Tag Archives: addiction

Don’t You Dare Read This, Mrs. Dunphrey by Margaret Peterson Haddix

Margaret-Peterson-Haddix-image-margaret-peterson-haddix-36328311-284-475

“She told me once that her failing was pride. I didn’t know what she meant then, but maybe that’s what she was talking about.”
-Tish

Told using journal entries for an English class, Don’t You Dare Read This, Mrs. Dunphrey is the heartbreaking story of sophomore Tish Bonner. Since Mrs. Dunphrey promised not to read any entries marked “don’t read this,” Tish uses this project to confess her deepest secrets about her father’s abusive behavior, mother’s neglect, and struggle to take care of her eight-year-old brother on her own.

I don’t know how to describe this book without using the word “depressing.” Honestly, this book was one of the saddest books I’ve ever read. It starts off a bit slow, but the descriptions of neglect and abandonment that Tish and her little brother go through is sometimes hard to read and constantly threatening to make you cry with the turn of each page. It also makes you really think, what if that had been me?

I know this is a very short review, but this book was a short read and there isn’t much else to say. Just try to avoid it if you’re overly sensitive, because it’ll definitely stick in your head for much longer than you think.

-J

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It’s Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini

It's Kind of a Funny Story

“It’s so hard to talk when you want to kill yourself. That’s above and beyond everything else, and it’s not a mental complaint– it’s a physical thing, like it’s physically hard to open your mouth and make the words come out. They don’t come out smooth and in conjunction with your brain the way normal people’s words do; they come out in chunks as if from a crushed-ice dispenser; you stumble on them as they gather behind your lower lip. So you just keep quiet.”
-Craig

After nearly committing suicide one night, depressed teenager Craig Gilner decides to check himself into the hospital. He is given a few days to stay in the adult psychiatric ward, where he meets a schizophrenic, some drug addicts, and a girl who scarred her face with scissors. (I don’t want to say too much else for fear of spoiling anything, so I’ll just awkwardly stop this summary here.)

Once again, I’ve forgotten to write a review. It’s been a few days since I’ve finished this incredible book, but I can still recall it rather well. No matter how messed up he is, Craig is relatable to everyone in some way. His thoughts and opinions generally make sense, even if they’re a little far-fetched. He’s a really good guy, despite the bad decisions he may make, and I think we can all relate to that somehow.

It’s rare that I truly find a book funny. Sure, I have a sense of humor, but finding an actual laugh-out-loud-funny is an unusual thing for me. This book was one of the few exceptions so far. Similar to One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, It’s Kind of a Funny Story pokes fun at the mentality of the people in the ward without being offensive or rude, and I admire Ned Vizzini and Ken Kesey for being able to do that.

Now, just today I found out that this book has a film adaption. How I didn’t know beats me, especially because the cast includes people like Zach Galifinakis, Jim Gaffigan, and Emma Roberts. As of now, all I know is I need to see this movie.

And since I took so long for this review, the next review will most likely be up tomorrow. One more book to go and I’ll be book-hunting again, so please leave me some recommendations! 🙂

-J

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Go Ask Alice by Beatrice Sparks

Go Ask Alice

“I guess I’ll never measure up to anyone’s expectations. I surely don’t measure up to what I’d like to be.”
-Unknown

First, I’d like to apologize for taking so long on this– I’d completely forgotten to write a review once I’d finished the book, and just now remembered it hadn’t been posted.

About five months ago, I posted a review of Jay’s Journal, which was mainly written by the same author as Go Ask Alice, although both have the author’s name listed as “Anonymous” on the front covers. And the explanation for that is simple: there’s a lot of controversy over whether these diaries are real or just made up by Beatrice Sparks, who is listed as the “editor”, or a little of both. And although I don’t want to make this a rant post, that’s probably what’s going to happen. So if that’s not what you came here for, leave now or face extreme disappointment.

Alright, so. Go Ask Alice is about a fifteen-year old girl in the 70s who writes in her diary about normal teenage problems, but eventually becomes involved with drugs. (When I say drugs, I mean LSD, although there are a few mentions of other drugs.) Pretty simple, pretty straightforward, deals with a lot of common young adult novel topics.

