The Art of Losing

Book review by
Rachel Sarah, Common Sense Media
The Art of Losing Book Poster Image
Authentic, realistic story of addiction, survival, sisters.

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

True-to-life scenes about going to AA meetings, challenges of addiction and recovery. Story gives a real look into rehab, sobriety, relapses. Also provides hope for anyone struggling.

Positive Messages

Strong messages about facing addiction, trusting yourself, finding strength to change. You can work through painful and difficult feelings to find forgiveness. And it can be empowering to forgive others and yourself. Accept the things you can change, and walk away from the things you can't.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Harley is a great model for self-discovery and finding courage to face one's guilt and shame, and being able to heal and move on. Her parents are supportive, loving characters.


Plot turns on a car crash. 


Mentions of sex, but no sexually descriptive scenes. 


Strong language includes "ass" and variations, as well as "f--k" and its variations.


Some brands mentioned include T.J.Maxx, iPad, People magazine, Subway sandwich, My Little Pony.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Teens are described as drunk, drinking, buying alcohol, driving drunk. They also discuss doing drugs, such as meth, Oxy. Addiction is described in real and raw ways, how difficult it can be to quit. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Lizzy Mason's The Art of Losing is a powerful, thought-provoking, contemporary story about two sisters, addiction, and the strength to forgive and move on. Main character Harley is a great role model for self-empowerment and strength in the midst of trauma. There are lots of positive messages and lessons about making mistakes, accepting things, talking openly and honestly about addiction, and knowing when to walk away. There's some kissing and making out, as well as references to sex. Strong language includes "bitching," "ass" and its variations, and "f--k" and its variations. There are scenes showing underage drinking, smoking cigarettes, AA meetings, and life in rehab. Parents should be prepared to have conversations about drunk driving, alcoholism, addiction, rehab, smoking, and teens having sex.

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What's the story?

In THE ART OF LOSING, 17-year-old Harley Langston's life changes forever the night she walks in on her younger sister, Audrey, hooking up with her boyfriend, Mike, at a party. In a fit of rage, she leaves them at the party, and Mike tries to drive Audrey home. He's so drunk that he crashes, and Audrey ends up in a coma. Mike is barely hurt, and Audrey may never wake up. Harley feels guilty, ashamed, and angry. As the story progresses, Harley reconnects with her childhood friend, Raf, who's recently out of rehab and dealing with his own struggles. In chapters that alternate between the present and the past, Harley faces her complicated feelings with her sister, her ex-boyfriend, her childhood friend, and her parents. 

Is it any good?

This is an absorbing, riveting story about addiction, family, love, and surviving. It beautifully tackles some tough issues: substance abuse, alcoholism, and families in crisis. The Art of Losing highlights the ripple effects of a drunk driving accident and realistically tells the story of what it's like to battle addiction. The writing is very real and deep, and shows how challenging it can be to forgive, and also how hard recovery can be. Harley's struggles with her sister and her ex are heartbreaking, and it's empowering to see how she forgives them and herself. This is a a story about being honest with yourself, forgiving, and moving on.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how addiction is portrayed and dealt with in The Art of Losing. After her sister's accident, why does Harley feel torn about reconnecting with her childhood best friend, Raf? How does he respond to his addictions differently from her ex?

  • What do you think of Harley's decision to keep quiet about the details of her sister's accident? Why is it important for teens to read about alcoholism and addiction, even if it makes readers uncomfortable?

  • How do the adults in Harley's life affect the way she approaches her own relationships? How difficult would it be to face your past, trust yourself, and start over?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love family stories and coming-of-age tales

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