Dope Sick

Book review by
Matt Berman, Common Sense Media
Dope Sick Book Poster Image
Cautionary tale about a teen drug addict.

Parents say

age 16+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 3 reviews

Did this review miss something on diversity?

Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive, diverse representations in books, TV shows, and movies. Want to help us help them? Suggest a diversity update

A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

The main character uses and deals drugs, and participates in a robbery, for which he is sent to jail.


A boy is shot in the arm, another shoots a policeman. A man kills another man for calling him a name. Two boys are beaten in jail.


A teen gets pregnant.


Some, including "s--t" and "f--k."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

This book is all about drug abuse, both illegal and prescription: many references to many different drugs and drug paraphernalia, and the main character is an addict and injects heroin. A mother is a falling-down drunk who has to be dragged home by her son.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this is a book about drug abuse by street punks, so there are plenty of drug and violence references, though nothing graphic, and the main character is forced to confront what the drugs are doing to his life.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byricky_bobby3 December 22, 2011

it talk abut everything they need to know...

there id everything abut this but it gud for the teen just for them to know wat good for them in there life....
Teen, 13 years old Written byAayniah_Copeland September 25, 2012


I love this book!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Teen, 13 years old Written bydevon the man February 13, 2011
its the best book ever because it teaches u about ur resonsibality and not to drink or do drugs.

What's the story?

Jeremy, called Lil J, a teen addict, participates in a drug sale that goes bad when the buyer, an undercover cop, gets shot. Falsely blamed for the shooting, Jeremy goes into hiding in an abandoned building. There he meets Kelly, a mysterious guy sitting in one of the rooms with a tv and a remote control, which apparently allows him to see anywhere and anywhen. Showing Jeremy scenes from his own life, past, present, and future, he pushes Jeremy to confront honestly the decisions he has made and the paths he is taking.

Is it any good?

It's a short book (183 pages) almost entirely made up of two guys in a little room in an abandoned house -- talking; but it's hard to put down. Do you remember the movie 12 Angry Men? It was just some guys, in one small room, doing nothing but talking for 95 minutes, and yet you couldn't take your eyes off it. It didn't have any of the things we think a story needs -- romance, humor, action, movement -- just talk. But it was utterly compelling. DOPE SICK is like that, but with a touch of magic realism. 

Like 12 Angry Men, it's a bit didactic, and it doesn't matter. It's gritty, and, despite the touch of magic, doesn't shy away from reality, even to its ambiguous ending. With a rhythmic and seamless use of dialect, it examines issues that thousands of teens all over the country wrestle with every day. And, in doing so, it really has two messages. One, for the teens who can relate to Jeremy, says, "There can be a way out." The other speaks to those who don't have to deal with his problems, and who may be tempted to despise and dismiss those like him with little thought. It says, "Here's how he got this way, and it could happen to anyone."

From the Book:
My arm was hurting bad. Real bad. The bone could have been broken. I couldn't tell. I just knew it was hurting and swollen. I felt like just taking the gun out and throwing it away and giving up so I could get the mess over with. I opened my mouth so I wouldn't make so much noise when I breathed. Down the street I saw the patrol car was still at the corner. He had his lights flashing. I didn't know if he'd seen which way I was running or not. I knew I was too tired to keep running much more.

I started to lift my arm to look at my watch and the whole arm just lit up with pain. The bone had to be broken. I figured it was two or three o'clock in the morning. Skeeter had called me just past midnight and told me they got Rico. I knew Rico was going to punk out. In a way I was glad they got him, but I knew he was going to blame everything on me.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how kids get started using drugs. How did Jeremy get started? Why does he continue using them when he knows they're destroying him? Why does he feel so hopeless? Is he right, or is there a way out for him?

Book details

Our editors recommend

Top advice and articles

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality.

Learn how we rate