone: "Lonely Once Again" 83
10. Back to Pattern 92
Part II Shames and Blames
11. Ph.D. in Manipulation 103
12. D.J.: "The Bad Thing That Happened to Good People" 113
13. Storming, Norming, and Forming 121
14. "I'm Angry at Myself for Being Born" 129
15. Falling in Love Again 136
16. Winter of the Underground 150
17. Disclosures 159
18. Making Connections 167
19. Dating, Dumping, and Dry-Humping 178
20. A Case of the "Fuck-Its" 185
21. Real Friends 195
22. Return to Innocence 201
Part III Forgiveness
23. "This Is Not a Test, This Is Your Life" 213
24. More Than Labels 223
25. "I Love That Kid" 229
26. "Laugh Now, Cry Later" 237
27. Life's a Permanent Party 245
28. Pura Vida 254
29. "I Can't Go Through This Again" 262
30. "Your Child Is Not Fixed" 272
31. Conquering Heroes 283
32. "You Have Your Little Girl Back" 291
Epilogue: "So Many Fake People in the Real World" 298
Memo to Parents 311
Author's Note 318