An eloquent memoir of teen drug abuse from 1970s Berlin retains a contemporary feel in a new translation.
Christiane F.'s story begins in childhood. Readers feel, from her 6-year-old perspective, the sense of frustration and restlessness that permeates the housing projects of Gropiusstadt and her father's violent punishments for mild infractions. At 12, she first tries alcohol, hashish and LSD, and the experiences are described with evocative imagery. That Christiane will ultimately become addicted to heroin is apparent from the first page, and a sense of tragic inevitability pervades each early anecdote. Christiane paints a grim portrait of the drugs-and–sex-work scene around Berlin's Zoo Station, but readers will also see the sense of fraught community that develops among Christiane and her friends. The strong pull of heroin is never clearer than when, after four days of brutal withdrawal, Christiane talks herself into having “one last and final fix.” Short chapters written by Christiane's mother and a social worker, a photo spread, a foreword and editorial footnotes help contextualize Christiane's life in West Berlin. Readers might, however, wish for more information about how the memoir came to be published, and a note about HIV infection (not a possibility in Christiane's time, but certainly a risk now) would also be helpful.
Disturbing but compelling. (Memoir. 14 & up)