Semi-realistic portrayal of young addiction, 3.5 stars
In Blake Nelson's RECOVERY ROAD, Maddie finds herself in rehab after one too many drug and alcohol-fueled binges. Even though she feels like a teenage outcast, she befriends Trish, another recovering young addict, and Stewart, a beautiful boy with problems of his own. After her romance with Stewart blossoms, Maddie leaves rehab and returns to her old life, her old school, and old temptations. Maddie and Stewart must learn to navigate their relationship in the real world and see how smooth or rocky the road to true recovery will be for them as a couple and as individuals.
RECOVERY ROAD excelled in its quick and easily readable style that pulled me into the story more than I expected. Readers will be able to sympathize with the characters' struggles to reinvent themselves, to define their relationships, and to deal with popularity and peer pressure. The relationships between Maddie and Trish and Maddie and Stewart were also sometimes touching and poignant. The story was realistic in its depiction of the potential dangers of alcohol and drugs, and it didn't sugarcoat addiction or how people act when high or drunk. Though the ending was bittersweet, it finished on a note of hope about how some people can change for the better and be helped by others.
Even with these strengths, the novel didn't succeed on all counts. The too-easy recovery of one of the characters and his/her singular lapse didn't seem representative of the struggles addicts face, and I was left unsure of why things worked out so well for this person. Character development was also limited enough that I never understood why Maddie got so heavily involved in drugs, alcohol, and fighting in the first place. While the first part of the book was engaging and consistently paced, later sections made quick jumps in time that may throw off some readers. Some events and their plausibility to all happen in one character's life also felt like heavy-handed attempts to illustrate how dangerous drug and alcohol abuse can be.
Despite these bumps in plausibility and character development, I enjoyed this book and appreciated how it ended with its message about growth and the impact that people and events can have on our lives. For those looking for a semi-realistic portrayal of the difficulties of young addiction, Nelson's RECOVERY ROAD may be a good bet.
Note: This review refers to an advance reader's copy.