Monday, December 30, 2019

Raw, Hard-Hitting Drug Addiction YA Novel a Difficult, But Important Read

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Although she's awkward in most aspects of her life, there's one place where Mickey Catalan feels perfectly in control—on the softball field.  There, she's seen as a beast, a gifted athlete with enough talent to not just help win an upcoming high school tournament, but also to get recruited for a college team.  Between Carolina Galarza, the team's equally skilled pitcher and Mickey's best friend, their team can't be beaten. 

Then, the girls are in a car accident that severely injures them both.  Carolina's pitching arm is broken and Mickey, who was driving, has a fractured leg and a screwed-on hip.  If the two don't recover—and fast—their team will be in big trouble.  Despite her determination to rehabilitate her body as quickly as possible, Mickey struggles with guilt, lack of energy, and brutal pain.  The OxyContin she's given to manage the pain masks the hurt while giving her an extra boost that makes her feel loose and confident, so much so that she can't stop taking it, even after her prescription runs out.  Desperate for her next hit, Mickey—who's always been a good girl—is suddenly lying, stealing, and letting down her teammates.  Eventually, her new group of young addict friends turns her on to heroin, an even higher high.  It's only when tragedy occurs that Mickey realizes her drug addiction could cost her everything—and everyone—she cares about.  Can she stop herself before she destroys her whole world?

If you ask people what a junkie looks like, chances are good they're not going to describe the fresh-faced girl next door, the stressed-out housewife who lives down the street, or their boss with his high-end job and fancy car.  The thing with opioid addiction is that it's changing the face of what an addict looks like, a point aptly addressed in Heroine by Mindy McGinnis.  Mickey's softball star status might make her a bit extraordinary, but she's still an average, middle-class Jane whose opioid dependency starts as it does for many people—with a legitimate prescription.  The book traces her downward spiral, a trajectory that's familiar to anyone who's experienced drug addiction or watched someone else go through it.  McGinnis starts the novel with a warning about graphic depictions of drug use and indeed the story has many.  For that and other reasons, it's a difficult read.  A necessary cautionary tale, but not a pleasurable one.  In addition, the characters are not easy to like.  Edith is a particularly slimy one, but Mickey's not the most sympathetic one either.  The ending of the novel is hopeful, but I don't feel that Mickey loses quite enough to really understand the consequences of her actions.  In the end, I can't say I liked Heroine.  For me, it was just too difficult and disturbing, so much so that I had to force myself to keep reading.  I do, however, feel that it's a powerful, timely novel that is well-crafted and tightly-written.  The story offers a real, eye-opening, hard-hitting picture of the effects drug abuse can have on an individual, a family, and a community, without glamorizing any of it.  For these reasons, I feel that it's an important read with the power to keep kids from taking even the first step toward drug addiction.  If it saves just one life, then it's worth the difficult, disturbing read.

(Readalikes:  Reminds me of the Crank trilogy (Crank, Glass, and Fallout) by Ellen Hopkins and Invisible as Air by Zoe Fishman)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for language, graphic depictions of illegal drug use and prescription drug abuse, innuendo/rude humor, and disturbing subject matter

To the FTC, with love:  I received a finished copy of Heroine from the generous folks at HarperCollins for the purpose of Cybils Award judging.  Thank you!

1 comment:

  1. I am going to read this one soon and am glad I read your review so that I am prepared mentally. Thank you!

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