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Beneath a Meth Moon

Book review by
Barbara Schultz, Common Sense Media
Beneath a Meth Moon Book Poster Image
Teen's emotional journey through loss, addiction, recovery.

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Readers will get a feeling for the horrific damage that Hurricane Katrina did to the town of Pass Christian, Miss., in 2005. Beneath a Meth Moon is also a cautionary tale about the dangers, and addictive qualities, of methamphetamine.

Positive Messages

Beneath a Meth Moon tells a story of surviving drug addiction, and surviving great loss, without ever becoming too preachy or unrealistic. Readers will see the importance of facing painful feelings rather than masking them.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Laurel's father is a courageous, loving parent who tries to create a new life for his children after their mother and grandmother die. He never gives up on Laurel, and he is open about his own feelings. Laurel's friend Moses gently teaches her the potential consequences of her addiction, but he also sees her as more than an addict and he's there when she needs him most. Laurel also has very fond memories of her mother and grandmother -- their cheerfulness and loving ways.

Violence

Hurricane Katrina is the most violent force in Beneath a Meth Moon, but the disastrous effects are mainly viewed after the fact. In one brief scene, Laurel and her boyfriend, T-Boom, struggle over a bag of meth and bump each other's mouths; T-Boom loses a tooth, and one of Laurel's is chipped in the process.

Sex

Laurel and her boyfriend, T-Boom, kiss and hold each other.

Language
Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

The narrator of Beneath a Meth Moon, Laurel, is asked by a boy she likes, T-Boom, if she "likes to party," and she answers yes. Soon after, she is given her first taste of methamphetamine. She becomes addicted to the drug, and the novel includes numerous situations where she is high or experiences withdrawal symptoms. For long periods, she is reduced to begging on the street for drug money.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Beneath a Meth Moon paints an unvarnished picture of a teen's addiction to methamphetamine, which she uses to escape the emotional devastation of her mother's and grandmother's deaths. The novel includes detailed descriptions of what a meth high feels like, as well as descriptions of drug withdrawals and the effects of meth use. Just as disturbing and palpable is narrator Laurel's grief following the loss of her mother and grandmother. The content is emotionally challenging, but the events are revealed rather artfully as the narration weaves in and out of different times in Laurel's memory.

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What's the story?

Knowing that a hurricane is coming, 13-year-old Laurel and her baby brother evacuate their hometown of Pass Christian, Miss., with their father. Laurel's grandmother refuses to leave, however, so Laurel's mother stays behind. Katrina destroys the entire town, and dad and kids must carry on by themselves, eventually moving to the outskirts of Galilee, Iowa, where Laurel makes a good friend, Kaylee, and becomes a cheerleader at her high school. Laurel starts dating a player on the school basketball team, T-Boom, who introduces her to methamphetamine. She finds the drug a very tempting relief from her emotional pain, and sinks deep into addiction. On or off the drugs, however, she is also compelled to write. She fills notebook after notebook with her observations, feelings, and experiences; the novel is written from Laurel's point of view, as an elegy about her life.

Is it any good?

In BENEATH A METH MOON, Jacqueline Woodson paints a painfully realistic portrait of grief and methamphetamine addiction. The narrator, Laurel, is a plausible 15-year-old, and her relationships with her father, little brother, and friends are equally believable and moving. It's also believable that a young person experiencing this much suffering would welcome chemical relief. Emotionally, this novel is not an easy read, but it's nicely written and well-paced, as the chapters weave in and out of Laurel's various memories.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about drug addiction. Find out what your kids know already about methamphetamine, and explain why it is addictive and dangerous.

  • Examine the relationship between Laurel's emotional pain and her addiction. Talk about other ways young people can cope with a devastating loss.

  • Do you think Laurel will stay off meth? Why or why not?

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