This memoir doesn—t boast the perspective of hindsight; it's a teen's raw. in-your-face chronicle of events almost as they were happening. As such, it's unforgettable. Michener's family of origin included a father who beat her and collected pornographic photo albums, an unstable mother who suffered from physical disease but inflicted deeper psychological wounds on her children, and a grandmother with a Ph.D. in psychology who, in a complete perversion of grandmotherly stereotypes, used to attack the author with her knitting needles. Sadly, Michener's story only gets worse when her parents have her committed, first to a private, then a state, mental institution. She relates one story after another of young teens who suffered from parental abuse being permanently labeled —crazy— and never finding help within the system. To Michener, the staff members at the mental hospital seemed far more sadistic and deranged (Nurse Ratchet types) than the patients. For the first few months, she was overmedicated, unable to walk without clutching the wall. For small infractions, patients would be kept in a urine-drenched solitary confinement cell. When Michener was 16, her mother temporarily released her from the mental hospital, and before she could be committed again, the girl moved away and became the ward of her best friend's grandparents, who hired a lawyer and sued for custody. Michener (her adopted last name) notes in the epilogue that what bothers her most about her story is that its happy ending is purely accidental: —I simply lucked out. I had . . . absolutely no say in my own fate, and this is true of all children in this country.— Michener's story gives voice to the thousands of children and adolescents trapped in —the system,— biding their time until their 18th birthdays. A candid and unstinting tell-all.
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