Books and Materials Reviews

Date01 October 2002
Published date01 October 2002
2002, Vol. 51, No. 4 361
Books and Materials Reviews
T. A. Jacobs (2000). Teens on Trial: Young People Who
Challenged the Law—And Changed Your Life. Min-
neapolis, MN: Free Spirit Publishing, 208 pp. ISBN 1-
57542-081-3, $14.95.
Teens on Trial uses controversial and landmark legal cases
to demonstrate how minors are viewed by the U.S. legal system.
Both the unpretentious format and language and the focus on
the role of adolescents in these cases and how they affect the
law are designed to engage an adolescent audience. Ranging
from individual rights of adolescents (privacy, dress codes) to
family issues (parental discipline, grandparent visitation) to shifts
toward treatment of adolescents as adults (transfer to criminal
court, death penalty), the topics are timely and interesting for
adolescents and, perhaps, for those who work with adolescents.
Like Jacobs’s 1997 book What Are My Rights? 95 Questions
and Answers About Teens and the Law (Minneapolis, MN: Free
Spirit Publishing), the author’s newest book grapples with laws
related to minors and their families, schools, and workplaces,
with an emphasis on adolescents’ personal freedoms. Whereas
the 1997 book answers 95 legal questions in a question-and-
answer format, the 2000 book has at its core 21 precedent-setting
cases involving minors and the law.
After a brief introduction, Part 1 (Understanding the Law)
uses the simple question-and-answer format to introduce the read-
er to relevant aspects of the law and legal system. This part of
the book consists of three sections: the Supreme Court and how
it works; facts about the U.S. Constitution; and how to do legal
research. This section provides adequate background to allow
readers of the book to understand the basic context and implica-
tions of the case summaries presented in Part 2. However, the
cursory review of the Constitution and Bill of Rights fails to es-
tablish the importance of constitutional law in our judicial process.
The scant section on how to do legal research is just enough to
get some adolescents interested, but it certainly is inadequate to
keep them from getting lost and frustrated in a law library.
Part 2 (The Cases) presents 21 legal issues of relevance to
minors. For each precedent-setting case, Jacobs presents the is-
sue, the facts of the legal case, questions to consider, the court’s
ruling, related cases and their issues, and a plea to ‘‘get on the
case’’ through further research and discussion. Several of the
cases are classics found in every course book on children, fam-
ilies, and the law. One such example is Meyer v. Nebraska, the
1923 U.S. Supreme Court case on parents’ rights to make de-
cisions about their children’s education. There also are important
and current cases pertaining to evolving issues of law, such as
minors’ privacy rights. For instance, Tariq A.-R. Y. v. Maryland
(1998), a Maryland Court of Appeals ruling that the U.S. Su-
preme Court declined to review, asks whether a parent can give
police permission to search a minor child’s personal possessions.
A glossary of key terms, a bibliography of sources relevant to
each of the cases, and a thorough index conclude the book and
add to its utility.
The book’s strengths are its accessibility and relevance for
the target audience (i.e., adolescents in a civics class). The book
may have some appeal for those interested in law, for counselors
working with youth involved in the juvenile justice or adult
criminal system, or as a supplemental reader for an undergrad-
uate course on family law or adolescence. Jacobs’s writing is
succinct, and his summaries of the cases and the implications of
the rulings are accurate. He is certainly qualif‌ied as an expert
regarding children’s legal rights. He was Arizona Assistant At-
torney General from 1972 to 1985; he has presided over a county
Superior Court, Juvenile Division, since 1985; and he currently
serves as an adjunct professor of social work.
A weakness of the book may be the overemphasis on ado-
lescents’ rights and an underemphasis on youth and family re-
sponsibilities. The focus on adolescent trailblazers, ref‌lected in
the book’s full title, may help to allure youth. In an era that
protects children’s rights better than it protects children,however,
a clearer balance of rights and responsibilities is warranted.
Teens on Trial is interesting, appropriate, and useful for its
target audience of teenagers. However, it is without broader ap-
peal because of its simple treatment of constitutional law and its
narrow focus on legal issues from the adolescent’s perspective.
A. B
University of Connecticut—Storrs
J. M. Mercier, S. B. Garasky, and M. C. Shelley II (Eds.).
(2000). Redef‌ining Family Policy: Implications for the
21st Century. Ames: Iowa State University Press, 286 pp.
ISBN 0-8138-2590-3, $54.95.
As the foreword says, this is a timely book: timely because
of the change in the U.S. presidency and party, timely because
of pending reauthorizations of family-focused legislation, and
timely because key family policy books were written in the early
l990s and before. Thus, a new book on family policy is a valu-
able addition to the family policy literature as we enter the 21st
For those who teach family policy courses or continuing
education classes, the book will be useful. The introduction con-
tains the case for the book and useful citations as well as an
explanation of the book’s organization. As the editors note, with
changes both in family composition and in policy focused at
family well-being, there is a need for current information—the
general goal of the book.
The opening chapter, ‘‘Family Policy at the End of the 20th
Century,’’ will be especially helpful to those learning about fam-
ily policy for the f‌irst time and to those for whom this is a
capstone review of federal policy in the last quarter of the 20th
century. These 17 pages could stand alone as a monograph on
federal family policy.
The second chapter, ‘‘States’ Political Cultures and Their
Family Policies in the l990s,’’ reminds the reader that allpolitics
are local, such that context is everything. The author shares a

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