Books/Movies about troubled kids/teens which are good/accurate:
1. Home Room- starring Erika Christensen and Busy Phillips, about two girls in the aftermath of a school shooting. Great acting and realistic depiction of posttraumatic stress disorder and how similar trauma can end up bonding even the most dissimilar of people, if thrust together under circumstances. Phillips' Goth girl Alicia is especially interesting.
2. Thirteen- Evan Rachel Wood, Nikki Reed, Holly Hunter- though the girls of this movie are likely a bit younger than average for the extremity of their behaviors, and they spiral out of control a little faster than is probably likely (little dabbling, more like jumping in head first), the movie accurately portrays how some thirteen-year-old (and older) girls can get themselves into trouble, and modern families commonly operate (divorced, permissive, recovering addict mother, distant father, though the parents genuinely love and want what's best for their children). Good acting, particularly with Evan Rachel Wood as Tracy, and a good example of how children can get in over their heads with their parents partly knowing, but not wanting to know just how far they are going.
3. Cut by Patricia McCormick- told in the point of view of a fifteen-year-old self-harmer. The description of Callie's feelings when she harms herself, and her way of distancing herself with her silence, is an accurate and easily understood account of the mindset of a self-harmer.
4. Almost Home by Jessica Blank- told in alternating points of view of six street kids who are alternately drug addicts, prostitutes, abandoned by parents, a rapist, raped, or ill. A very eye-opening story that shows without flinching the disturbing way that many street kids live and how they view themselves, others, and their way of life.
5. Dreamland by Sarah Dessen- a teenage girl, living in her disappeared sister's shadow, is drawn into an abusive relationship. Caitlin's slow loss of self into her love for Rogerson gives a better understanding of the mindset of young girls who cannot or will not extract themselves from their abuse.
6. Stick Figure by Lori Gottlieb- the actual diary of an eleven-year-old anorexic girl. The diary is humorous yet disturbing, showing an intelligent and insightful girl gradually losing logical thinking as she slips into her disease. Gives great insight into the thinking of someone who has become anorexic.
7. Foxfire by Joyce Carol Oates- story of a girl gang in the fifties who take vengeance against men who abuse women. Every girl in the gang has been sexually assaulted in some way, and the book's showing of how a mutual feeling of a need for protection, comfort, and self-worth can drive people to seek gang membership, then increasingly develop anger that drives one to commit violence.
8. Luna- first book ever about a transgendered teenager. Good at showing the mental and emotional difficulty that not only the transgendered teen, but also his or her siblings and friends endure when he or she is discovering his or her identity.
9. Buffy the Vampire Slayer- Sarah Michelle Gellar, Alyson Hannigan, Nicholas Brendon- nearly every teenager on this series has serious issues of some kind to go through. From neglectful or abusive parents, teenage homelessness, self-mutilation, addiction, low self-esteem, poverty, difficult peer or romantic relationships, loss of parents or friends, suicidal behaviors or thoughts, self-destructiveness, to exploration of identity, there are issues galore that are addressed and usually accurately portrayed (though generally, adults on the series didn't address or deal with them nearly so well as the kids).
10. On the Outs- movie about three girls who wind up in juvie- Oz the drug dealer, Marisol the addict, and Suzette the runaway. Accurate depiction of the system and the lives and difficulties faced by teenage girls in their circumstances, well acted as well.
11. Welcome to the Rileys- James Gandalfini, Kristen Stewart- movie about a sixteen year old runaway stripper/prostitute who is helped by an older man who has lost his daughter. Mallory/Allison (she has many aliases) is realistically skeptical and antagonistic to the man's help, and despite softening, ends the movie on the more realistic note of still being a girl who, despite having access to all the help she could ask for, has been too damaged by life and become too accustomed to her lot to be able to accept it.
12. Hounddog- Dakota Fanning- now granted, this is not a good movie by any stretch of the word, at least in my opinion. But the aftermath of twelve-year-old Lewellen's rape is a very realistic depiction of how children and preteens often behave or react after sexual assault, and Fanning gives a great performance.
13. Wire Mesh Mothers by Elizabeth Massie- 15 year old bitter and volatile girl, Angela alias Tony, botches a robbery and then hijacks teacher Kate and eight-year-old sexually abused Mistie. The book alternates between points of view of the three, which gives insight into the behaviors of all three so as strangely or despicably as they may act, the reader can understand why they do the things they do and what they have been through, and grow to pity even the violent Tony. Excellent and thought provoking themes of the "true" mothers of children these days, the cycle of female sexual victimization from victim of others, victim of oneself, to victimizer of others, and the hope that all children, no matter how far gone, do in fact still have a chance for redemption, if one only has the patience and caring to see them for who they are.
