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A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this book is about teen drug addicts in a rehabilitation facility. The teen characters have different dependencies, including alcohol, painkillers, cocaine, and meth. The characters have done terrible things -- or had terrible things done to them -- but in the end, they form bonds and become stronger as a result of their therapy and friendships. There is a hopeful conclusion here. In a final letter, one of the protagonists reminds the friends that she met in rehab that they "deserve to be happy" even though they have made serious mistakes in their lives. Also, most of the more disturbing details are told as memories so they don't seem quite as visceral.
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What's the story?
Teen drug addicts come together at a rehab center to discuss their addictions, work through their painful pasts -- and to form unlikely friendships. They are from different walks of life and have different dependencies (Jason drinks, Olivia takes pills, Christopher uses meth, etc.), but they all take turns as narrator, giving voice to their own stories and pain. Readers also see them interact at group therapy sessions, where a helpful counselor helps them understand their addiction, and how to live with it.
Is it any good?
The author creates a rather scripted ensemble of protagonists -- the rich girl, the Christian boy, etc. -- but there is still plenty for teen readers to ponder here. They can think about the factors that drive addiction, and even what it takes to forgive yourself after you've made mistakes. The book's format, which alternates among the five main protagonists, their group therapy sessions, personal essays, and questionnaires makes for a fast, if somewhat shallow, read. But even readers who find the narrative taking predictable turns will be touched by the book's hopeful messages about supporting friends in need -- and why everyone deserves good things in their life.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about books dealing with teen drug addiction. Do stories like this one do anything to either prevent -- or normalize -- teen drug use? How does this book compare to other media -- books, movies, etc. -- that deal with drug addiction?
How does this book compare to Reed's other novel Beautiful, which also deals with mature subjects, such as rape, teen sex, and drug use? Are there any topics that are too mature for teens? Or is it important for books to tackle tough topics?
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