Need book recommendation (+ advice) for a troubled teen

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Thread: Need book recommendation (+ advice) for a troubled teen

  1. #1

    Need book recommendation (+ advice) for a troubled teen

    Hello all, I need some help handling a situation with a troubled teen. My wife and I are mentoring a young female (9th grade) who has had some severe home problems and is struggling with anger and lack of direction, hopelessness, etc. From the best I have been able to gauge she is not much of a reader. Myself, being a reader, and having my life positively impacted by books, I want to give her something to read that will help her discover appropriate ways to channel her anger and energy in general. I have let her borrow some Harry Potter as general reading material to help her escape her situation for a while, but I would like to give her something more, something that will help her discover a purpose and perhaps inspire her to succeed.

    So, a few questions...
    1. I am thinking of giving her As a Man Thinketh by James Allen, but I don't know if the philosophical nature of the book will actually sink in. I'm not sure what the actually reading level of the book is, and I am just wondering if it would be appropriate. It is only about 60 pages, but contains a world of wisdom.
    2. Do you have any other recommendations for someone in her situation that would be appropriate?
    3. How do I approach it to get her to read it? I was planning on giving her $50 to read As a Man Thinketh and discuss it with me over ice cream or something similar. After that, I would pay her $10-20 every time she reads it again. Will this make a difference?

    Any help with books, or help in general will be appreciated.

  2. #2
    Member Kehawin's Avatar
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    Jul 2013
    San Antonio, TX originally from Hawai'i and SoCal
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    It's hard to say whether money will inspire a non-reader to read. In my experience, the only thing that turns a non-reader into a reader is when they find something that they can't live without finishing. My sister, for example, was bored while visiting our father and his wife gave her some pulp fiction and she has been addicted ever since - though she never finished any novel before that. My best friend, on the other hand, wasn't much into reading until I introduced her to new age spirituality fiction - and now she reads more than anything else.

    Having said that, don't give up hope.

    There are several books I read when I was younger that I feel really made a difference with my own hopelessness. One of them is called the Celestine Prophesy (the movie is nowhere near as good as the book) and another is Illusions: Tales of a Reluctant Messiah. A third is now called, "Why...?" But used to be titled "Why me, why this, why now?" (is easier to find if you use the old title). If new age-y based stuff is not for you, then none of those three books will be helpful.

    Another option that is similar to Harry Potter but is a little bit more Christian (in my opinion) is a series about a boy named Bobby Pendragon. First book in the series is called the Merchant of Death. My daughter enjoyed them nearly as much as HP (that says a lot, because she is a huge HP fan). I say they are a bit more Christian because the villain's name is St. Dane (say it out loud fast) who is a shapeshifting demon out to wreak havoc in the Universe.

    Personally, I think any hero's journey-type story is essential for instilling hope - every one is the hero of their own story and seeing a character grow in spite of or because of their own challenges is helpful to those feeling insecure and hopeless.

    Above any other suggestions, IMO encouraging her to *write* (a journal) is possibly the most cathartic and therefore healing thing a teen (or anyone) can do for themselves. No one else reads it, so spelling and grammar and all the rest need not be an issue. It's for her own reflections. If you want to bribe her to do something, that might be the way to go.

  3. #3
    Member BreakingMyself's Avatar
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    Jun 2013
    United Kingdom.
    Bribes wouldn't really do much, she could just force her way through it.

    Find something she'd enjoy and easily connect with. I remember reading The Diary of Adrian Mole (age 13 &
    3/4!) as a young teen and the subsequent 'diaries' that I connected with. More of reality rather than living in a fantasy world (not that it's a bad thing).

  4. #4
    I would try to pick something that is being enjoyed by people in her generation.

    My niece who is 15 absolutely loves to read. She is of course on the whole paranormal kick, and while we as adults may think it is cheesy, she loves it and it keeps her in a good group of kids that would rather talk about the books they are reading than go get into trouble. I read the books she is reading because they are easy and give me something to talk about with her...and hey, sometimes they are actually good! Here are a few I found enjoyable.

    The Gregor the Overlander Series (she might be a little old for this, but the main character comes from a difficult family situation and I am not kidding when I say I will read this book to my kids if I ever have any, as good as Chronicles of Narnia to me.)
    Midnighters by Scott Westerfield
    Gone Novels by Michael Grant
    Beautiful Creates by Kami Garcia (Especially good if she has problems relating to her peers)
    Hunger Games These books are about an independent young woman whose parents don't really take care of her. Plus, all the kids are talking about it and loving it right now.

    Instead of offering her money, I would say that for every book she finishes you will take her to a movie. Especially if the books itself is going to be a movie (Beautiful Creatures & The Hunger Games). I would also consider challenging her to read a full series of books and if she does buying her a Kindle Fire from Amazon (sometimes money can be spent in bad ways if a teen is having problems, of course I'm not sure if she is having THOSE kinds of problems). The great thing about a Kindle Fire is it is more than just a reading tool, but will also encourage her to read.

