Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Review (& Book Trailer): Runaway Girl: Escaping Life on the Streets, One Helping Hand at a Time by Carissa Phelps

Runaway Girl: Escaping Life on the Streets, One Helping Hand at a Time by Carissa Phelps
July 2012
Format: Hardcover, 320 pages

First line: Early one bright, hot August morning, during the first week of second grade, my stepfather picked me up and tossed me out the front door.

From the inside cover: Carissa Phelps was a runner. Growing up in a troubled home, she would pedal her bike for hours each night along the hot, airless streets of her California oil town, dreaming of a future filled with a green lawn and cool breezes. But by the time she was twelve, she had run away from home, dropped out of school, and fled blindly into the arms of a brutal pimp. Even when she escaped him, she could not outrun the crushing inner pain of abuse, neglect, and abandonment. She was a child trapped in a terrifying adult world, caught in an endless cycle of capture and escape, tumbling through life with little hope and even less self-esteem. After countless stretches in juvenile hall, she knew she would wind up in prison, or worse.

But then, through a miracle of circumstance and the unexpected kindness of near strangers, Carissa saved herself. In a savage world, she found persistent voices of love and encouragement, first a counselor, then a teacher, who called to her in darkness to show her the way out. Slowly, and with no shortage of setbacks, Carissa's life was transformed, and before she had turned thirty she had accomplished the unimaginable, graduating from UCLA with both a law degree and an MBA. She had left the streets behind, yet her path would eventually draw her back, this time working to help homeless and at-risk youth find their own paths to redemption.

This is Carissa's story, the tale of a girl who lost herself and survived, against all odds, through the generosity of strangers. It is an inspiring true story about finding the courage to run toward healing and about summoning the strength to light the way for others.

My thoughts: Every once in a while, you read a book that stays with you long after you've read that last page. This is definitely that type of book. All I could say when I finished this book was "WOW!" Carissa Phelps has an amazing sorry to tell of her life - the good, the bad and the ugly - and she tells it in such a clear, compelling way that you find yourself pulled in right away.

This is not always an easy book to read - at times it is horrifying and gut-wrenching. But then, there are times when it is utterly motivating. The amount of abuse and pain that she endured brought me to tears, but then there were also tears reading about those that reached out to Carissa to help. This is a young girl who had no one standing up for her and despite all she had to go through, she managed to turn her life around and make something of herself. Not only does she end up with both a law degree and an MBA, but she decides she will help those that seem to be headed down that path of destruction.

I don't tend to read too many memoirs, but this is one that I am glad I did read. I will certainly be recommending this book to everyone I know - especially those that either have children or that work with children. It's so important to reach out to those kids and let them know you care - you may only be their teacher or coach, but you might be the only one that cares and that caring may be the difference between them choosing the right path or the wrong path in life.

Bonus material: Watch the book trailer which has some powerful footage of Carissa discussing her journey.

I received a complimentary copy of Runaway Girl: Escaping Life on the Streets, One Helping Hand at a Time by Carissa Phelps from Angie at Penguin Group USA. 


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