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In the tradition of Three Women, Bustle editor and writer Samantha Leach traces the lives of a trio of girls who met in the Troubled Teen Industry and went on to share the same tragic fate.
Samantha and her best friend Elissa were typical privileged, rebellious, suburban girls. But after Elissa was kicked out of their private school, she soon disappeared. At fifteen years old, her parents quietly flew her from Providence, Rhode Island to a $10,000/month therapeutic boarding school in Nebraska. Ponca Pines Academy was part of the Troubled Teen Industry, a network of programs meant to reform wealthy, wayward teens. There she met two girls uncannily named Alissa and Alyssa, who had similar backgrounds and similar vices. In The Three Elissas, Samantha channels her personal grief and utilizes years of immersive research combined with her biting prose to reveal the cultural forces and systemic failings that contributed to the deaths of all three girls.
In 2011, less than a year after graduating from Ponca Pines Academy, Elissa died of encephalitis. Four years later, Alyssa died of a heroin overdose. Another four years after that, Alissa died while battling an opioid addiction. Samantha endeavors to tell each of their stories, expanding on what shaped these young women before, during, and after their time in the Troubled Teen Industry. Based on interviews with other survivors, friends and family of the girls, educators, experts, and comprehensive reporting, The Three Elissas will challenge what you know about the opioid epidemic and the Troubled Teen Industry — and in doing so, will ultimately offer a window into the secret lives of young suburban women.
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