This emotional roller coaster ride of a mother and daughter takes the reader into the heart of a parent's worst fears, that of their child losing all sense of self and hope of any future. The tragedy/ story starts when Mia runs away, and slowly the mother learns of drugs, cutting, extreme self-hate and other activities that had been going on without the mother's and step-father's awareness. The reader joins the mother/ daughter narrative when Mia's efforts to cover-up her misery falls apart and she acts on her pain by running away.
The story covers the following two years of initial intervention and then placement in two schools on two continents, presented in a dual fashion, that tells the story of what Claire was going through, interspersed with Mia's diary of what she was thinking regarding the same event and timeframe. This going back and forth during the two years adds considerable depth to the story because the reader sees each event from two radically different perspectives. This technique makes the story come alive.
Every parent who has anguished over their teenaged child's rebellion and poor choices will relate to this book about a family in crisis. It will be especially relevant to those parents who have gone to the extreme of placing their child in a residential school or program for children making poor and self-defeating decisions. Simply stated, it describes in graphic detail how bad things can get even when a child comes from a good home with loving parents. Those parents who have not had to deal with the all too common family crisis of a totally out of control teen should consider themselves fortunate, and instead of being judgmental, should possibly even feel a little sympathy for families like the Fontaines.
Another lesson contained in this book is how a parent's love can be a doubled edged sword. The love that blinded Claire to her daughter's misery and eventually led to a crisis was the same love that would not give up on Mia no matter what.
The book is a gripping page-turner, giving us a glimpse of the story behind the crisis of an out-of-control teen, and the rather harsh methods one collection of schools used that are unique and often criticized by the rapidly expanding industry of Emotional Growth/ Therapeutic residential schools and programs. However, Mia credits her experience as lifesaving, so all else is incidental.