America’s Lost Youth and the Crisis of Disconnection

A deeply affecting exposé of America’s hidden crisis of disconnected youth, in the tradition of Matthew Desmond and Adrian Nicole LeBlanc

“A significant share of young people are not keeping up with their peers. Rather, they are disconnected from the mainstream of opportunity and disengaged from education and employment or at risk of being so.” —from Abandoned

Winner, 2020 Goddard Riverside Stephan Russo Book Prize for Social Justice

For the majority of young adults today, the transition to independence is a time of excitement and possibility. But 4.5 million young people—or a stunning 11.5 percent of youth aged sixteen to twenty-four—experience entry into adulthood as abrupt abandonment, a time of disconnection from school, work, and family. For this growing population of Americans, which includes kids aging out of foster care and those entangled with the justice system, life screeches to a halt when adulthood arrives. Abandoned is the first-ever exploration of this tale of dead ends and broken dreams.

Author Anne Kim skillfully weaves heart-rending stories of young people navigating early adulthood alone, in communities where poverty is endemic and opportunities almost nonexistent. She then describes a growing awareness—including new research from the field of adolescent brain science—that “emerging adulthood” is just as crucial a developmental period as early childhood, and she profiles an array of unheralded programs that provide young people with the supports they need to achieve self-sufficiency.

A major work of deeply reported narrative nonfiction, Abandoned joins the small shelf of books that change the way we see our society and point to a different path forward.


“Kim diagnoses a ‘crisis of opportunity’ among America’s youth in this substantial and cogent analysis of U.S. public policy. . . . Policymakers and social justice advocates will find valuable insights in this sobering, well-sourced examination.”
Publishers Weekly
“A quietly powerful nonfiction debut . . . the author enlivens the text with miniprofiles of beneficiaries of high-impact programs. An outstanding book for policymakers and people who work with adrift young people.”
Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“Perhaps the most compelling group in Kim’s book are the teens who have ‘aged out’ of the foster care system. . . . We may not be able to provide caring parents, but as Kim notes, we can do a better job bolstering schools in poor areas and provide more training, employment, and family planning programs.”
—Associated Press
“In defiance of stereotypes of lazy and unmotivated youth, Kim depicts young people who are eager to break into the workforce but face personal and structural obstacles that sabotage their efforts at every turn. . . . [A] smart, solutions-focused examination of an often-overlooked social crisis.”
“A remarkably important book. . . . Kim has set the table for a much-needed conversation about a population of young people neglected for far too long.”
—Alex Kotlowitz, Washington Monthly
“This comprehensive overview of the problem of disconnection among young adults in the U.S. offers proven solutions and concrete policy recommendations.”
Shelf Awareness (starred review)

News and Reviews

The Crime Report

Read a Q&A interview with Abandoned author Anne Kim in The Crime Report.

A Conversation on Abandoned

Watch a powerful conversation with author Anne Kim about her work in Abandoned and the young people behind her research.

Washington Monthly

“[A] remarkably important book .. [Anne Kim] writes with a quiet anger [and] has set the table for a much-needed conversation about a population of young people neglected for far too long.”

Kirkus Reviews

Read a starred review of Anne Kim’s “powerful nonfiction debut” in Kirkus Reviews.


Books by Anne Kim

Poverty for Profit
How Corporations Get Rich off America’s Poor

Anne Kim

Goodreads Reviews