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Posted February 17, 2005

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What it Takes to Pull Me ThroughWHAT IT TAKES TO

By David L. Marcus
Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, MA: 2005
ISBN: 0618145451

Reviewed by: Larry Stednitz, PhD

Two-days ago, I started reading David L. Marcus's book, What it Takes To Pull Me Through. I read this brilliant book on troubled teens at every opportunity. Marcus is a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist who immersed himself for two full years into Swift River Academy, an emotional growth curriculum school located in western Massachusetts. Every consultant, every parent with a child in an emotional growth school, and every parent considering the placement of their child into an emotional growth school, should read this book.

For years, I have struggled to describe the world of emotional growth schools accurately to parents and professionals. At times, I felt I was successful, but more often than not, I fell short of capturing the essence of these programs. The nature and complexities of emotional growth schools makes it an illusive target that is not easily described. This book provides a compelling behind the scenes glimpse of an emotional growth school, and into the world of the students and their parents.

Marcus takes the reader on a journey from beginning to end through the eyes and experience of four students and their families. Throughout this journey, Marcus captures the reader's attention with stories that address corporate ownership, the vast expansion of this industry, and the various struggles schools go through when working with these complex and troubled teens. It genuinely touches on the tensions felt by most teenagers, and the changes that have effected youth over the years in our society.

This book is a must read. Ultimately, it is an honest and accurate accounting of not only Swift River Academy, but with varying differences, all emotional growth schools in the country. The richness of these schools provides hope for teenagers and their families. The book explores this hope without ignoring the complexities and problems inherent in our homes, communities, schools and families.

About the Author:
[Dave Marcus is an honors graduate from Brown University, and a 1995-96 Nieman Fellow at Harvard University. He also studied at the University of the Andes in Bogotá, and shared the 1994 Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting for writing a series about violence against women around the world. He was a 'writer in residence' at the Tuck School of Dartmouth College, lectured at Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism, was an Educational Correspondent for US News & World Report, and a Research Associate at Smith College. After more than twenty years in journalism, Marcus has recently shifted his career from writer to teacher.]

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