Janet Bode, 56, a writer raised in College Park whose 14 books about coping with the realities of life are among the most popular written for teenagers, died of breast cancer Dec. 30 at her home in New York.
Ms. Bode's blunt, no-nonsense writings dealt with issues that deeply affect young people, including some sensitive topics that parents, teachers and counselors find difficult to discuss.
In a series of more than a dozen nonfiction books directed at teenagers, she wrote about rape and other violence, the death of parents and peers, interracial dating, troubled love relationships, eating disorders, teenage pregnancy, sibling problems, and learning to develop trusting relationships.
Her books included "The Voices of Rape," "Food Fight: A Guide to Eating Disorders for Pre-Teens and Their Parents" and "Heartbreak and Roses: Real Life Stories of Troubled Love." One Louisiana school board banned "Heartbreak and Roses" from its libraries but recently reinstated it to settle a lawsuit.
Ms. Bode traveled throughout the country gathering stories from teenagers, asking them about their problems and how they solved them. Those led to a series of books that appealed to a wide variety of young people, even the most reluctant readers.
Since the mid-1980s, when she shifted from magazine writing to focus on specialized books, Ms. Bode had interviewed thousands of teenagers. She talked to them in public and private schools, libraries, poor urban neighborhoods, rich suburban streets, rural areas, drug rehabilitation centers, coffee shops and prisons.
She included her mailing address and e-mail address in her books and invited teenagers to write to her. They wrote and they called, pouring out their life experiences and suggesting topics she should pursue. Most of her book topics were proposed by her readers.
Librarians were among the first to recognize her popularity as a writer and discovered that the books were frequently being stolen from their collections.
"She was the Studs Terkel of American teenagers," said Linda Waddle, deputy executive director of Young Adult Literary Services for the American Library Association. "Janet let them tell their stories in their own authentic voices."
Ms. Bode was born in Penn Yan, N.Y. She attended Northwestern High School, living in College Park while her father, Carl Bode, taught at the University of Maryland. He was also a writer, for publications that included The Washington Post.
Janet Bode, a graduate of the University of Maryland, worked as a young woman as a teacher in Germany, Tampa and Guadalajara, Mexico, and as a public relations agent for the Girl Scout council in Lawrence, Kan. She turned increasingly to writing as therapy after 1972, the year she was brutally attacked in a dark woods in Bowie.
Her attackers gang-raped her while threatening her with a weapon, an experience she later described in a book for adults called "Fighting Back: How to Cope with the Medical, Emotional, and Legal Consequences of Rape."
"Death seemed so close," she said. "I could reach out and touch it. Evil hung stagnating in the air. That night a part of me did die -- my faith, openness, trust. In an hour's span they altered all that, and left with warnings of vileness if I were to tell anyone. I was supposed to exist being thankful they spared my life."
Her books for teenagers received 26 major awards from organizations that included the National Council for Social Studies, the American Library Association and the New York Public Library.
Her latest book, "The Colors of Freedom: Immigrant Stories," was published this month by Franklin Watts publishing company. Another book, on the impact of divorce on teenagers, will be published in the spring.
In 1991, Ms. Bode suffered another brutal attack, this time in a hotel room near the Los Angeles airport.
She was pistol-whipped, choked and robbed, an experience she again used to help educate the public. She was interviewed on ABC's "20/20" program, "Larry King Live" and the "CBS Evening News" about the need for hotels to increase safety for guests.
Within two years, most hotels established policies designed to increase security, including a policy forbidding desk clerks to repeat guests' room numbers aloud.
Ms. Bode's marriage to Craig Usas ended in divorce.
Survivors include her companion and collaborator, cartoonist Stan Mack of New York; and two sisters, Carolyn Bode of Santa Monica, Calif., and Barbara Bode of Washington.