The Art of Losing

img_20190322_143935img_20190322_144135Freshman year for Harley Langston changes dramatically when Mike Baker, newly-transferred lacrosse and basketball star, sits down at her cafeteria table and starts up an intense conversation when he sees her reading Gail Simone’s BIRDS OF PREY. As they find themselves together in other classes, they strike up a friendship which quickly turns into a steady romantic/sexual relationship that lasts some two-and-a-half years until Mike’s out-of-control drinking leads to a catastrophic automobile accident that puts Harley’s sister Audrey into a coma and then a lengthy rehabilitative process.

Furious over the situation leading up to the crash, Harley struggles with feelings of guilt, betrayal, and a need to punish those she sees as responsible for the mess her sister is in. Forgiveness of Mike (and herself) seems wildly impossible until she rekindles an old friendship with her neighbor Raf, a recovering drug and alcohol addict, who introduces her to the AA Twelve-Step Addiction Recovery Program in which he has been participating. Through her conversations with Raf as well as attendance at a couple of addiction recovery meetings, Harley starts to think about her own maladaptive approaches to problems and begins trying to change herself. As she does so, she revises her preconceptions and judgments about Mike, herself, and others. (This all happens as chapters jump back and forth through different time periods.)

This interesting book provides the YA reader with a different slant on teenage drinking–which, as we all know, is a predominant activity in most YA novels–by pointing out the variety of motivating factors, the bleak despair of an addict’s life, and the long, hard slog back to sobriety. Author Lizzy Mason hits on alcoholism, drugs and–to a lesser degree–cigarettes to hammer home the extent of the problem among teenagers. Sometimes she hammers a little too hard and the writing is too textbook-like and preachy, but the general narrative will probably keep most readers engaged.

Sex happens as a matter of course among the main characters with no particular moral decision-making required. Language in the book includes the ever-present asshole, bullshit, hell, damn, douchebag and such (but, surprisingly, no f***) and some religious profanity.  Threatened violence due to excessive drinking occurs between some characters.  This book would be a useful tool to introduce the Twelve-Step program to young adults unfamiliar with it.

Categories: Addiction, Art, Body Acceptance, Controversial YA Topics, Death and Grieving, Depression, Differently Abled, Diversity, Dysfunctional Relationships, Grief, LGBTQIA, Mental Health, Navigating through High School, Offensive Language in YA Literature, Parent Conflict, Peer Relationships, Sports Teams

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