The First True Thing

img_20190623_174543img_20190623_175306First of all, let me say the blurbs on these book jackets are nonsense.  This particular book, while worthy of notice and thought, will not leave you “breathless,” nor is it “heartbreaking” or particularly “raw.”  OK, thank you, I feel better.

In this book we meet Marcelle, participant in an outpatient, peer-run addiction program following a really bad bicycle crash after a night of getting blotto. Although Marcelle’s addiction is alcohol, the group she hangs with is more into cocaine and other unsavory activities.  Most of the kids seem to come from lives of at-least-middle-class privilege, with parents who care about them.  (A big question for discussion elsewhere might be, “Why do young adults who have ‘everything’ seek solace in soul- and body-destroying activities?”  But I continue to digress.  Excuse me.)  The kids also seem to be generally successful in their school activities and social lives, with promising futures.

Marcelle’s best friend Hannah gets involved with a drug dealer who offers her cash and free drugs if she participates in a webcam sex site he runs.  She tries to act like it is no big deal, but it wears on her and she tries to get away from the guy.  She sends Marcelle a text asking her to cover for her absence and then is not heard from again.  Marcelle is torn between the honesty required by her rehab efforts and the desire not to throw her friends under the bus by exposing their unsavory behaviors.  The author does a good job of establishing characters and portraying the tension in Marcelle’s situation.  Eventually Marcelle does come clean, the whereabouts of Hannah are revealed in a surprising way, characters are called to account for themselves, and the end of the book—not heartbreaking—is actually rather positive in that by owning up to reality and truth the young people can begin to move forward.

Adults are portrayed as doing their imperfect best to raise their kids and look after their welfare. Plusses of rehab activities are illustrated.  At the same time, an interesting twist is that Marcelle learns that sometimes her voice and opinions are every bit as valid (and maybe better) than the party line she is fed. This is a good thing for young adult readers to encounter: that although outside help is useful and necessary at times, they also have within themselves wisdom that can eclipse what “guardians” are telling them.

The book is an interesting read, with some instances of threatening sexual situations or somewhat explicit sex talk and descriptions.  The real problem with this book, however, is the nonstop use of the F-word in all its many variations.  I’d say 90% of the pages have at least one coarse word and often multiple words on the same page.  For variety we have some religious profanity or other coarse language thrown in. While this book could lead to thoughtful discussion, the overwhelming use of such harsh language certainly prevents it from landing on a public or school library shelf, or of being given as a desirable gift to any young adult.

Categories: Addiction, Controversial YA Topics, Crime, Depression, Dysfunctional Relationships, Mental Health, Navigating through High School, Offensive Language in YA Literature, Parent Conflict, Peer Relationships, Social Media

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