Now I’m going to do some comparisons between this book and Jay’s Journal, which I’ll link the review to here in case you’re interested. There are a few things they have in common that emphasize the fact that they’re not true, if even a little: tripe repetition of words or phrases (“I do! I do! I do!”), vocabulary that no normal teen uses, and nearly identical writing style. Other than the subject matter and the character of Jay’s use of poems in his entries, they could easily have been narrated by the same character. In my opinion, Go Ask Alice is wholly fiction, and Jay’s Journal is mostly fiction. I’d like to include a few passages from the books’ Wikipedia articles to show you:

From the Jay’s Journal article:

Jay’s Journal is a book presented as an autobiographical account of a depressed teenage boy who becomes involved with a Satanic group. After participating in several occult rituals, “Jay” believes he is being haunted by a demon named Raul. The book is based on “true” events of 16-year-old Alden Barrett from Pleasant Grove, Utah, who committed suicide in 1971.

Some critics have challenged the authenticity of the story, noting that the editor of this book, Beatrice Sparks, has filled the same role on many other “actual, anonymous diaries of teenagers” that explore such sensational themes as drug addiction, teenage pregnancy, and prostitution. These books, the most well-known of which is Go Ask Alice, serve as cautionary tales.

According to a book written by Barrett’s brother Scott (A Place in the Sun: The Truth Behind Jay’s Journal), and interviews with the family, Sparks used roughly 25 entries of 212 total from Barrett’s actual journal. The other entries were fictional, based on case histories from other teenagers Sparks worked with, and interviews of friends and acquaintances of Barrett.

A rock opera titled A Place in the Sun was created and performed by Utah country band Grain in 1997. According to some family members, it was a more accurate portrayal and showed Sparks’ alleged exploitation of the story.

And, from the Go Ask Alice article’s Authorship section:

Go Ask Alice was originally promoted as nonfiction and was published under the byline “Anonymous.” However, not long after its publication, Beatrice Sparks, a psychologist, began making media appearances presenting herself as the book’s editor.

Searches at the U.S. Copyright Office show that Sparks is the sole copyright holder for Go Ask Alice. Furthermore, she is listed on the copyright record as the book’s author — not as the editor, compiler, or executor, which would be more usual for someone publishing the diary of a deceased person. (According to the book itself, the sole copyright is owned by Prentice-Hall.)

In an October 1979, essay by Alleen Pace Nilsen for School Library Journal, Nilsen surmised that Sparks partially based Go Ask Alice on the diary of one of her patients, but that she had added various fictional incidents. Sparks told Nilson that she could not produce the original diary, because she had destroyed part of it after transcribing it and the rest was locked away in the publisher’s vault. Nilsen wrote, “The question of how much of Go Ask Alice was written by the real Alice and how much by Beatrice Sparks can only be conjectured.”

Sparks’ second “diary” project, Jay’s Journal, gave rise to a controversy that cast further doubt on Go Ask Alice’s veracity. Jay’s Journal was allegedly the diary of a boy who committed suicide after becoming involved with the occult. Again, Sparks claimed to have based it on the diary of a patient. However, the family of the boy in question, Alden Barrett, disowned the book. They claimed that Sparks had used only a handful of the actual diary entries, and had invented the great majority of the book, including the entire occult angle. This led many to speculate that “Alice’s” diary—if indeed it existed—had received similar treatment. No one claiming to have known the real “Alice” has ever come forward.

And a final section I’d like to share:

In an article on the Urban Legends Reference Pages (snopes.com), urban folklore expert Barbara Mikkelson points out that even before the revelations about Go Ask Alice‘s authorship, there was ample internal evidence that the book was not an actual diary. The lengthy, detailed passages about the harmful effects of illicit drugs and the relatively small amount of space dedicated to relationships and social gossip seem uncharacteristic of a teenaged girl’s diary. In addition, the article mentions the disclaimer in the book’s copyright notice page, which states: “This book is a work of fiction. Any references to historical events, real people, or real locales are used fictitiously. Other names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination, and any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.”

