A teenager battles drug addiction in Nash’s debut novel.
Eighteen-year-old Eli is at a high point in his life. He’s captain of the lacrosse team, the most popular kid in his school, and has a picture-perfect girlfriend by his side. Yet, even as the first game of the season moves toward triumph, all is not well: the thrill never lasts; the high is not real. Eli lives with his mom, stepdad, and half brother, but he’s long been unhappy at home, and he’s been turning to heroin as a way to cope. An overdose lands him in rehab—and then the real story begins. Over 28 days, Eli must confront his addiction and come to terms with the loss of his father. Although he’s unwilling, at first, to acknowledge that he even has a problem, he slowly, through interactions with an ex–drug-dealer counselor and the other patients at the clinic, begins to open up. He starts looking for the truth in his life, and as he finds himself strangely drawn to a girl who self-harms, he wonders if there might just be some sort of light at the end of the tunnel. The danger with a story such as Eli’s is that it can be overly grim or preachy. Nash avoids this and instead strikes just the right balance between realism and relatability. The plot is straightforward but not generic, and the characters are distinct without being clichéd or over-the-top. The dialogue never feels artificial, and Eli’s narration, written in the present-tense first-person, makes him a protagonist that teens will identify with. His take on life seems very much his own (not the author’s or the readers’ parents’), and events at the clinic play out with a momentum that reflects his increasing engagement with rehabilitation. Nash, in short, has pulled off a remarkable feat, taking a topic of great relevance and—without a hint of censure or denunciation—making it integral to a tale whose only demand is that it be read in one sitting.
A well-pitched, beautifully written book, dark in content but not in feel.