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Soon to be an independent film and docuseries

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An award-winning journalist’s breathtaking mosaic of the tough-love industry and the young adults it inevitably fails.

In the middle of the night, they are vanished.

Each year thousands of young adults deemed out of control—suffering from depression, addiction, anxiety, and rage—are carted off against their will to remote wilderness programs and treatment facilities across the country. Desperate parents of these “troubled teens” fear it’s their only option. The private, largely unregulated behavioral boot camps break their children down, a damnation the children suffer forever.

Acclaimed journalist Kenneth R. Rosen knows firsthand the brutal emotional, physical, and sexual abuse carried out at these programs. He lived it. In Troubled, Rosen shares more than his experience of lockdown and its aftermath as he unspools the journeys of four graduates on their own scarred, faulted journey through the programs into adulthood.


Based on three years of reporting and more than one hundred interviews with other clients, their parents, psychologists, and health-care professionals, Troubled combines harrowing storytelling with investigative journalism to expose the disturbing truth about the massively profitable, sometimes fatal, grossly unchecked redirection industry.

Not without hope, Troubled ultimately delivers an emotional, crucial tapestry of coming of age, neglect, exploitation, trauma, and fraught redemption.

2021 tour & appearances

1/12 @ 7:30 - 14:20 ET


1/13 @ Noon ET

Jefferson Public Radio

1/13 @ 13:10 ET


1/14 @ 14:35 ET


1/15 @ 12:30 ET

Facebook Live with Kakkie Reynolds

1/19 @ 13:00 ET

New England News Collaborative

1/25 @ 19:00 ET

Harvard Bookstore

1/28 @ 18:00 ET

Bank Square Books

2/8 @ 18:00 CT

Family Action Network

10/1,2,3 @ Ferrara, IT

Internazionale Festival

The book which helped launch independent inquiries, by the Government Accountability Office and the Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General, into abuses at congregate care facilities for at-risk youth.

A New York Times Editor's Choice  •  A New York Times 'Book to Watch For'  •  One of Newsweek's Most Highly Anticipated Books of 2021  •  Instant #1 Bestseller on Amazon  •  Next Big Idea Book Club Finalist  •  Vol.1 Brooklyn Book of the Month •  A Bustle Best Book of 2021

“A searing exposé.”The New York Times

“Not just a work of extended empathy but a public service; these life stories, taken together, shine a light on an industry that has been able to thrive in darkness.” —Robert Kolker, The New York Times Sunday Book Review

“A necessary exposé for any parent.” Kirkus Reviews

“An engrossing book, the saddest chapter of which details not the programmes themselves, but what happened to [the] protagonists afterwards.” Times Literary Supplement

“Rosen is the exact right Conrad to take us into the heart of this immense darkness. Rosen’s insight, rigor, and immense sympathy ensure this book will stand as the definitive treatment of this troubled, troubling industry. An experience you won’t forget.”  —Darin Strauss, author of Half a Life and The Queen of Tuesday


Troubled is a searing chronicle of the unfortunate era of ‘tough love’ programs for wayward American youth, told with detail and compassion as well as an eloquent kind of well-merited rage.” —Luke Mogelson, contributing writer at The New Yorker  


“Profoundly unsettling, Troubled reveals a tough-love industry in disarray. Rosen combines brilliant reporting skills and brutal first-hand experience in this captivating read.” —Michael Harris, author of Solitude and The End of Absence


“Rosen is a relentless reporter and provides a piercing view inside the disturbing, largely unregulated, teen rehabilitation industry. Rosen ensures you ask the question of what we're doing to our nation’s children and who and what is in fact ‘troubled.’”   —Sylvia A. Harvey, author of The Shadow System


"A vivid and eye-opening plea for reform.” —Michael Scott Moore, author of The Desert and the Sea


“Rosen makes a powerful case for eliminating this cruel part of the school-to-prison pipeline. A powerful, revealing expose.” —Katherine Reynolds Lewis, author of The Good News About Bad Behavior​

coverage, excerpts, and reviews

Q&A: The Writer Taking on the “Troubled Teen” Industry (Narratively)

Review: Scared Straight or Scarred for Life? (New York Times Sunday Book Review)

Essay: When I Was Labeled a ‘Troubled’ Teen, I Obliged (New York Times)

Perspective: Traditional school isn’t always the way to go, and I wish my parents had seen that earlier (Washington Post)

Op-Ed: How 'troubled' teens might be troubled no more (Salt Lake Tribune)

Commentary: The trouble with the 'troubled teen' label and the behavioral modification industry behind it (Insider)

Longreads Podcast Episode #424

Lit Hub's Keen On Podcast

Next Big Idea Book Club Book Bite

KCUR's Up to Date

The Book Review Podcast

NPR's 1A

Stories from the Field Podcast

Here & There with Dave Marash

New England News Collaborative


Brooklyn Based

Tewksbury Public Library (Massachusetts)

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