There are some errors of consistency. On page 16, the author has not “had time to write for two days”. In the same paragraph she refers to the last entry as “yesterday” when she says, “I’ve apologized to every room about the way I felt last night” even though according to her first sentence she would have felt that way two nights ago, not “last night”. On pages 79–80, the text describes the girl living with a friend in Coos Bay, Oregon, where she enthuses over the Diggers’ Free Store and the Psychedelic Shop – both establishments were actually in San Francisco. Another error is on page 2 where the author writes “It’s my birthday. I’m 15.” Later in the book on page 46 in August the author writes “After all I’ve just turned 15 and I can’t stop life and get off” meaning she did not turn 15 eleven months ago.

Well, that’s mostly all I have to say about that. I don’t think I would’ve complained so much about the validity of the book if it weren’t for my hatred of it– I found it an extremely boring, hit-and-miss novel, but the hits were so few they were nearly nonexistent. It’s a really popular book, however, so you may like it– who knows. Maybe I’m just one of those people who despises a bestseller. But, if you do decide to read it and completely agree with me, don’t say I didn’t warn you! 😉

-J

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Identical by Ellen Hopkins

Identical

“I will probably die before he does. Dying, for Daddy, would be the ultimate defeat. But death doesn’t scare me. To know exactly when I might expect it, up close and in my face, would actually be a comfort. Because to tell the truth, most of the time dying seems pretty much like my only means of escape.”
-Kaeleigh

Identical twins Kaeleigh and Raeanne may seem the same on the outside, but they lead completely different lives. Raeanne uses drugs, sex, and purging to settle her inner demons, while Kaeleigh turns to bingeing, drinking, and self-harm. Raeanne has relationships with numerous guys, while Kaeleigh struggles to keep one. Despite their differences, their explanations are the same: their father sexually abuses Kaeleigh consistently, while Raeanne is forced to keep quiet and stay away. But after years of enduring this torture, it comes to be too much for either twin to handle alone– but who will step up and release the other?

One word can easily describe this entire 560+ page book: powerful. It’s not for the faint of heart, and definitely don’t read it if you don’t expect to cry in the near future. And I’m not just referring to the twins’ lives– even some of the minor characters’ backstories are tear-inducing. There isn’t much else to say; Identical is one of those beautiful-in-a-sick-way novels that really makes you appreciate everything you take for granted.

Without revealing any spoilers (which is the absolute last thing I want to do, considering the huge one in this book), I think the ending of the novel is definitely a topic of discussion. It packs a punch, no doubt about that, and may even require a second read-through for you to fully get your head around. Once again, no spoilers, but I have to compare it to The Prestige. It was the first psychological thriller/twist-ending movie I’d seen since I watched The Sixth Sense at a young age, and to this day it has stuck with me and has become one of my all-time favorite movies. That’s exactly how Identical was for me: I think it’s safe to say the ending of this book was unlike any other I’ve read, and I need to find more like it.

Okay, I think that’s enough gushing in one day. I’ll have another review for you guys in a few days, and most likely it’ll be a big change from the reviews I’ve recently posted. This is a big year for books for me, and I hope you’re all as excited as I am. Have a great Labor Day weekend, and I’ll see you soon!

-J

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Fall to Pieces by Mary Forsberg Weiland

Fall to Pieces

“I hate to say this, but, God– what have you sent me to love?”
-Mary Forsberg Weiland

Mary Forsberg Weiland, famous 90s model and ex-wife of Stone Temple Pilots/Velvet Revolver frontman Scott Weiland, has been to hell and back. She’s had her fair share of the tabloids’ distorted versions of the truth, and in her autobiography, she sets the record straight. Fall to Pieces is a walk through her modeling career, relationships, addiction, recovery, relapse, mental illness, and everything in between.

I absolutely adore this book, and I’ll tell you why. I first read it last year, when I needed a nonfiction book for a report for my freshman English class. I really wanted to read Girl, Interrupted, but since my parents had already bought me that book for Christmas and it was currently November, they brought Fall to Pieces home one day after shopping. I wasn’t a huge fan of Stone Temple Pilots or Velvet Revolver– I didn’t know many songs other than the big hits, like “Vasoline,” “Plush,” and “Fall to Pieces”– but I decided to give it a try anyway, considering the caption on the front of the book said it involved three of my favorite subjects to read about.

