September 19, 2011

Clean: Guest Review

I'm pleased to welcome Small Review to the blog today for a guest review of Clean by Amy Reed!

Clean by Amy Reed 
Release Date: August 9, 2011 
Publisher: Simon Pulse 
Pages: 288 
Received: ARC from publisher  
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars  
Goodreads Page 

From Goodreads: 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. 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.

Do you see any sparkles here??
Nope, not a sparkle in sight and, really, this is so NOT my genre. So why in the world was I reading this book? I really don't know. Nostalgia? Ten years ago I would have loved this book. Maybe the cover? Something about it is eye-catching (though I don't know who that girl is supposed to be). Whatever the reason, I downloaded it and opened it up with the intention of reading a few pages to give it a shot.  

Before I knew it, I had read half the book. And then I read the other half. Clean is compulsively readable. It's broken up into three different types of chapters: larger sections narrated by either Christopher or Kelly (why only these two? I have no idea); small, paragraph-long first-person narratives of each of the characters; and group therapy sessions that read like a transcript for a play. Each type is relatively short and easy to blitz through. 

Still, even though I found Clean to be extremely readable, I didn't exactly like it. Like I said, it's just not my genre anymore. It was depressing (obviously, they're all drug addicts with family sob stories that led to their addictions) and left me feeling absolutely horrible afterwards. I guess that's a sign that Amy Reed did a good job in conveying the feelings of depressed, drug-addicted, family-issued teens, so points for that.  

But, bleh, I feel like I need to go read a book about rainbows and puppy dogs and maybe even Santa Claus just to help turn my frown upside down when I was done. 

Multiple narrators
The multiple narration really helped move the book along by breaking everything up into easy to read sections, but I don't think it was as successful as it could have been. With the exception of Eva, none of the voices were very distinct. Their stories were distinct and so it was easy to tell who was speaking given the subject they were speaking about, but their manner of speech was really very similar. 

I also don't feel like I really got to know any of the characters. Maybe this is the nature of the book, but while I know the intimate details of their histories and their issues now, I don't feel like I know who they are as people, which is sort of funny considering all of the mantras about people being more than just their issues or diagnosis. Not in this book.  

Instead of creating individuals that can really come alive off the page, the characters come across as generic collections of issues and mouthpieces for the associated feelings that typically go along with those issues. Some of the secondary characters were also extreme groan-inducing stereotypes. Though I prefer realistic characters that feel alive, I can see how this would be an effective tactic for a book like this. Readers who are going through similar situations will likely find it very easy to relate to and project themselves onto these characters.  
Will it punch you in the gut?

Yep, it probably will. Because even if the characters are little more than vectors for their issues, they are stunningly accurate vectors. Amy Reed clearly captures the feelings that teens going through those situations feel in a way that is searingly honest and incredibly effective. 

This is much less a book about drug use as it is a look at the psychological motivations and feelings of a person in these various situations. Drugs aren't really talked about all that much and the book never really goes into any details about the physical feelings and effects of drug use. 

While perhaps Amy Reed's teens are a little more in touch with their feelings and motivations than a real teen would be, this makes her book all the more useful for real teens searching for a source to help them understand their feelings. Clean reads very much like a psychologist's notes outlining exactly what the characters (and people in similar situations) are feeling and why they feel what they feel and do what they do. 

From a psychological standpoint, Clean gets full marks. The issues, motivations, and feelings touched on are spot on and make psychological sense. Halfway through the book the parents make an appearance, and their actions as well as their impact on their children are equally realistic (with the exception of the over the top stereotypes).

Bottom line
This isn't my genre, so I didn't love it. I felt depressed and wrung out after reading it, especially given the open ending that offers only a little hope. Readers who do enjoy books like this will probably love Clean as it is a solid addition to the genre. 

It should come as no surprise, but this book includes numerous references to drug use, sex (hetero and homosexual), rape, teen pregnancy, drinking, physical abuse, eating disorders, and cursing.   

Explanation of rating system: Star Rating Key 
Do you have any questions about Clean that I haven't addressed?  Feel free to ask in the comments!

Thanks for sharing your thoughts on Clean, Small! 

You can find Small on her Young Adult and Middle Grade book blog Small Review. She holds a BA in psychology with concentrations in psychoanalysis, behaviorism, and clinical psychology. She has worked with young adults in various in-patient and out-patient settings. She is still trying to find a behaviorism schedule that will encourage her to exercise daily (using chocolate as a reward apparently undermines the process).


  1. Oh no, wall of text! It looks like my paragraphs got lost in the transfer. Sorry about that! Thanks for having me here again :)

  2. I really liked Clean! But I'm a sucker for issue novels ;) A happy sparkly book was definitely in order though, so bonus there.
    Great review Small! I'm always amused when I read yours :D

  3. This probably isn't one I'll add to my TBR list just because it doesn't appeal to me. But, I admire you for reading something that makes you need to read a rainbows and puppies book afterwards. So, I hope you read one of your princess books after that! Good review!!


  4. I bet I probably would like this one. I have been avoiding books like this because I don't like to feel so sad after reading something.

    I'm with you, I like sparkles and happy stories. I'm proud of you for stepping out of your comfort genre and read something different.

    Regardless of the book you always seem to have a great, easy to read, fun review.

  5. Laura, I can totally see why you would love the book. If you like issues books, then I think this one was great. I'm so happy you like my reviews :)

    Heather, Haha, thank you! I did read many princess books to make up for it :)

    Gina, Thank you! It makes me really happy that you like reading my reviews. :) If you're trying to avoid books that make you sad, then you might want to avoid this one. Such a (realistic) downer.


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