    I know we have a strong urge to shove meaningful books down someone's throat, but that doesn't usually work in my experience. Young people don't always want to hang out with old people and talk about old books. Giving them tools and relatability to their peers, especially good upstanding peers, will go much further in my humble opinion.

    Good luck to you and it is very kind of you to care that much about her.

  5. #5
    WF Veteran Bloggsworth's Avatar
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    Jun 2011
    Leafy suburb of North London
    Don't give her anything in the slightest bit heavy or intellectual, give her books that hook the reader, that will draw her into the story so that she loses herself in the wonder. You don't want, at an early stage, to make her think about what she is reading, it sounds as if she has a hard enough time already, don't make her work for it for now she needs to know the adventure of reading, the joy of following a story well told; if she starts to read more and more then is the time to introduce her to more weighty tomes. As you refer to "9th Grade", I assume that you are on the wrong side of the pond, so I doubt Dickens would go down too well, though she might find the books of Arthur Ransome absorbing, even though they are about English children, as they are character driven and a big step up from "The Famous Five" and not as arcane as the works of Mark Twain.

    Children will seldom read the books you tell them they should, so a useful tactic is to say "Don't take that one, you're not ready for that yet..."
    A man in possession of a wooden spoon must be in want of a pot to stir.

  6. #6
    Nobody does escapism like Roald Dahl. He also instils good moral values by a slightly circuitous route. If she likes Harry Potter, she may like The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge. It's a bit old-fashioned but JK Rowling picked up a lot of her narrative style from her. Daddy Long Legs by Jean Webster is also great escapism. I was reading Little Women, Anne of Green Gables and lots of vomity books about lost puppies and kittens at that age, but also Dorothy Parker and Oscar Wilde et al. It's a difficult age to prescribe for because it's so transitional.

    What I absolutely know is that it is important that you give her literature that reflects a person she could be, or could want to be within the pages. Make sure the women are strong, capable and have healthy relationships... it really does matter at that age, particularly if she already has vulnerabilities in excess of all the teenage angsty stuff. Also, if you can get her to read aloud with you (to you, to her friends, a sibling, whoever) it really builds confidence when done in a caring environment.

    Good for you, by the way

    P.S. I absolutely would not pay her. If you can offer her some other type of bribe like quiet space, a good meal or similar that she may not get at home, that would probably work better.

    P.P.S. Perhaps you could encourage her to write as well and share your stories?
    Last edited by Gargh; July 28th, 2013 at 04:54 PM. Reason: P.P.S.!
    “Be happy with what you have and are, be generous with both, and you won't have to hunt for happiness.”

  7. #7
    In my experience, the escapism obtainable in fiction is not very useful when dealing with emotional problems; as much as it can help in some ways, it can also hinder in others and promote escapism in general, which is not a good thing for a teenager. Real people are much better at helping a child cope with their life.

    Fiction's all lies, anyway. It's great that you're wanting to help her, but if she's going to resolve these issues, she needs the truth. I wouldn't try to force her to read anything. It could appear orientated, which would disrupt the natural beauty of reading. Encourage her to read, yes, but don't try to change her life with books. People do that much better.
    Sleep is for the weak, or sleep is for a week.
    I write about anime and internet culture at Hidden Content

  8. #8
    I think I might need to rephrase my problem here. I am not so interested in her becoming a reader or finding something interesting to read, so much as I am trying to find something that will help her understand that she has the power to overcome her situation (mentally at least) and improve herself to become something in life (think How to Win Friends, the Secret, Maximum Achievement, etc.). I am trying to teach her that the world is what she makes it. Now, she may be a bit to young for this kind of material, but that is what I am trying to figure out. We constantly try and mentor her, take her to unique places, and encourage and teach her how to better herself, but I'm just not sure if any of it sinks in. Anyways, I appreciate the book recs and may consider them if she is interested in general reading.

  9. #9
    kes...short book made into a film or wrote to start a film..about a lad with troubled family and finds solace in a bird of prey..
    The only one who can heal you is you.

  10. #10
    I am not so interested in her becoming a reader or finding something interesting to read, so much as I am trying to find something that will help her understand that she has the power to overcome her situation (mentally at least) and improve herself to become something in life (think How to Win Friends, the Secret, Maximum Achievement, etc.).
    As I said, I think people can do this a lot better than books. I wouldn't put a book between you and her and expect it to do anything. I would keep trying to help her directly. Maybe try different ethics. There are a lot of ways to look at life. Some alternatives will be more easily accepted depending on how the person already looks at life.
    Sleep is for the weak, or sleep is for a week.
    I write about anime and internet culture at Hidden Content

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