The Elissas: Three Girls, One Fate, and the Deadly Secrets of Suburbia (Hardcover)

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Glamour's "15 Best Nonfiction Books of 2023, So Far"

Three suburban girls meet at a boarding school for troubled teens.

Eight years later, they were dead.

Bustle editor Samantha Leach and her childhood best friend, Elissa, met as infants in the suburbs of Providence, Rhode Island, where they attended nursery, elementary school, and temple together. As seventh graders, they would steal drinks from bar mitzvahs and have boys over in Samantha’s basement—innocent, early acts of rebellion. But after one of their shared acts, Samantha was given a disciplinary warning by their private school while Elissa was dismissed altogether, and later sent away. Samantha did not know then, but Elissa had just become one of the fifty-thousand-plus kids per year who enter the Troubled Teen Industry: a network of unregulated programs meant to reform wealthy, wayward youth. 
Less than a year after graduation from Ponca Pines Academy, Elissa died at eighteen years old. In Samantha’s grief, she fixated on Elissa’s last years at the therapeutic boarding school, eager to understand why their paths diverged. As she spoke to mutual friends and scoured social media pages, Samantha learned of Alyssa and Alissa, Elissa’s closest friends at the school who shared both her name and penchant for partying, where drugs and alcohol became their norm. The matching Save Our Souls tattoo all three girls also had further fueled Samantha’s fixation, as she watched their lives play out online. Four years after Elissa’s death, Alyssa died, then Alissa at twenty-six. 
In The Elissas, Samantha endeavors to understand why they ultimately met a shared, tragic fate that she was spared, in turn, offering a chilling account of the secret lives of young suburban women.

About the Author

Samantha Leach is the entertainment editor at large at Bustle. She has also written for Glamour, Elle, NYLON, and many other publications. The Elissas is her first book.

Praise For…

“[Leach] develops sensitive portraits of each girl and suggests how social pressures, combined with health and environmental factors, conspired to damage the minds and then destroy the bodies of three vulnerable young women. A poignant and heartfelt mix of sociology and memoir.” —Kirkus

“…a searing exposé.”—Publisher’s Weekly (Starred Review)

“Leach takes the reader through this harrowing, heartbreaking story . . . With great care, she reveals the paths that led these girls’ deaths at 18, 23, and 26, when their lives should have just been beginning. The loss is enormous, and Leach painstakingly, lovingly, braids their stories into one indelible work.”—Glamour

"An intimate, moving narrative peppered with harsh statistics, love, angst, and the author’s own admirable vulnerability."—Library Journal (Starred)

The Elissas is elegiac and investigative in equal measure. Leach channels her grief from her early friend’s loss into compassionate, poignant reporting—and one of the best nonfiction books of the summer.”—Harper's Bazaar

“In The Elissas, Samantha Leach writes with great compassion about the pressures on girls to live up to today’s punishing beauty standards. With insight and precision, Leach exposes the ways in which the so-called Troubled Teen Industry preys upon girls’ vulnerability and capitalizes on their parents’ naivete—and bank accounts. The Elissas is both a deeply personal story of loss and an indictment of the societal forces that contributed to robbing a young woman of those closest to her. Leach’s investigation into how the Elissas perished adds much to our understanding of how dangerous misogyny can be to the health and well-being of girls and young women.”—Nancy Jo Sales, New York Times bestselling author of American Girls and Nothing Personal

“Rebellious and real, troubled yet hopeful, The Elissas presents an abiding portrait of friendship forged in the coercive clutches of upper and middle class America. From the basements of suburban homes to the innermost workings of the Troubled Teen industry, Samantha Leach holds a magnifying glass to adolescent girlhood and the capitalist forces that equate youth with desirability, beauty with success, safety with secrecy.”—Allie Rowbottom, author of Aesthetica and Jell-O Girls

“A decade after losing her best friend, Samantha Leach is haunted by her loss. Why was she spared the fate that befell Elissa? In incisive, fearless prose Leach investigates the realities of the Troubled Teen Industry and reevaluates her own role in the chaos and rebellion of adolescence. There are hard truths about girlhood, friendship, and boundaries in The Elissas, each of them heart-rending and ultimately, inspiring.”—Stephanie Danler, New York Times bestselling author of Sweetbitter and Stray

“Samantha Leach's The Elissas is a compelling fusion of memoir, reportage and cultural analysis that serves as both a damning indictment of the exploitative troubled teen industry and a compassionate look at the young people who have fallen prey to it.”—Sam Lansky, author of The Gilded Razor

Product Details
ISBN: 9780306826917
ISBN-10: 0306826917
Publisher: Legacy Lit
Publication Date: June 6th, 2023
Pages: 256
Language: English