Pro skateboarder loses everything to drugs, sees little light at the end of the tunnel afterward.
Readers will learn more about Novak’s impressive skateboarding career in the ’90s by reading Tony Hawk’s foreword than by reading the book itself. This is an addiction memoir, and the genre’s format is by now practically set in stone: modern-day opener into which rude reality intrudes, then flashback to start of life of addiction, leading up to getting clean and ultimately vindication. While Novak and co-author Frantz don’t stint on the stock scenarios, they break the mold by not pretending that a junkie’s chaotic life can or should be represented in such a cut-and-dried fashion. Novak begins on August 11, 2003: “I am a twenty-five-year-old junkie, sleeping in an abandoned garage in one of the worst parts of Baltimore City.” By the end of that day, he has hustled money from his mother, stolen furniture and turned a trick with a man twice his age to get his fix. The narrative settles into a rhythm after the recidivist Novak is checked into detox by a sponsor of nearly limitless patience. Following that, his account only occasionally darts backward into a happier youth, when he was touring the world as part of the famous Powell Peralta team, skating with the likes of Hawk, Buck Lasek and Steve Caballero. He served as a courier for a dealer while still on the team and crawled into the depths from there. The story of his inveterate addiction is only competently delivered, with Novak and Frantz providing reams of unnatural-sounding dialogue for the totemic figures—understanding counselor, abused mother, tough guardian-angel fellow junkie—who try to halt his slide into self-destruction. The book’s saving grace is the conclusion, which rejects the easy self-congratulation of too many addiction memoirs in favor of a closing memento mori.
Dutifully constructed and sometimes surprising, but only occasionally insightful.