Teen fiction is no stranger to drug use. Who of my generation, now in our thirties, did not read Go Ask Alice as teenagers? Teens of this generation read Crank by Ellen Hopkins. These books follow the cautionary tale formula pretty closely as do many other teen novels. Part of my job is to find the books that break the mold and do it well.
For me, Recovery Road by Blake Nelson did that. This book begins where most teen novels would end–with treatment. The story follows Maddie’s journey from “Mad Dog Maddie” to her realization that it isn’t going to get easier any time soon.
Even more powerful for me was Please Ignore Vera Dietz. There is a lot going on in this darkly funny novel–one of which is Vera’s relationship with her father, a recovering alcoholic who worries constantly about Vera’s drinking. The scene in which Vera and her father have it out–in which the words “I’m not you” were used–will likely resonate with teens who have grown up with addiction in their family. Sheila O’Connor’s upcoming children’s book, Sparrow Road, explores this subject for a younger audience as a young girl deals with fear of her parent drinking again.
One of my favorite teen novels, Stoner & Spaz, follows the friendship of two teens: one with cerebral palsy and the other with a drug habit. The sequel, Now Playing (due out in August 2011), shows how their friendship weathers ups and downs as Colleen tries to stay sober. It isn’t easy for either of them, as Ben notes, “A little of anything is never enough for Colleen.”
Life as a Human contributor Roxanne Galpin writes of her decision to get help for her addiction in the latest installment of her story. In a previous post, A Letter to Cocaine, she writes, “Whoever made the non-addicted judge and jury of the addicted?” Reading this question reminds me of why stories are so important. Stories can help us be better judges & juries for the people we have never been.