Ever since the beginning of rock ‘n’ Roll, parents and teens have been at odds, whether the kid’s hair was too long, too short, or too purple. Add in undiagnosed learning disabilities or mood disorders, possibly an unreported trauma, and for some families, the teen years are all-out war.
The narrator of this self-published memoir, K.P., describes the power struggles with her parents, which cause her to run away and eventually end up incarcerated in a teen facility. These juvenile rehabilitation places were popular in the 80s, either sending kids to harsh wilderness camps or to “schools,” which were designed to break the kids down so the experts could “rebuild them.”
K.P.’s story takes place in a single year, her fourteenth, although the journal she was forced to write at the school provides glimpses into the precocious tween years that led her here. This book explores anxiety, depression, self-harm, drugs, domestic violence, and teen pregnancy. And there is always a troublemaking boyfriend somewhere in the mix, isn’t there? Parents tend to blame the kids’ music or social scene, when that is actually one of the few outlets they have. The real struggle ensues when parents try to take away their child’s only means of coping, which for K.P. is punk rock. Growing Wild is a study of troubled kids and families in turmoil from the perspective of the kid, rather than “experts in the field.” For some of us the story is eerily familiar, while for others, like school counselors, the story provides a much-needed lesson. K.P. is wise, funny, and insightful as she draws you into her world.
In spite of the sturm and drang, the 189-page book is an easy read, often fun, and even funny. Who can resist the weird juxtaposition of adult problems with a youngster’s sense of logic? For example, “How many weeks detention would I get if my boyfriend O.D.s in my Dad’s van?”
Disclosure: K.P. is a former writer for The L.A. Beat.