Book clinic: what shall I read while my teenager goes off the rails?

Charlotte Coleman and Geraldine McEwan in the TV adaptation of Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit.

‘It’s adult worlds that are insane’: Charlotte Coleman and Geraldine McEwan in the 1990 TV adaptation of Jeanette Winterson’s Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit. Photograph: BBC

Q: What books will help me stay sane and calm as my 17-year- old daughter goes off the rails? (Hopefully it’s just a phase.)
Anonymous mum and research company director, 55, London

A: Tim Adams, journalist and author, writes:
I might be the wrong person to ask since I rely on my own teenage daughters to keep me half-sane. However, some books might help.

There are volumes that approach parenting as a Powerpoint presentation. These include such dispiriting titles as The Seven Habits of Highly Successful Teens by Sean Covey, son of the Mormon management guru. These should be avoided. No teenager wants to thought of as a project to be strategised.

Better are books that explore the bodily changes that might go some way to explaining door-slamming. The Teenage Brain by neuroscientist Dr Frances Jenson is among the most readable.

More useful, though, might be a return to some of those novels that remind you how the world looks through teenage eyes. The Catcher in the Rye is still the essential volume to show that, by any rational perspective, it’s adult worlds that are insane, with their ingrained irritations and their phoney insistence on discipline and examinations and tidying up.

Mary Karr’s two volumes of memoir, The Liars’ Club and Cherry, along with Jeanette Winterson’s Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, reinforce extremes of that message and may offer comfort that things could be much, much worse.

Caitlin Moran’s How to Be a Woman, though, will both have you laughing, and encourage a belief that late adolescence can not only be the worst of phases, but also the very best.