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SMASHED by Koren Zailckas Kirkus Star


Story of a Drunken Childhood

by Koren Zailckas

Pub Date: Feb. 7th, 2005
ISBN: 0-670-03376-6
Publisher: Viking

An astonishingly revealing debut chronicles nine years of binge drinking in high school, college, and beyond.

Now 23 and sober, the author begins her story of alcohol abuse with her first drink, taken in the summer of 1994 when she was14. It’s an event she remembers vividly, as she does the first time her parents caught her drinking a year later and the first time she blacked out, another year after that. With alcohol, Zalickas discovers a way to end her feelings of shame, lack of self-confidence, even self-loathing. Since her drunken self becomes confident and brave, she drinks expressly for the purpose of getting drunk. Throughout high school, she has to hide her drinking, but at college—Syracuse University—she finds that it’s more than accepted; it’s expected. This is certainly true at the sorority she joins, nicknamed the Zeta Alcoholics and reputedly filled with fast-living and fun-loving girls. Zailckas confesses to spending more time in the bars around campus than at the gym, the library, or the dining hall. Out of college and working in Manhattan, she continues for a time to binge drink to quell her social anxieties, but after a blackout that ends with her waking up not knowing where she is or with whom, she is scared enough, or perhaps grown-up enough, to quit. While her account of college years rarely mentions the academic side, she clearly must have spent some fruitful time in class. Certainly the influence of her writing teacher, Mary Karr, author of The Liar’s Club, is evident here. Unlike Karr, however, Zailckas repeatedly inserts into her disturbing memoir facts about teenage drinking to demonstrate that her experience with booze is not unique (“the mean age of the first drink for girls is less than thirteen years old,” or “nearly three-fourths of sorority-house residents are binge drinkers”).

Riveting, with a powerful message for parents of teenaged girls.