Writing For Tough Kids
Once upon a time I was a teacher working with "tough" kids - teens who had behaviors that got them into trouble in most classrooms. My education degree is actually in "learning and behavior disorders." I never liked labeling kids as having "disorders." We're not talking about true psychosis, just behaviors that are counterproductive in a school setting. One of our texts was The Tough Kid Tool Box.
Usually there was a good reason for they'd developed those behaviors - school wasn't a good fit when they were dealing with adult-size problems in the "real" world. To survive, they had to be resilient.
Writing for tough kids means making the characters like them. That's why my YA novels are on the gritty side of realistic and my characters are resilient. Since many tough kids are reluctant readers, I also keep the writing straightforward and the action moving.