The book starts off with a memory of Mary’s first try at heroin, which automatically reeled me in. Unfortunately, it was just an attention-catching prologue, and I had to wait for page 72 before she even met Scott. Their relationship is heartbreaking, and although I really disliked Scott for the games he’d play with Mary, he eventually grew on me and came to be known as a really nice guy. Even while using heroin, he tried to protect Mary– when she first tried it at the very beginning of the book, he tried to stop her because he didn’t want her going down the same, dark path.

You may have heard the story, but you haven’t heard it like this: the truth, not over-exaggerated or glamorized. It’s not only great for fans of Scott Weiland’s bands or those who like it for its subject matter, though. It mentions encounters with various other celebrities as well: musicians like Anthony Kiedis of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Dave Navarro of Jane’s Addiction, and Steve Jones of the Sex Pistols; actors and actresses like Robert Downey Jr. and Charlize Theron; and countless others. Fall to Pieces is dark and twisted, yet inspirational and beautiful in the aspect of recovery and always seeing the good in things, even when they don’t turn out the way you planned. Please, go out and buy this book– it won’t let you down.

-J

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The Crank Series by Ellen Hopkins (Crank, Glass, Fallout)

CrankGlassFallout

“Crank is more than a drug. It’s a way of life. You can turn your back. But you can never really walk away.”
-Kristina/Bree, Crank

So I’ve done it. After thinking about it for 50+ reviews,  I’ve finally made a full series post. Now this is as weird for you as it is for me, so please bear with me as I try this out.

The first book in the series, Crank, tells the story of Kristina, described as “gifted high school junior, quiet, never any trouble.” One day, when she decides to visit the father who has been missing all of her life, she discovers a powerful drug: crystal meth. Soon Kristina’s life is changed forever as she falls deeper into lies, trouble, and addiction.

In Glass, Kristina continues to struggle with her addiction, but with all new problems. As everything around her falls apart, she’ll have to find new ways to get with the monster, and they won’t be pretty.

Fallout takes place nineteen years after the events in Crank, and is told by Kristina’s teenage children, Hunter, Autumn, and Summer. Although their lives are completely different, they have one thing in common: their mother has torn their families apart, forcing them to live separately (and in some cases, without knowledge of each other). But when their paths intersect, their individual lives will be changed forever.

These books are impossible to put down. I know I would’ve had them all read within a few days if it weren’t for my final exams this week. The series is, like Ellen Hopkins’s other novels, not for the faint-hearted, and as real as it gets. Also, I commend the author for her incredible talent of being able to write a teenager’s point of view flawlessly, no matter the subject matter or age range.

The character of Kristina in the first book, Crank, was especially relatable to me due to the description of her personality (quoted above), and I think that made me like the first book a lot more. It is really interesting to see how someone like Kristina could turn down the dark road of crystal meth so easily, and how it affects everyone around her. By Glass, though, the story starts to drag on a little. It feels like most of it is being repeated, or that the words don’t matter and are only there to take up space. I became bored with this book very quickly, and feared that the final book of the series would be even worse. But, I can gratefully tell you, Fallout was my favorite of the three.

The narrator change is what made Fallout interesting to me right from the start. Books are always more exciting with separate narrators, considering you have three different voices, three different points of view, three different lives instead of one throughout the whole 500+ page novel. But the change in narrator wasn’t the only thing that made this addition the best.

Although it makes me upset to finish a series, the final book is usually my favorite. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows of the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling, Everlasting of the Immortals series by Alyson Noel, and Fallout of the Crank series by Ellen Hopkins all have that in common, for two main reasons: one, the climax is biggest and best thing the author can possibly think of; and two, the author always finds a way to tie all of the previous events together perfectly. This denouement, as my English teacher says, is so exciting to me. And the final book in the Crank series fits this description well.

