Monday, September 19, 2011

Book Review: Clean by Amy Reed (Guest Posting for Psychtember!)

Clean by Amy Reed
Release Date: August 9, 2011
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Pages: 288
Received: ARC from publisher 
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Goodreads Page


From Goodreads:

Olivia, Kelly, Christopher, Jason, and Eva have one thing in common: They’re addicts. Addicts who have hit rock bottom and been stuck together in rehab to face their problems, face sobriety, and face themselves. None of them wants to be there. None of them wants to confront the truths about their pasts. But they’ll all have to deal with themselves and one another if they want to learn how to live. Because when you get that high, there’s nowhere to go but down, down, down.


Do you see any sparkles here??

Nope, not a sparkle in sight and, really, this is so NOT my genre. So why in the world was I reading this book? I really don't know. Nostalgia? Ten years ago I would have loved this book. Maybe the cover? Something about it is eye-catching (though I don't know who that girl is supposed to be). Whatever the reason, I downloaded it and opened it up with the intention of reading a few pages to give it a shot.

Before I knew it, I had read half the book. And then I read the other half. Clean is compulsively readable. It's broken up into three different types of chapters: larger sections narrated by either Christopher or Kelly (why only these two? I have no idea); small, paragraph-long first-person narratives of each of the characters; and group therapy sessions that read like a transcript for a play. Each type is relatively short and easy to blitz through.

Still, even though I found Clean to be extremely readable, I didn't exactly like it. Like I said, it's just not my genre anymore. It was depressing (obviously, they're all drug addicts with family sob stories that led to their addictions) and left me feeling absolutely horrible afterwards. I guess that's a sign that Amy Reed did a good job in conveying the feelings of depressed, drug-addicted, family-issued teens, so points for that.

But, bleh, I feel like I need to go read a book about rainbows and puppy dogs and maybe even Santa Claus just to help turn my frown upside down when I was done.

Multiple narrators

The multiple narration really helped move the book along by breaking everything up into easy to read sections, but I don't think it was as successful as it could have been. With the exception of Eva, none of the voices were very distinct. Their stories were distinct and so it was easy to tell who was speaking given the subject they were speaking about, but their manner of speech was really very similar.

I also don't feel like I really got to know any of the characters. Maybe this is the nature of the book, but while I know the intimate details of their histories and their issues now, I don't feel like I know who they are as people, which is sort of funny considering all of the mantras about people being more than just their issues or diagnosis. Not in this book.

Instead of creating individuals that can really come alive off the page, the characters come across as generic collections of issues and mouthpieces for the associated feelings that typically go along with those issues. Some of the secondary characters were also extreme groan-inducing stereotypes. Though I prefer realistic characters that feel alive, I can see how this would be an effective tactic for a book like this. Readers who are going through similar situations will likely find it very easy to relate to and project themselves onto these characters.  

Will it punch you in the gut?

Yep, it probably will. Because even if the characters are little more than vectors for their issues, they are stunningly accurate vectors. Amy Reed clearly captures the feelings that teens going through those situations feel in a way that is searingly honest and incredibly effective.

This is much less a book about drug use as it is a look at the psychological motivations and feelings of a person in these various situations. Drugs aren't really talked about all that much and the book never really goes into any details about the physical feelings and effects of drug use.

While perhaps Amy Reed's teens are a little more in touch with their feelings and motivations than a real teen would be, this makes her book all the more useful for real teens searching for a source to help them understand their feelings. Clean reads very much like a psychologist's notes outlining exactly what the characters (and people in similar situations) are feeling and why they feel what they feel and do what they do.

From a psychological standpoint, Clean gets full marks. The issues, motivations, and feelings touched on are spot on and make psychological sense. Halfway through the book the parents make an appearance, and their actions as well as their impact on their children are equally realistic (with the exception of the over the top stereotypes).

Bottom line

This isn't my genre, so I didn't love it. I felt depressed and wrung out after reading it, especially given the open ending that offers only a little hope. Readers who do enjoy books like this will probably love Clean as it is a solid addition to the genre.

It should come as no surprise, but this book includes numerous references to drug use, sex (hetero and homosexual), rape, teen pregnancy, drinking, physical abuse, eating disorders, and cursing. 

Explanation of rating system: Star Rating Key 

Do you have any questions about Clean that I haven't addressed? 
Feel free to ask in the comments!

 Originally posted as a guest review. Click the button to go to the original post.


  1. No sparkles? That's definitely not like you. I'll be interested to see which books you've picked.

  2. I'll go check it out!! (when I'm off work)

    This event has turned out to be pretty cool! :D

  3. It's funny because I can't remember the last time I read a book with sparkles. Actually, no wait, I can, it was back in 2008. Gosh, it's been a while. Maybe I should find a book that sparkles instead...*giggles* Small, you crack me up!

    In the Closet With a Bibliophile

  4. Loved your review! I felt quite the same as you did on this book - parts worked for me though, and others just fell flat. Great honest take on it! :)

  5. The Slowest Bookworm, :D Nope, very not like me.

    Alex, I'm really liking the event, too! Danya has done a great job.

    Jen, Oh honey, you are seriously sparkle deprived! How about a pretty dress? Or pink? Or swirls on the title font???

    Melissa, Thank you! I remember reading your review and thinking the same thing :)


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