Book Rating: ★★★★☆ (4 / 5 stars)
Alana has a demon living inside her that she calls Sunshine. This is demon is dark, constantly throwing her between mania and depression, and the only way that Alana can silence Sunshine is through her addiction to toxic substances. Time is a mere figment. Her relationships are falling apart. And everything is spinning out of control.
In a harrowing, passionately written story, Nikki Haase takes us deep into the psyche of what addiction does to people. It’s unique to find a story specifically about a female addict as well, since most ride off the wave of Breaking Bad, focusing on the lives of male addicts instead. The story, told from Alana’s point-of-view, has the jittery focus of a drug addict. When she is high or stoned, her speech pattern reflected it, and while sober, she is more observant of her friends and her surroundings. Time moves weird in the book; sometimes days go by, or months, and like with any one struggling from addiction and mental illness, it doesn’t always make sense. This was brilliantly done.
Yet, while time becomes meaningless in Alana’s life, it does negatively impact the pacing. The first half of the book is a little slow, while second half moves a little too fast. I would have liked to spend more time with Alana after her life takes a turn for the worst. Possibly we don’t see it because Alana is living in a haze of addiction. She is inwardly focused, and when she’s on her high, she doesn’t feel anything.
Because of her inward focus, a lot of her friends are seen through a selfish lens. She sees them as “I don’t know why she loves me,” “I don’t understand why he cares,” etc. This doesn’t always work in a narrative, but I think it works well with Alana’s story…since it is very much about her. Granted it does take away from an emotional event that occurs, leaving two of her friends empty, as well as how her parents feel about her addiction. She’s a teenager, after all, and teenager are selfish.
Despite the book’s flaws, I really enjoyed it. It gave a sort of perspective that isn’t always addressed, and it also creates a sympathy for people who get stuck in a cycle of addiction. The book is also an examination of failed mental health systems, which ultimately led to Alana self medicating. Friends, even if they shouldn’t forgive someone, often are the changing forces in someone’s life. Even if I think some characters should have walked away from her, I understand why they didn’t. In real life, you don’t always give up on someone despite their battles. You might walk away for a bit, but it’s very realistic that you would come back.
I do recommend this book but with a caveat. It is dark. It’s about addiction and the horrors that face it. If this makes you uneasy, then this book is for you. But, if you want to explore the depth of someone’s psyche as they struggle through these horrors, I do recommend you check out Broken Melody.
I think it will be on my mind for awhile.
Note: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
What’s it about?
I think a demon lives in me. Her name is Sunshine and she wants the numbing chemicals of cocaine. She craves the sweet, disgusting taste of heroin and the sharp flavors of crystal meth. We’re often told that drug addicts are lowly humans that drop out of school, can’t hold down a job, and they always come from a life of abuse and pain. I have friends who love me, parents who care about me, and a beautiful girlfriend who I adore. I was a straight-A student in high school. I was at the top of my class. I’ve been getting high since I was a kid to self-medicate mood swings that feel like whiplash on a good day. And I’ve messed up. Big time. Now, I owe the biggest dealer in town thousands of dollars! If he finds me, I’m dead. I can’t get the money and I can only hide out for so long. I have to get sober so I can get my head straight and figure this out. All I need is one more hit.