Despite the title’s obvious drug reference, this is less a scare-’em-straight story than a memoirlike account of a lost club kid navigating 1980s New York’s underground parties.
At 17, Cat lives in an apartment in New York’s East Village, away from her physically and emotionally abusive mother and her distant father. She spends some time at school and some with her pre–club-scene friend Sara, but her home is Tunnel, the club where she throws a regular party. By the time readers meet Cat, she has begun to weary of the scene and its drug-heavy lifestyle; in fact, despite a few joyous flashbacks, it is initially difficult to understand the club scene’s appeal. Patient readers, however, will see Cat’s life slowly unfold through the flashbacks, painful conversations and a constant cycle of parties and exhaustion. The prose and dialogue are largely evocative, though some of the imagery comes out overwritten (“The early winter sky outside the window is a leaky ballpoint pen”). The characters are diverse and carefully drawn, from Cat’s friend and fellow club kid Giovanni to her frightening employer Christoph, and the overall mood is intense without ever aiming for shock value.
Subtle, sad and, eventually, hopeful. (Historical fiction. 14 & up)