Growing Up Stoned: Coming to Terms With Teen-age Drug Abuse in Modern America, Dan C. Ellis (Health Communications Inc., 1721 Blount Road, Suite 1, Pompano Beach, Fla. 33069: $8.95). The author possesses the most important quality necessary for dealing with those affected by drug abuse: empathy. He first extends his empathy only to parents, and so, in the first chapter he sounds like a father who's just discovered that his son threw a rock through the neighbor's window. "It is often difficult to comprehend adolescents as having a specific tasks to perform, or anything of importance to do, beyond irritating the adults in their lives," he complains. They seem to be "an unruly, self-centered and hopelessly insane group." Later in the chapter, though, he writes that his 12 years of work as a psychologist have convinced him that his early assesment of adolescents was "inaccurate and totally unfair."
Despite the considerable media attention now being given to teen drug abuse, books such as "Growing Up Stoned," which try to understand root causes, are still hard to find. This is not surprising, for teen-agers are alienated from adults because of a complicated emotional dialectic. On the one hand teen-agers need to develop as individuals. "Adolescents tend to believe they are unique, and that no one else can understand them, nor has anyone experienced their particular predicament," Ellis writes. "Many parents have heard the plaintive plea, 'But mom, you just don't know what it is like to be in love.' " On the other hand, adolescents have not yet achieved that independence, and so they have trouble distinguishing between their own thoughts and those of others. Though Ellis' text is sprinkled with $10 words-- foreclosure, identity diffusion, dyadic relationships-- it offers parents a useful, unique mix of psychological interpretation and practical tips on how to cope with crises.
Jane, Dee Wells (Harper & Row: $7.95). Like many protagonists in American novels of the early 1970s, Jane is struggling to find happiness in the newly "liberated and enlightened" social culture. Single and 34, she is a carefree American film critic living in a colorful London loft, writing for a London newspaper, and having affairs--with a British lord, a petty thief who falls through the garden skylight one eve, and Franklin, a magnetic lawyer who just-happens-to-be-black. Unlike other protagonists of her era, however, Jane is endearing rather than dated; her independent, lively life style at first seems to fit right into the hip, contemporary TV culture of "Moonlighting" or "L.A. Law." We soon discover, however, that Jane is no yuppie: she lacks the self-assertiveness, the pop psychological belief that personal crises can be tackled by talking.
In Jane's case, the crisis is pregnancy. By the time she finds out that the father is Franklin, he's off in Dayton, Ohio, working as an assistant district attorney. Here is where it becomes clear that Jane is unable to pause long enough from her fluttery life to come to terms with her own feelings. Jane seems to use her ebullience to forget the fact that she wasn't "only joking" when she told Franklin she would live with him in Dayton, where "all the people have real prawblems . What to wear on safari. Where to go this time in Yurp." Whether the author sees through Jane's self-deception is unclear, for when Franklin finally visits Jane and his new son in London to tell her that he's not coming back, we're not given a sign that she's anything but unaffected. "Darling, don't look like that," she tells Franklin, "I'll be OK, honestly I will, after all, I'm free, white, and almost 36, aren't I?"
Computer Languages: A Guide for the Perplexed, Naomi S. Baron (Doubleday: $17.95). When personal computers--"hardware"--first hit the assembly lines en masse in the late 1970s, "software"--programs to tell the computers what to do--was in short supply. Thus the task of writing programs was largely left to home-grown computer fans, who foraged through Fortran 77 and "Beginner's All-Purpose Symbolic Instruction Code" (BASIC) in an attempt to manage patient records, turn light bulbs on and off and, as the author puts it, "make the star-ship Zennia blast the forces of the Great Plutonia out of the galaxy." Today, however, a computer priesthood has emerged, creating programs so user friendly that they seem to speak our language. So then why learn theirs?