A remarkably sensitive and meticulous investigation of the hurdles to higher education many teens in the U.S. face—and...




A debut book examines a groundbreaking academic program that helps troubled teens find their ways to college.

While a student at the University of California, San Diego, Christopher Yanov was disturbed by the way the allure of gang life extinguished the dreams of so many otherwise promising youths, and he pledged to do something about it. At the age of 22, he started Reality Changers, a nonprofit organization designed to mentor at-risk teens, helping them to enter college. The initiative started modestly, with a class of four eighth-graders and a shoestring budget, operating out of a Presbyterian church. Yanov won a substantial amount of money on the game show Wheel of Fortune, which he used to fund the program, and the number of participating students eventually swelled to more than 500 and magnetized national attention. Membership in the program is demanding: students must maintain a 3.0 GPA; forswear sex, drugs, alcohol, and gangs; enroll in an extracurricular activity; and perform community service. It’s also uncompromising: in a heart-rending moment in author and psychotherapist Davenport’s book, one student is forced to resign after he gets his girlfriend pregnant. The author shadowed five Hispanic students in the program for the expanse of a year, chronicling their challenges and triumphs. More than just a study group, the organization functions as a surrogate family for its students, many of whom come from embattled homes. Davenport furnishes a journalistically taut picture that unsentimentally presents the program’s limitations as well as those of its founder. In addition, she expertly describes the legal and political horizons within which the students reside, particularly with respect to immigration. Two of the participants she followed were undocumented and lived in constant fear of deportation. One student was cautioned by his parents against visiting Dartmouth because he would have to show his ID while boarding a plane, a potentially disastrous situation. The author permits the story to expound itself, showing notable restraint from heavy-handed editorializing or cloying poeticizing. This is a rare achievement: an empirically rigorous history that engages some of the most contentious issues of the day without rancor or agenda.

A remarkably sensitive and meticulous investigation of the hurdles to higher education many teens in the U.S. face—and sometimes clear.

Pub Date: June 10, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-520-28444-9

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Univ. of California

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2017

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The sub-title of this book is "Reflections on Education with Special Reference to the Teaching of English in the Upper Forms of Schools." But one finds in it little about education, and less about the teaching of English. Nor is this volume a defense of the Christian faith similar to other books from the pen of C. S. Lewis. The three lectures comprising the book are rather rambling talks about life and literature and philosophy. Those who have come to expect from Lewis penetrating satire and a subtle sense of humor, used to buttress a real Christian faith, will be disappointed.

Pub Date: April 8, 1947

ISBN: 1609421477

Page Count: -

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 17, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1947

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Carefully researched and chilling, if somewhat overwritten.


Comprehensive, myth-busting examination of the Colorado high-school massacre.

“We remember Columbine as a pair of outcast Goths from the Trench Coat Mafia snapping and tearing through their high school hunting down jocks to settle a long-running feud. Almost none of that happened,” writes Cullen, a Denver-based journalist who has spent the past ten years investigating the 1999 attack. In fact, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold conceived of their act not as a targeted school shooting but as an elaborate three-part act of terrorism. First, propane bombs planted in the cafeteria would erupt during lunchtime, indiscriminately slaughtering hundreds of students. The killers, positioned outside the school’s main entrance, would then mow down fleeing survivors. Finally, after the media and rescue workers had arrived, timed bombs in the killers’ cars would explode, wiping out hundreds more. It was only when the bombs in the cafeteria failed to detonate that the killers entered the high school with sawed-off shotguns blazing. Drawing on a wealth of journals, videotapes, police reports and personal interviews, Cullen sketches multifaceted portraits of the killers and the surviving community. He portrays Harris as a calculating, egocentric psychopath, someone who labeled his journal “The Book of God” and harbored fantasies of exterminating the entire human race. In contrast, Klebold was a suicidal depressive, prone to fits of rage and extreme self-loathing. Together they forged a combustible and unequal alliance, with Harris channeling Klebold’s frustration and anger into his sadistic plans. The unnerving narrative is too often undermined by the author’s distracting tendency to weave the killers’ expressions into his sentences—for example, “The boys were shooting off their pipe bombs by then, and, man, were those things badass.” Cullen is better at depicting the attack’s aftermath. Poignant sections devoted to the survivors probe the myriad ways that individuals cope with grief and struggle to interpret and make sense of tragedy.

Carefully researched and chilling, if somewhat overwritten.

Pub Date: April 6, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-446-54693-5

Page Count: 406

Publisher: Twelve

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2009

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