Cover image for Shouting at the sky : troubled teens and the promise of the wild
Shouting at the sky : troubled teens and the promise of the wild
Ferguson, Gary, 1956-
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin's Press, 1999.
Physical Description:
xiv, 249 pages ; 22 cm
General Note:
"A Thomas Dunne book"--T.p. verso.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
RC489.A38 F47 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



Nature as few have imagined it: Utah, a windswept desert thick with spring, the flash of primrose, treeless hills, canyons shining in the sun. And in the distance, all but lost in these great sweeps of rock and sky, a group of teenagers, fresh out of suburban America, are struggling desperately to build new lives-beyond crack and crystal mete, beyond sadness, beyond a pain that has brought many to the brink of self-destruction.

In Shouting at the Sky, award-winning writer Gary Ferguson is once again bound for the back-country, this time to spend a season in one of the country's most remarkable programs for troubled teens. Here you'll share in the daily triumphs and heartaches of an unforgettable group of kids. Witness their shock at the wilderness, outrageous with its bluster and open spaces, its lack of bathrooms and cooked meals, its absence of television, malls and old friends. Huddle with them on moonlit nights around a juniper fire. Sit for an afternoon on a canyon rim in the middle of nowhere and listen to their stories and poems: tales of anorexia and amphetamines, of depression and workaholic parents, of the grating fear that will not let them be.

Shouting at the Sky is a story resplendent with glimpses into power of the human spirit and the healing that is possible when the beauty and challenges of the wild are linked to it. But along these trails can also be found issues of striking gravity: insights into how young lives can go terribly wrong and, in the end, how many of our fondest hopes for tomorrow and teetering on the brink, waiting for us to find the will, the courage to build more genuine connections to our children.

"I can't imagine being broken down without a wild place to fall apart in," Ferguson writes. So this is also a very personal account of his participation as an observer, leader, and storyteller in the rites of passage these teenagers undergo in the Utah desert. It is a story of individuals, counselors and participants alike, grown-ups and youths, sharing the struggle to find themselves.

Author Notes

Gary Ferguson has written more than a dozen books on nature and science. His 1997 book, The Sylvan Path: A Journey Through America's Forests (released in trade paperback as Through the Woods ), was a winner of the prestigious Lowell Thomas Awards, Spirits of the Wild: The World's Great Nature Myths was selected by the New York City Public Library as one of the best books of 1996. He is a frequent speaker and lecturer on a variety of social conservation issues, and his nature-oriented essays can be heard on National Public Radio affiliates throughout the country. He and his wife, Jane, live in Red Lodge, Montana. For more information, visit Gary at his web site:

Reviews 1

Booklist Review

Opposite ends of the child-rearing spectrum are presented in these two books: one about helping troubled teens cope with their problems; the other about preparing ambitious teens for a successful career. Ferguson looks at troubled teenagers whose parents are desperate enough to send them into the desert wilderness of southern Utah for 60 days of therapy. Trooping along with the instructors and participants in the Aspen Achievement Academy, Ferguson observes troubled teenagers bare their souls about an array of problems: drug addiction, promiscuity, eating disorders, suicidal feelings. What they all have in common is a failure to respond to more conventional therapy. Their parents stay behind and undergo therapy, while the teens (many against their will) are removed from the stresses that may be behind their problems. The therapy focuses on self-awareness (keeping journals and sharing entries with the group) and self-reliance. Ferguson details the lives and troubles of the teens and the backgrounds of the instructors, in a setting of tranquil beauty. Notwithstanding the lackluster image of today's youth, Schneider and Stevenson call the current generation "America's most ambitious teenage generation ever." They cite studies showing more teens expecting to graduate from high school and go on to college than in previous generations. But the authors find many with "misaligned ambitions" or no clear idea of how to achieve the ambitions they have. The authors draw interesting parallels between the social and economic conditions facing today's youth and those of the 1950s, when young people married earlier and could earn a comfortable living working in a more industrialized economy. The authors advise educators and parents on how to help youth align their ambitions with their educational training. --Vanessa Bush