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Reviewed by Sylvia Heslin for Readers' Favorite
Shuffled around in foster care known as “the system” for the past thirteen years, fifteen year-old B.J or Bertha Juniper is no stranger to being abused and homeless. After being placed with a new set of foster parents, Liz and Ted Driscoll in Stewart Falls, Washington, for a weekend long visit by her caseworker Carol, cynical, rebellious and hard as nails B.J. no longer believed in “and they lived happily ever after”. In addition, although Carol told her that her new foster family knew all about her history and still did not care if her background was way short of being called stellar, they claimed that they still wanted to adopt her anyway. Born to a mother who was a prostitute, and a father who is a drug addict in prison for murder, B.J. Larson had to grow up prematurely, and learn how to survive the foster care system in an unremitting environment. Already labeled a problem teen with behavioral issues that included ADD and a juvenile record a mile long, B.J. and her friends, especially Gabe, who is like a brother to her and her protector, already knew how “the system” worked. Housed in the Evergreen Youth Center in Seattle, they knew that they were just “throw away teens”, a term synonymous with unloved and unwanted. B.J manages to acclimate to her new home though she takes quite some time to get used to it. She is given her very own puppy to love and take care of, and she has the love of her new boyfriend Ringo who is from a good family. Treated with utmost respect, kindness and love, B.J. Larson is presented with many opportunities she never knew existed. B.J.’s chance of a lifetime in a completely new world might just be the cure for turning B.J. Larson’s world around for good.
Shannon Kennedy’s book "Throw Away Teen" is very well written and insightful. Although "Throw Away Teen" is fictional, Shannon Kennedy’s background and knowledge of the foster care system seems to be depicted well and appears to be very realistic. I was inspired by the many different facets of her character and grew to love them. B.J., Bertha Juniper, is just one of the characters that I really liked and identified with. The pain, hurt and loss that B.J. had to endure seemed real. I thought that it was impossible not to feel compassion for the main character. B.J. is probably a character that almost anyone could identify with. Among the readers of the book there will probably be some people who have come across a B.J. some time or another. I feel that Shannon Kennedy’s book will inspire readers as it is thought provoking. This book is a must read, as it will appeal to many different age groups.