The Road to Whatever: Middle-Class Culture and the Crisis of Adolescence

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From the Pulitzer Prize finalist, a sharp and compassionate investigation of the root causes of the epidemic of drug abuse, violence, and despair among "mainstream" American teenagers

In the past few years, it has become painfully clear that all is not well with the children of middle-class America. Beyond the shootings at Columbine, hardly a day goes by without stories of drug use, binge drinking, fatal accidents, and senseless suicides among middle-class adolescents. But the "why" of these tragedies has eluded us.

In this groundbreaking book, acclaimed sociologist and Pulitzer Prize finalist Elliott Currie rejects such predictable answers as TV violence, permissiveness, and inherent evil. Instead, drawing on years of interviews, he links this crisis to a pervasive "culture of exclusion" that has left young people facing an ever more unforgiving world. Currie describes a society in which severe punishment and "zero tolerance" of adolescent misbehavior have become the norm, where "tough love" and medications have replaced engagement and guidance. Broadening his inquiry, he dissects the changes in middle-class life that have enforced newly rigid divides between winners and losers and imposed an extraordinarily harsh culture-and not just on kids.

Vivid, compelling, and deeply empathetic, The Road to Whatever is a profound investigation of what has gone wrong for so many American teenagers and a stark indictment of a society that has lost the will-or the capacity-to care.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Convincing . . . Currie’s argument is just about airtight.”—The Washington Post

“Vivid . . . this book will worry you and make you think hard about the collapse of a caring environment in America.”—Frances Fox Piven

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780805080001
  • Publisher: Picador
  • Publication date: 12/27/2005
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 1,530,104
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.71 (d)

Meet the Author

Elliott Currie is the author of Confronting Crime, Reckoning, and Crime and Punishment in America (0-8050-6016-2). An internationally recognized authority on youth and crime, he is a professor of criminology, law, and society at the University of California, Irvine.

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Read an Excerpt

The Road to Whatever

Middle-Class Culture and the Crisis of Adolescence

By Currie, Elliott

Owl Books

Copyright © 2005

Currie, Elliott

All right reserved.

ISBN: 0805080007

Over and over, the kids I spoke to told me how they had hidden their troubles from adult authorities for years. The only people they talked to "for real," if anyone, were their friends, who were usually kids in the same boat-the ones on the outside, the ones nobody else liked. And so they stewed, their sense of failure and grievance festering. Quite often they tried on new identities, predictably those that combined serious "badness" with great power. Better to be identified as a villain, a monster, or a vampire than just a dumb screw-up; better to be Satan, or Hitler, than a messed-over little nothing. Better, at the extreme, to go out in a blaze of glory than to face more of that excruciating sense of rejection and insignificance. When the explosion came, it was usually a surprise to the surrounding adults, but was almost always understandable from the kids' angle of vision. Driving their parents' car into a wall, shooting someone, defacing a church-these represented both an assertion of identity and the drawing of a line, a refusal to "take it" any more.


Excerpted from The Road to Whatever
by Currie, Elliott
Copyright © 2005 by Currie, Elliott.
Excerpted by permission.
All rightsreserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 13, 2007

    A reviewer

    An informational and educational book, The Road To Whatever by Elliot Currie will assist in helping parents and teens understand the problems they are facing in life. The research and interviews by Currie were important in making his points clear and direct. The teen interviews throughout helped greatly to show the ideas of socialization of families and how they affect teens. The theories following the interviews tied the whole thought process that Currie has in an organized fashion. Although the teens in this book support Currie's theories, they may not apply to teens throughout America. Some teens could vry well have a wonderful support system at home, yet they continue to fall down the wrong path the 'Whatever.' Others have found the book to be 'insightful' and 'controversial.' The Road To Whatever is a book that could contain answers for parents and teens alike to get onto the road of not only recovery, but a better understanding of their problems.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 13, 2007

    A Great Read!!

    The Road To Whatever: Middle Class Culture and the Crisis of Adolescence by Elliot Currie is an in-depth look into the lives of 'troubled teens'. As a teenager myself, I was not particularly surprised by the descriptions of the 'bad choices' teenagers are making these days. However, I found this book very thought provoking. It not only describes the trouble teenagers are facing these days, it explores the role a majority of parents play in their kids' lives. Currie says that middle class parents often don't put enough effort into helping their kids when they get in trouble. Currie does a great job of keeping the reader engaged by including excerpts from discussions he's had with various troubled teens. The Road to Whatever is a coherently informative, thoughtful book that all teens and their parents should read.

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