What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that White Lines is a coming-of-age novel set in New York City in the late 1980s. It's narrated by deeply troubled teen Cat, who lives alone in Lower Manhattan, barely attends school, and goes out to clubs almost nightly until sunrise. She consistently uses alcohol and drugs, including cocaine, ecstasy, and on one accidental occasion, heroin. Despite having a supportive best friend and sweet high school crush, she fraternizes regularly with drug dealers, teen dropouts, and adults with questionable motives. And her daily self-medicating to mask the pain of an abusive childhood is catching up with her. Fast. Strong language ("f--k," "s--t," "bitch," "hell," "damn," and more) and drug slang are prevalent throughout. A character we don't meet attempts suicide by overdosing on Xanax. One mother drinks constantly and becomes abusive, and another mother is inferred to have a prescription pill habit. Cat recounts various incidents of physical abuse at the hand of her mother.
What's the story?
After being removed from the home of her abusive and manipulative mother, 17-year-old Cat moves into her own Manhattan apartment, paid for by a wealthy and distant father. Though Cat has few real friends and struggles in school, she's a fixture on the downtown club scene, promoting parties and going out nightly with an exclusive, hard-partying clientele. Her life affords her all the freedoms most teens dream of, but as she sinks deeper into drug addiction amid a fantastical nocturnal world, Cat's high school reality becomes defined by a growing feeling of isolation. Her constant self-medicating with drugs and partying to combat a lifetime of abuse and neglect only heighten her fragility, preventing her from gaining the tools she needs to heal and grow up. She knows she needs help. But can she stop before it's too late?
Is it any good?
Author Jennifer Banash does well with her first-person narration of a lonely and insecure teen girl, creating a character you can't help but feel for. She also paints a vivid picture of New York City, from the lavish wealth of Park Avenue to the singular beat of the downtown club scene. But the pacing of WHITE LINES is off; Cat's inner dialogue becomes deeply repetitive, and far too much time is spent on menial details. For instance, descriptions of characters' hair (the color of, the flow of, the way it flops on a forehead or is brushed from a shoulder) are found on nearly every other page, diluting their effect.
But despite the plodding narrative, Banash has crafted some interesting characters in Cat and the various colorful people who inhabit her circle. Cat's feelings of alienation and loneliness are endearing and relatable; the reader can't help but feel invested in her plight. And so the story becomes more engaging with every chapter leading up to the climactic ending.
Families can talk about...
Families can talk about the dangers of substance abuse as a means of self-medicating. What are some other ways to cope with the pain of a troubled childhood?
How does the author portray 1980s New York City? What are some of the ways she dates the story and sets the tone of the period?
Cat's two best friends, Sara and Giovanni, are supportive in very different ways. Describe how their relationships with Cat differ. How does Giovanni's character change throughout the story?