I hope this extra-long series review was worth the thirteen-day wait for me to post again. This review was exhausting, so I think I’m going to stick with some single books for a while until I’m ready for another hour-long reviewing session. Please let me know what you think of the series review style and whether you think I should do this for every series I review. Thank you so much for reading, and have a great summer!

-J

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Jumping Off Swings by Jo Knowles

Jumping Off Swings

“I stretch my fingers across my belly and glide my hand back and forth, waving softly.  Sometimes I think I feel a hand reaching out for mine.  Or it could be a foot, kicking my hand away.  I wish I could tell the difference.”
-Ellie

Ellie has always used sex to gain confidence. She wants someone to care about her, and sex makes her feel like someone wants her. So when she and Josh mess around at a party one night, she thinks it’ll be like any other time. The last thing she expected was to get pregnant– but she did. Jumping Off Swings is told from the point of view of four different teenagers who are all affected by Ellie’s pregnancy and everything afterward. But whatever choice she makes will affect each of their lives in some way, and there’s no way to change it now.

This is one of those books that I enjoy reading, but wouldn’t recommend it to anyone else. Pregnancy is the main conflict in the story, and if that’s what you’re looking for, then by all means read this book. But if you’re expecting anything more, don’t bother. Don’t get me wrong, Jo Knowles does a great job of writing this book, but I can’t help but feel it’s missing something. Really, I don’t know what it is, but the book just seems a little empty.

Otherwise, it’s a great book. I applaud Jo Knowles for being able to tell the story in different points of view without making all of the characters sound the same. I noticed that’s something most authors seem to struggle with, but Jo Knowles makes it look easy.

Short review, yes, but it’s a short book. Like I said earlier, I wouldn’t exactly recommend it unless this is exactly the type of book you’re looking for. If it’s not, you’ll probably be disappointed by it.

-J

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Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson

Wintergirls

“I could say I’m excited, but that would be a lie. The number doesn’t matter. If I got down to 070.00, I’d want to be 065.00. If I weighed 010.00, I wouldn’t be happy until I got down to 005.00. The only number that would ever be enough is 0.”
-Lia

When best friends Lia and Cassie begin a contest to see who can be the skinniest, everything goes downhill. After not speaking to each other for months, Lia discovers that her best friend has died. Now alone, Lia struggles to recovver from Cassie’s death and her ongoing anorexia before she disappears.

Although I really dislike the title, Wintergirls is one of those incredible heartbreaking books that you can’t help but read more than once. The story is extremely depressing, as is Lia’s eating disorder and self-harm, but in a way it’s also sort of inspiring.

I know this is a very, very short review, but there isn’t a whole lot to say. This is the most accurate portrayal of an eating disorder that I’ve found so far, along with numerous other struggles, so this should be your number one choice if you’re looking for a story about dealing with an eating disorder. Other than that, this is just an all-around good book and I believe it should be read by absolutely everyone. People need to understand the difficulties that others go through, and this would definitely show them.

-J

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Burned by Ellen Hopkins

Burned

“Real love finds you once, if you’re lucky.”
-Aunt J

Pattyn Von Stratten is the oldest of her family’s seven daughters, living in a gilded Mormon home. Her father a raging and abusive alcoholic, her mother succumbing to his every command, it is up to Pattyn and her oldest sister, Jackie, to care for the rest of the family. Pattyn, questioning numerous beliefs by her religion and her family, experiments by dating a boy behind her father’s back– only to get caught and sent to rural Nevada to live with her aunt for the summer. While there, she discovers the truth about her life and beliefs and sets out to become a new Pattyn.

This is and forever will be one of my favorite books, written by one of my all-time favorite authors. Ellen Hopkins is known for writing her novels using the unusual style of free-verse poetry. Basically, it’s just like a regular novel, but there are probably a maximum of fifty words per page, and the words are broken into stanzas, like any other form of poetry. When I read the first of her books I hated it, but I’ve come to thoroughly enjoy and admire her style. Especially with the poems that are set up in a read-between-the-lines sort of way– one or two words from each stanza are set apart from the rest of the text, so that you can interpret the story on that page in two different ways.

