Three Little Words: A Memoir

Book review by
Matt Berman, Common Sense Media
Three Little Words: A Memoir Book Poster Image
Popular with kids
Harrowing foster child memoir for mature readers.

Parents say

age 15+
Based on 3 reviews

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 11 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Positive Messages

Ashley tries to drug her adoptive parents so she can sneak out at night. The book details some of the worst behavior of which humans are capable, yet it is a story of hope: Ashley perseveres, works hard, and does well in school with no encouragement, and courageously brings legal action against those who abused her and the system that allowed it, and eventually becomes a successful author.


Spousal and child abuse, including kicking and hitting with objects, stress positions, forced consumption of hot sauce, holding underwater, being forced to bathe in water with feces, starving, supergluing hands to walls. A grandfather is shot in front of his grandchild. Fighting among children, one throws acetone in another's face.


Children simulate sex with toys; a child watches graphic bondage porn on video, finds a condom, and dresses as a hooker for Halloween; mentions of sex abuse, rape, molestation of infants, pedophilia, castration, "making out."


Plenty of swearing by both children and adults, including giving the finger and aggressive cursing: "F--k you," etc.


Many products mentioned: toys, foods, fast food restaurants.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

A parent makes, takes, and sells drugs. Drinking, drunkenness, drunk driving with a child in the car, smoking cigarettes.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this is a true story filled with real-life horrors. While nothing is described graphically, it includes a variety of forms of child abuse and mistreatment; lots of sexual references, none of them healthy; swearing; drugs; alcohol; and acting out of psychological damage.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byAkoi Akoi November 16, 2011

Three little words review!

i think it was a great book
Parent of a 13-year-old Written bymamalaura April 20, 2011

MUST READ if you are considering Social Work!

Loved it, but had a really hard time getting through the first 1/2. I was in tears and had to put the book down several times. I adopted a 10 year old out of... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byEmilyM. January 7, 2017

A mature, thoughtful look into the foster care system.

I loved this book. Any child nine or older can read this book (though it warrants discussion if you child is particularly sensitive). I recommend you read this... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byEmilyM03 September 17, 2016

Wonderful Book!

I am 13. This is the best book I have read in a while! It is hard to get through the first half, as others have said, but I believe it is worth it. There is... Continue reading

What's the story?

In the first half, author Ashley Rhodes-Courter describes her childhood in the foster-care system: After being taken away from her mother at age three, she endures fourteen foster homes in nine years, including one that was seriously abusive. In the second half she details her adoption and subsequent struggles to adapt, overcome her distrust, and feel like she belongs with her new family, as well as her legal battles with the abusive foster parents and the state system that looked the other way.

Is it any good?

The first half of this book is just disturbing and horrifying, the more so because readers know that it's true, and actually happened to the little girl in the pictures at the back. It's for teens only, and even they might wonder why they are reading something so miserable. But as a story, that first half perfectly sets up Rhodes-Courter's courageous battles and triumphant successes in the second half, leaving the readers feeling strongly connected to the author and deeply satisfied by her accomplishments.

The author spares no one, least of all herself, and in her plain, straightforward, unadorned prose her anger is palpable and fully justified. But her determination and strength of character prevent her from wallowing in blame and indignation, instead turning this into a story of hope and triumph as she rises from the ashes of her ruined childhood to become a best-selling author and spokesperson for the protection of foster and adopted children. If you can get through the harrowing first half, you will find yourself astonished and uplifted.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how Ashley came out of this gruesome childhood intact and excelling. What enabled her to succeed when so many others are lost?

  • Why so you think Ashley's story got media attention?


  • What do you  know about teh foster care system? What did you learn about it from this book?

Book details

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