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Bring Them Back Alive

BRING THEM BACK ALIVE: helping teens get out and stay out of trouble. By Jose M de Olivares. Taylor Trade Publishing pound;9.95

Some books make you nod in agreement. This is one of them. Here's a US author who's been a teenager in difficulty and an adult who has worked with troubled young people. He knows what he's talking about.

"Everybody has a theory and a program," he writes. "Left-wingers blame it on capitalism. Right-wingers say the courts are too soft. Parents point to the failure of schools. Teachers point to the failure of parents." The trouble is, he goes on, "programs don't change people's lives - people change people's lives".

Lots of people, he says, are rescuing troubled teenagers, using methods that aren't difficult to replicate. "They are teachers, counsellors, coaches, social workers, ministers, youth workers, gang workers, police officers, probation officers, aunts, uncles, grandparents and mothers and fathers. They remember what it felt like to be a teenager, they enjoy teenagers and they sincerely care what happens to teenagers."

Some of his statements, though obviously true, will prick consciences - "If you want polite, you have to be polite. If you want considerate, you have to be considerate."

As a call for us all to look beyond initiatives, projects and schemes, and examine the effect of genuine care for and interest in the lives of young people, this is a welcome and refreshing book. There's plenty of advice on particular issues, but the core message is the age-old one of respect, genuine interest, care and love. There's food for thought in it for all of us in families and schools.

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