14. Mama, Let's Dance- children's book about three siblings left to themselves after their mother has abandoned them. Parental children, varying meanings of family, and the stages and behaviors of a child who is grieving are all well portrayed.
15. The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd- Lily is childish and self-centered in the way that most fourteen-year-olds are, yet growing; a good example of a girl growing into herself, her spirituality, and her identity over a summer, and also a good example of a grieving girl who must learn to forgive and love herself, to mother herself in a way that her parents are unable to do.
16. Mr. Posterior and the Genius child by Emily Jenkins- Vanessa is a very intelligent and mature child who nevertheless thinks with the logic of a child in spite of her intelligence, and this is a good depiction of the mindset of an eight-year-old child and her innocence to the extent that she is unaware of her own abuse. Also gives a good understanding of the matters of importance and friendship politics of third grade.
17. Here, there, and somebody in between- Martha/Gina is fourteen, poor, if talented and intelligent, and physically abused and neglected by her alcoholic mother and her mother's boyfriend. Martha is a very realistic teenager, often making mistakes and behaving immaturely even as she tries to become a better person and get what she wants out of life.
18. Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers- eighteen-year-old prostitute in the mid 1800s is basically forced into marriage with a 25-year-old Christian man. Although Angel's "troubled" ways are not the actual focus of the story, she is nevertheless very realistic in her behaviors and attitudes, and does behave as a person who has been a child prostitute since she was eight is likely to do, and certainly does not easily give in to her husband's efforts to win her trust.
19. The way the crow flies by Ann Macdonald- third grade girls are daily kept after school and sexually abused by their teacher; after one of them is murdered, accusations fly, and the real murderer remains uncaught (mostly). The main three characters of the abused girls are realistic and vivid, and each show a different but common reaction to their abuse; Madeleine's narration gives good insight as to how a child thinks of abuse and may strive to keep others from discovering it.
20. Back Roads by Tawni O'Dell- a 19 year old boy raises his three younger sisters after his mother had killed their physically abusive father. Each of the characters are disturbing in their own way but poignant enough to pity, and each, except the youngest, clearly carry the scars of their abuse and show it in their behavior and poor decisions.
21. The kindness of strangers by Katrina Kittle- an eleven-year-old boy is sexually abused by his parents and must come to terms with it; told from the point of view of him, his foster mother, and foster brother. Books are rarely written from the point of view of a male child who has been sexually abused, and this accurately shows his shame, anger, and torn loyalties.
22. Song of an innocent bystander- an eight-year-old girl is held hostage with others in a fast food restaurant for two days. Disturbing but fascinating, shows how quickly Stockholm syndrome can set in with the young and frightened, and how the effects can be long term.
23. Cat's Eye by Margaret Atwood- a nine-year-old girl's bullying friends and their actions affect her for the rest of her life and change her inside. Though the story takes place decades ago, it is still relevant to today, in our increasingly pressured culture, our problem of bullying, and with the growing influence that peers have on each other.
24. American Beauty- Kevin Spacey, Thora Birch, Mena Suvari- teens are portrayed as together and calloused, but shown to be insecure, inexperienced, and softer than previously viewed as the film progresses. Scenes towards the ending between seemingly stuck on herself Angela and her friend Jane's father are a good example of the true mindsets and maturity levels of many teens.
25. One small boat by Kathy Harrison- foster mother Kathy fosters children who are pregnant, neglected, physically or sexually abused, anorexic at age six, who have never had a bath, and who have temper tantrums for hours, yet she still manages to show the appeal and hope they hold. Good look at the foster care system and the work that goes into mothering children of difficult circumstances.
Books about troubled kids/teens I had issues with:
1. Willow- about a self-harming teen- mainly because I found it to be very unrealistic and irritating. I doubt that most teenage girls who self-harm will do so in front of a boy they have a crush on, and I also doubt that she can replace her addiction to cutting with her "love" for a boy straight off…and what teenager calls her razor blade her "lover" and has everything all better soon as she has sex rather than more complicated?
2. Thirteen reasons why- a girl who commits suicide first fills up 13 tapes blaming people for her death, and makes them all mail the tapes to each other. I honestly found the girl who committed suicide to be wholly unsympathetic, and in fact, she seemed vicious, petty, and cruel. I found it hard to believe people would keep sending these tapes on and that we as readers are supposed to actually think they deserve to be on those tapes.
3. Into the forest- teenage girls living alone after the death of their parents- one is raped and becomes pregnant, and her sister's method of helping her to deal…is to make love to her? Seriously one of the most nonsensical and disgusting things I've ever read.
