Monday, December 30, 2013

Review: Beneath a Meth Moon

Beneath a Meth Moon
By Jacqueline Woodson
Published 2012 by Nancy Paulsen Books

From the outside, it looks like Laurel has moved on. She's living in a new town, going to a new school, cheerleading, and she even has a new boyfriend. But inside, Laurel is still a mess. She is still grieving the loss of her life before - before Hurrican Katrina, before her mother and grandmother died. So, when Laurel's new boyfriend introduces her to meth - what Laurel calls "moon" - she easily falls under its spell.

I think one of my goals for next year is to keep up with reviewing - this is a book I read for the Hub Reading Challenge back in June and am just now reviewing. Obviously, I read faster than I review, but I need to get in the practice of writing my reviews soon after I finish reading the books. I sometimes struggle remembering details about books because I've waited too long after completing them to review. In any case, this is a book that I might not have read if not for the Reading Challenge - I don't read a lot of "problem" novels or books that deal with drugs and substance abuse. Maybe it's because that stuff hits a little too close to home for me (family history), but for whatever reason, I just don't gravitate toward these kinds of stories. I read this one for the challenge because it was readily available from my library and because it had gotten a lot of praise. I'm glad I chose this one.

This may be the first Jacqueline Woodson novel I've read and I can see I've been missing out - she is a gifted writer. This book is gritty and gut-wrenching, difficult and uplifting. I loved the way Woodson told the story - short chapters, which seem to mirror the frenetic and jumpy way an addict's mind works. The novel also moves around in time - Laurel's story is not told in a linear fashion, instead jumping from her life after Katrina to before and to during. This also struck me as mirroring the mind of an addict and I think makes the story feel more authentic.

I though Laurel's voice was really well-done; though I've never used drugs, I've seen how they've affected loved ones and I felt Laurel's actions and choices were dead-on. I also felt that the voice of Laurel's grief was realistic; having lost a member of my immediate family, I can understand her struggle to move forward with her life. Sometimes I still feel that struggle, and it's been more than five years since my loss. I can completely understand Laurel's seduction by meth - it's a bleakly realistic story that I think we've all heard many times.

Though this is a dark novel, it ends on an uplifting note. I'd say this is fairly typical for a YA novel dealing with substance abuse, but Woodson seems to imply that Laurel will continue to struggle for years and years to come - without that struggle seeming hopeless. This is truly a great read, recommended for all fans of contemporary realistic fiction.

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