Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Book Review: Beneath a Meth Moon by Jacqueline Woodson

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Author: Jacqueline Woodson
Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books
Hardcover: 182 pages
Summary: (taken from Goodreads)
Laurel Daneau has moved on to a new life, in a new town, but inside she’s still reeling from the loss of her beloved mother and grandmother after Hurricane Katrina washed away their home. Laurel’s new life is going well, with a new best friend, a place on the cheerleading squad and T-Boom, co-captain of the basketball team, for a boyfriend. Yet Laurel is haunted by voices and memories from her past.
When T-Boom introduces Laurel to meth, she immediately falls under its spell, loving the way it erases, even if only briefly, her past. But as she becomes alienated from her friends and family, she becomes a shell of her former self, and longs to be whole again. With help from an artist named Moses and her friend Kaylee, she’s able to begin to rewrite her story and start to move on from her addiction.

Overall Rating: 3/5

I liked this book. It was a quick read, and I loved how the writing style reflects Laurel's state of mind. Laurel's story is told in brief, halting flashes, jumping from past to present. I really felt like it was written in moments between her highs -- small moments of lucidity when she wasn't feeling the effects of meth. And then, there was a dreamy, almost ethereal quality to the language, which made the narrative seem like Laurel was in-between states. Not quite high, not quite grounded in reality. I thought it was perfect for a journal of a girl who is trying to break her addiction and start a new life.

The story Laurel tells is heart-breaking, and I love how Woodson is able to bring together recent events to tell a story that some teenagers can really relate to. Beneath a Meth Moon tackles the after-effects of Hurricane Katrina and paints a small picture of the suffering and devastation that followed the event. It also goes into the widespread use of meth among teenagers, and how their lives are ruined by their addiction. And despite these horrific and depressing events, she turns it into a hopeful message. Life goes on. We are able to go on with it by just putting one foot in front of the other and getting through bad times step by step.

However, while I appreciated the link between the style and Laurel's frame of mind, I would have liked there to have been more development. In the flashes we get of Laurel's life in a new town, I don't feel as if she has moved on. I don't feel like she has a best friend, or even get the sense of a boyfriend from T-Boom. The way she started meth confused me. T-Boom held out a meth-covered finger to her and told her to sniff. Why did she? Why didn't she just leave the guy? What was going on in her mind while she did this? We don't know. Laurel never tells us. And while theorizing would make for good discussion in a book club or classroom, I would have liked a little more in terms of why and how, besides the fact that she is depressed about the deaths of her mother and grandmother. I didn't need a lot, but something that hints as to why she felt compelled to start meth in the first place.

Still, I do think this book has a lot going for it. It's a quick read and can be used in a classroom as a perfect source of metaphor, symbolism, and style. But maybe supplement it with a lesson on the dangers and effects of meth, because while Laurel's life does fall apart, the health consequences are briefly mentioned. And with the dreamy quality of the narrative, I'm not sure the second-hand stories of death have enough of an impact.

*I received this book from LibraryThing as part of the Early Reviewers Group in exchange for my honest review.*

Other Reviews:
The Elliott Review
My Head is Full of Books
YA Bliss
Turning the Pages