This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Kearns High sophomore Savanna Peterson grew up in a family torn apart by drugs, but she's determined to pave her own path.
The 15-year-old is so dedicated to the "straight edge" cause, she teamed up with her grandmother, children's author Jill Ammon Vanderwood, to write a book called Drugs Make You Un-Smarter.
"I've been around drugs all my life, and I wanted to tell other kids or teenagers that they don't have to follow their family's footsteps if they do drugs," Savanna said. "If I can stay away, they can. I'm proof, I guess."
In the book, released Feb. 1, Savanna tells the story of her life.
"My dad, Troy, was a drug addict, and he was addicted to taking chances, breaking promises, and lying," begins the first chapter.
Savanna's father (his name was changed in the book) spent much of his daughter's childhood behind bars after being arrested for parole violations the day before she was born. He'd get out for a few months and quickly find himself back in prison again. Savanna remembers watching him shoot heroin in a grocery-store parking lot when she was young. He told her it was medicine, but she knew the truth.
Savanna's dad wasn't her only connection to drugs. Growing up, she watched other family members get mixed up in illegal and unhealthy activities. "It just disgusted me," she said.
When Savanna's grandmother, a hairstylist and author, asked her grandkids if any of them wanted to co-write a picture book, Savanna had a better idea. Why not write about what she knew? She wanted people to know how damaging drugs can be to the user and the user's family.
"I was surprised, but I told her I would help her," said Vanderwood. "I bought her a notebook so she could start writing her story."
Vanderwood, author of the Through the Rug series, was impressed with her granddaughter's writing skills.
"I said, 'I better keep the original hand-written [version] because no one's going to believe she wrote it,' " Vanderwood said.
Savanna loved "everything" about writing a book with her grandma, whom she considers her best friend.
In addition to Savanna's experiences, the book is filled with stories about more than 35 people who have been affected by drugs, including Vanderwood's own tale about being married to an alcoholic. The grandma-granddaughter team interviewed people they met online who were willing to share.
When the books were printed, Savanna felt accomplished to see her name on the cover. She wants to become an archaeologist or fiction writer, and she guarantees drugs won't derail her big plans.
"I made a commitment never to do drugs," she wrote in Drugs Make You Un-Smarter. "I never used them, and I never will, even though a lot of people who know my family tell me, 'You're just going through a phase. You're going to sell out in no time.' Well, guess what, those people are speaking crap! I will make it."
Drugs Make You Un-Smarter
O The book by West Valley City resident Jill Vanderwood and her granddaughter Savanna Peterson is available at Amazon.com and Barnesandnoble.com.