4. Elizabeth Gail series by Hilda Stahl- a twelve year old physically abused and neglected foster child is taken into a Christian family. What I don't like is that the family does not even try to understand Elizabeth and what she has been through. They ask her to call her Mom and Dad RIGHT AWAY. They are so blown away by the possibility that she might lie that the mother actually cries and they act shocked beyond all belief. They force her to immediately forgive the man who sexually abused her as a child, and they do NOT report him to the police. They take him at his word that he will just go away and never do it again. I seriously didn't like this.
5. Lolita-this isn't a bad book by any means, but it's certainly not a book to read to give you insight into the mind and behavior of a twelve-year-old victim of kidnapping and statutory rape. The book is about the unreliable pedophile narrator, who convinces himself of their equality in love. What bothers me is that a lot of people probably take his words as the literal truth and don't see the events for what they are.
6. The Case of Lucy Bending- an eight year old girl is extremely sexually precocious and sees a therapist. I found Lucy's behavior to be fairly extreme considering that she merely witnessed a sexual act, ONCE, and was not abused herself. I also strongly was displeased with the way that both the parents and the therapist blamed the child for her sexual behavior with adult men- saying she tempted them and started it, rather than blaming them for not correcting her.
7. Siblings by Nicholas Grant- a couple adopts a set of teenage siblings, who then are discovered to have been sexually abused by their biological parents. Fine, common enough…except then, the father goes on to sleep with his adopted sixteen-year-old daughter and thinks it's fine, and then, the children are discovered sleeping with each other, and then, the children end up killing a bunch of people. Ridiculous and disgusting.
8. Comeback by Mia and Claire Fountain- this is not a BAD book…and I'm happy if Mia was genuinely helped by her experience at her "boot camp." However…that same place has been shut down for its abuse and violations of laws. This book is not an accurate account of a place that was helping people become healthy, it is the words of a girl and her mother who were brainwashed by it. In fact, some of the activities and "therapies" described in the book, advocated by the two, are terrible. Allowing clients the ability to punish other clients, games where they tell other clients they will die, and worst of all, to me, sending a client who has been sexually abused as a child to live with all male clients, for a MONTH, knowing some of them are rapists, is unethical to the extreme.
9. Cut by Cathy Glass- again, not a bad book, but the handling of the child and her issues bothered me. A thirteen year old girl is not only allowed but ADVOCATED by her social worker to go out every night and party with older teenagers, alone? A girl who comes home drunk often, skips school all the time, cuts herself, sleepwalks, and who has been severely abused…really? Making the parents sign a contract of the child's allowed time to go out? Then keeping from the foster parents the knowledge of the child's past? That seems unbelievable.
10. One Child by Torey Hayden- this is again not a bad book, and in fact is a good one. Sheila is a heartbreaking if very disturbed child, but the handling of her blatant abuse was horrific. This child lived in a one room shack with no running water, little food, and an alcoholic father who drank daily, neglected and beat her to the point she had bruises to prove it, she bathed in the school sink, and she was stabbed in the vagina by her uncle and the school knew all of this…and she was not removed from her home, nor was DSS called. I simply do not understand that, other than it was decades ago.
11. Go Ask Alice- first off, whatever other people say, there is no way this is a true diary. No drug addicted girl is still writing in her diary even when she's a homeless runaway prostitute. Nor would she keep up with it. Nor do drug addicts deliberately try to hook people by giving their drugs out for FREE when they could be using them themselves or making money selling them. This was in no way realistic and seemed like it was written by an adult who is earnestly opposed to drug use, yet has no idea how teenagers or drug users think, talk, or act.
12. Towelhead- this movie wasn't horrible, but the depiction at the end that it's okay for thirteen-year-old Jasira to have sex as long as it's with a seventeen-year-old rather than the adult neighbor who statutorily raped her was terrible in my opinion. She is still not above the age of consent in all states.
13. Identical by Ellen Hopkins- twin girls, one is sexually abused by her father, the other wants to be, one is bulimic, the other binge eats, they basically have everything wrong with them possible…and then it turns out one doesn't exist and is just a personality. Unrealistic depiction of multiple personality disorder to the extreme, huge plot holes.
14. Virgin Suicides- mainly, I just don't' buy that five sisters would all kill themselves within one year, three of them in one DAY, without having planned it together.
15. The Best Little Girl in the World by Steven Levencraft- story of a fifteen year old anorexic girl who gradually recovers. Kessa is wholly unbelievable. First off she starts the story at an already very unhealthy weight, at 5'4 and 99 pounds, yet still people are not only thinking she's fine, but even telling her she could stand to lose a pound or two. Her progression is entirely too fast and straightforward, and her disease is made simplistic and clichéd. She seems far too adult and stilted for fifteen at times as well