Friday, October 31, 2014

Review: Clean by Amy Reed

Title: Clean
Author: Amy Reed
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Release date: May 8th 2012
Pages: 304
Genre: Young Adult contemporary
Source: Traded the BEA Blogger Picnic - thank you to whoever brought this!
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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.
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

I went into this one with low expectations because I didn't think a rehab story could work if it's written from five different POVs. This kind of story only works if you can really get to know a character and their motivations and really understand the process they go through during recovery, and I didn't think it would be possible to get to know five characters that well in 300 pages. But Amy Reed proved me wrong - I have no idea how, but Clean totally works!

All five of these narrators are amazing characters. I don't know how Amy Reed did it, but I totally felt like I knew and understood each one of them. With multiple narrators, it is easy to let them turn into stereotypes or cliches, but that is most definitely not the case in Clean. Kelly, Christopher, Olivia, Jason, and Eva are individuals and they each have a unique and intriguing story to tell,and they've all been through some pretty bad stuff. I can't even pick a favorite character because I felt for and connected with each one in a different way. Their issues are so real, but so is their recovery: the transformation these characters undergo over the course of this short novel is incredible, but in a very realistic way.

The focus is most definitely on these five characters, but the secondary characters are complex and interesting as well. I loved the little glimpses we got into the lives of the other patients, as well as the family members of the main characters - I despised some and felt for others, but they're all well-written characters. I also loved Shirley,the teen's counselor - I don't know how realistic she is as a counselor, but I loved the way she talked to the teens and called them out on their privilege and bs.

It took me a while to get used to the format, but once I got into it, I really loved it. Parts of this novel is written in regular narrative from the POVs of the five MCs, but in between we have the scripts of their group therapy sessions and we have the character's answers to questionnaires and their personal essays. All of these methods were interesting ways to get to know the characters; they cut out any unnecessary commentary and made me feel like I was right inside the characters' heads.

Really, I loved everything about Clean. No, you don't get quite as much of the emotional journey you would get following just one character, but that's fine, because that's not what Clean is supposed to be. Clean tells the story of five very different but similarly troubled teens, and it's a fascinating reading experience. With incredible, honest writing and complex, realistic characters, Clean is an important and powerful story that I definitely recommend.


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