Friday, August 5, 2011

REVIEW: Clean by Amy Reed

by Amy Reed (website)
Released: 07.19.2011
288 pages
Publisher: SimonPulse (website)
Awards & Acknowledgements: 2011 Junior Library Guild Selection
Source: S&S Galley Grab - part of book blog tour organized by the {Teen} Book Scene

You’re probably wondering how I ended up here. I’m still wondering the same thing.

Olivia, Kelly, Christopher, Jason, and Eva have one thing in common: They're addicts. Addicts who have hit rock bottom and been stuck together in rehab to face their problems, face sobriety, and face themselves. None of them wants to be there. None of them wants to confront the truths about their pasts. And they certainly don’t want to share their darkest secrets and most desperate fears with a room of strangers. But they'll all have to deal with themselves and one another if they want to learn how to live.

Because when you get that high, there's nowhere to go but down, down, down.(from GoodReads).

REVIEW: Let's start with introductions, shall we?  After all, there are five stories to keep track of in this one, so one must keep sharp.  Behold:

Kelly: she's the "every girl" here. She's the one we're a hop, skip, and a blown line away from becoming.  If you think it's not possible to fall down the slippery slope of drug addiction, her story of unfortunate circumstances, naive curiosity, mean men and low self-esteem might get you thinking twice.

Jason: the classic, sarcastic teenage, male asshole.  The "I-don't-give-a-f%@$" guy who who is anything but.  He is a true product of his environment, but IMO (and to hell with being humble), a shot between the eyes is too good for his father.

Eva: oh, my darling girl, I love your soul.  You can't bear to face your own pain so badly that you have to make yourself a character in your own truth.  You are my modern-day Anne of Green Gables with your lyrical words, the 'what-if' Anne who would have buried the very best parts of herself had she not found the grace-filled love of Matthew and Marilla.

Christopher: I love your soul, too, kid.  Christopher wouldn't hurt a breath on this earth, but he doesn't know jack about protecting and loving himself.  Dare I say your mother's aversion to reality and her own addiction aided yours?  Seriously, dude, it gets better. Trust in it.

Olivia:  Straight up, honey.  Your mother traded her soul a long time ago.  Don't let her black hole existence suck yours down, too.  Olivia is the classic perfectionist who is wasting her life away in pursuit of it.

Here's the thing I really liked about Clean: none of the characters were overtly stereotypical.  Yes, in the beginning, it felt like maybe there would be some, but it's as if their common ground as addicts leveled the traditional differences.  There wasn't an obvious girly-girl or jock to me - these kids just were.  And just 'being' instead of making them be 'this or that' helped make them be very believable.  The five different stories are well-woven together, without suffocating each other for space.  Kelly and Christopher take the lead most of the time and offer up the main narratives and introspection, but you get plenty of first-hand accounts from all through rehab-assigned essays and group therapy sessions.  I actually think the the latter two were my favorite parts of the book as you learned more about all of them through these.

Here's the thing I didn't care for as much: with there being five characters, I got emotional at times, but I never fully became emotionally attached to any one character.  Well, maybe Olivia and Jason a little bit, but that's only because I want to bury their respective mother and father. Alive.  Let the bastards suffocate in their own evil, I say, but hey, that's just me.

I digress.  Forgive me.  Involuntary reaction towards negligent and abusive parents.  You understand, I'm sure.

Anyway, my point is that I would have liked the book to get a bit deeper.  I can't quite explain it, but since I was worried about everyone, I had difficulty allowing the book to really sink its hooks into me.  Some of the stores are truly harrowing, and you really do mourn for them given some of the homes they came from, but since the revelations came in quick paragraphs and then moved onto the next character, I never felt fully immersed in any one character's personal story.  You get involved in Clean, but you don't get owned.

In the end, Clean is a good book about the different stories behind and reasons that can lead to addiction.  It's so easy to find your path slipping down that slope, and this is a tale of not only clawing your way back to sobriety, but also of facing who the real you as someone worthy of love and life.

"But it's one missed step / One slip before you know it / And there doesn't seem a way to be redeemed"
-Sarah McLachlan, "Fallen" 


  1. I think I would have the same problem when there's a book with 5 main characters. If it were fleshed out I would obviously care for all of them but it'd be hard to be completely invested in all 5, yeah? Ohh and that comparison to ANne of Green Gables, it makes me want to read this even more. Great review, I think I'll like this book :) Have you read Beautiful by Amy Reed? I've heard some really fantastic things about that book too.

  2. I really liked Amy Reed's other novel Beautiful even though it was gut wrenching. I am excited about this as I like that she writes really gritty characters. Great review :)

  3. walking here with a smile.. have a nice day ~ =D

    Regards, (A Growing Teenager Diary) ..

  4. I can definitely see how having so many main characters would make it a bit difficult to get attached to any one specifically, but overall this sounds like a strong story:) Love that none of them are stereotypical, it's so much easier to relate to them when they feel like real people. Really nice review Linds!

  5. Yes, I understand too well.

    I think I'd be overwhelmed with 5 POVs, but it seems that the fact the characters are downplayed in characteristics helped to level them out so they wouldn't be overbearing.

    Loved reading your thoughts on this one.

  6. Wow, really great review! I like how you broke down the characters. Loved this review! Some others I've read were offended by the language, but I felt it would only be natural.
    Really love your review!


  7. I don't usually read contemp. books, but I think I'd like to read this one. I understand what you mean about wanting to go deeper into a character and wanting to get to know them better. I think that is really important.

  8. I felt bombarded by all of the characters' issues and pasts, but I also felt like I was on a roller coaster zipping through their experiences. It was sad, but, I agree, I never really became immersed or attached to anyone.

  9. Ooh, sounds like one helluva read! Call me weird, but I like reading characters who have hit rock bottom because the process of rebuilding themselves is where the true character development occurs. Definitely adding this one to my TBR pile. Thanks for the rec!


  10. I'll be honest, I did think "here's another stereotypical YA book about addiction" but I'm glad that I was proved wrong. It's definitely a very hard topic to discuss. It sounds as if this is more like an anthology of short stories instead of a novel. Do the characters ever intersect (besides being in the same rehab center) and talk to one another? Are the stories all told from the third person voice? Just wondering where the emotional detachment comes from.

  11. This is one that I've really been wanting to read. Your review both reinforces that and diminishes it. :P (Wonder if that just leaves me where I started...) But I don't actually mind multiple perspectives. Not every author can pull it off, but I've read books that have quite a few narrators and I've really enjoyed them. So that isn't the auto turn off that I've seen it be for others. Hopefully I won't have the same draw backs as you have. :) But either way, great review!