But the plot of the book itself is just as fantastic. There are so many conflicts and issues at hand that there is never a boring moment. But if you’re expecting a happy ending, do not read this book. Seriously, this book is majorly realistic and depressing. It may seem like everything will turn out okay in the end, but the ending will hit you like a ton of bricks. The first time I read this book, I definitely didn’t see it coming.

And if you like this one, you should really check out some other books by this incredibly talented author. So far, I only own four of her numerous published works, but I’ve heard the others are amazing and will definitely be checking into them soon. Also, the long-awaited sequel to Burned comes out in September; many more of Ellen Hopkins’s hugely anticipated books are to follow, so keep a look out for her upcoming releases!

-J

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Deadline by Chris Crutcher (with bonus list)

Deadline

“Love, in the universal sense, is unconditional acceptance. In the individual sense, the one-on-one sense, try this: we can say we love each other if my life is better because you’re in it and your life is better because I’m in it. The intensity of the love is weighed by how much better.”
-Hey-Soos

When Ben Wolf discovers he has a terminal disease and has only a year left to live, he decides to make his last year worth it. He decides against telling anyone, even his family, and against getting treatment, so he won’t have to spend his last year weak and bed-ridden. He also decides to spend this last year doing anything and everything he’s always wanted to do (or anything he can do within his small town).

I don’t think I could’ve saved a better book for last. It was unbelievably difficult to even find a quote for this post– there were way too many. Not only from the spiritual Hey-Soos (and no, I did not spell that wrong), but from countless others as well. You could literally flip to any page in this book and find a great quote.

There were so many things going on in this book, I don’t know where to begin. The last sentence of the description on the back cover says, “But living with a secret isn’t easy… What will Ben do when he realizes he’s isn’t the only person who’s keeping one?” And that sentence alone pretty much sums up the entire book. Almost every character Ben comes into contact with has a huge secret, or at least a big problem. And it is fascinating.

Now I’m rambling, and I don’t want to keep going in fear of giving anything else away, so I’ll end it on this note: Deadline is easily one of the greatest books I’ve ever read.

And, finally, since I promised you a bonus list in the title of this post, and since I’ve finished all of my Christmas books, here’s

J’s List of Top 12 Best Books Reviewed So Far
*No particular order*

  • The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne — read it in a day, bawled, then watched the movie, bawled
  • The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky — I want to be friends with Patrick. Badly.
  • Saving June by Hannah Harrington — just all-around awesome, and I could only dream of going on a road trip as cool as this.
  • Deadline by Chris Crutcher — see above review 🙂
  • Going Bovine by Libba Bray — very weird, but very cool.
  • The Burn Journals by Brent Runyon — one of my favorite nonfictions.
  • Luna by Julie Anne Peters — a great portrayal of struggling with becoming transgender/dealing with BIID
  • Right Behind You by Gail Giles — Gail Giles is just perfect anyway, but this was my favorite of hers.
  • Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes by Chris Crutcher — after reading only one of his books, he became one of my favorite authors.
  • A Child Called “It” by Dave Pelzer — an incredible story of torture, determination, and survival.
  • Such a Pretty Girl by Laura Wiess — an unpredictable ending that makes the whole book ten times better.
  • One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey — technically a classic, but still amazing. (Also, the movie was nearly just as good.)
I couldn’t bear to leave out two of these marvelous books, so I made it a top 12 instead of the usual top 10. Anyway, it took me quite a while to separate my favorites from the ones I just liked, so hopefully you all enjoy this list. Below is a much smaller list of the books I didn’t like as much. (Let the whining begin.)
J’s List of Top 5 Worst Books Reviewed So Far
*No particular order*
  • The Dream Where the Losers Go by Beth Goobie — stupid, stupid, stupid.
  • Candy by Kevin Brooks — didn’t live up to expectations at all.
  • Parrotfish by Ellen Wittlinger — could have been so much better than it was, plus the Christmas scene was dreadful.
  • Beastly by Alex Flinn — if you really want to know, read my review, but prepare yourself for some serious complaining.
  • The Morgue and Me by John C. Ford — so terrible, I didn’t even finish it. That’s why you didn’t see a review for it on here.

-J

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