Exploring Addiction and Recovery in Teen Fiction

There are many books, both fiction and nonfiction, about the dangers of drug abuse for teens, but there are decidedly fewer about quitting drugs.  Since September, National Recovery Month, is just around the corner, it seems like a good time to highlight a few recent teen novels that let teens glimpse what it is like to try to get and stay clean.

Recovery Road by Blake Nelson was the book that inspired this post. It was as I read this book that I realized how few teen books took the reader beyond the moment when the user decides to get help.  That’s where this one begins. Maddie was a party girl.  Her friends called her Mad Dog Maddie because of the things she would do when she was drunk or on something.  Now she’s in treatment, and she’s not sure who she is anymore.  This book is an honest look at recovery, relapse, and resolve, which I think is an important addition to teen lit.

Do you remember Colleen from Stoner & Spaz?  Her story isn’t over.  Published nine years after the earlier book, Now Playing picks up right where Stoner & Spaz left off.  Seen through the eyes of Ben, who struggles with Colleen’s relapses, the story follows Colleen’s ups and downs as she tries to stay sober.  To Ben, a sheltered teen with cerebral palsy, Colleen is magnetic, but she is also a mystery.  He doesn’t know if they are friends or more-than-friends.  He never knows what she’s going to do next, but he does know that she gets him more than anyone else.  And he needs that as he tracks down his long-lost mom, much to the dismay of the grandmother who raised him. This is a strong follow-up to a novel that has become a classic of teen literature. (As a side note for libraries who need to replace their copy of Stoner & Spaz, there is a new paperback/Mackin-bound edition in print as of August 2011.)

Amy Reed takes us into a rehab facility in Clean.  It alternates perspectives between five different teens who have all turned to drugs or alcohol for different reasons.  Each of them are forced to evaluate themselves in therapy as part of their recovery, which makes for some heart-wrenching scenes.  This is a fast read with appeal to fans of Ellen Hopkins or other issue books.


Clean by Amy Reed. 2011.
Now Playing : Stoner & Spaz II by Ron Koertge. 2011.
Recovery Road by Blake Nelson. 2011.
Stoner & Spaz by Ron Koertge. 2002.

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