David Pelzer, in the second of his three autobiographical books, describes his life as an adolescent who has been taken from his mother in what contemporary court documents call the worst case of child abuse in the history of California in which the child lived. The son of an alcoholic firefighter and a mentally unstable woman, Dave was the designated scapegoat in his family. Blamed for all the family misfortunes, Dave was punished with increasingly severe and brutal treatment. Most of the abuse came from his mother, who succeded in turning Dave's siblings against him. This leaves him with a long-term lack of self worth and a concern that he is truly is the bad, toxic person his mother said he was.
Even after he was rescued by a perceptive teacher and taken into the foster care system, Dave's nightmare is not over. This is because of many of the behaviors he learned in order to survive the cruelty of his early life do not work well in the normal world. Most of the scars, as it turns out, are not visible.
Dave describes the events common to children who enter foster care: conflicts with other children, an ongoing desire to see or make contact with his birth family and his mother in particular, and the repeated disappointment of being moved from one foster home to the next. However there are bright moments in the book: Dave sometimes encounters mentors who encourage him and do not prejudge him. He acknowledges the neighbors, foster parents, teachers, and other people who helped him along the way.
Over the course of the book, Dave's perspective gradually shifts away from the immediate need for survival and he begins to be aware of the effect his actions have on others. He develops a desire for a stable and healthy home and family, although at first he doesn't quite understand what that looks like.
This book offers a very unique insight into the reasons behind the way abused or troubled children frequently "act out" even after they are removed from danger. Dave Pelzer describes some of his more problematic behavior. Unlike "A Child Called It", this book is written with more of a mature perspective.