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12 October 2010 RECOVERY ROAD by Blake Nelson, Scholastic Press, March 2011, 320p., ISBN: 978-0-545-10729-7


"So much time to make up

Everywhere you turn

Time we have wasted on the way"

-Graham Nash


"I'm trying to brush my teeth but I can't find my toothpaste.

"It's 9:30 in the morning.  I'm standing in the bathroom, in my bathrobe and underwear.  I've completed my twenty-eight days in the main building, and now I'm in my second week at my halfway house. 

"Which sucks.  But it would at least be tolerable if I could brush my teeth, which I can't, because I can't find my toothpaste.

"I know I have some.  I just bought it two days ago at the Rite Aid.

"I open the medicine cabinet.  I move stuff around.  I start pulling crap out.  I am sure I left it in here.

"Who took my stupid toothpaste?

"I shut the cabinet.  The bathroom is disgusting.  The floor is cold and sticks to my bare feet.  The mirror is so scratched and old you can barely see yourself.  I look through the shelves against the wall.  They're full of cheap, abandoned beauty products.  Pert shampoo.  VO5 conditioner.  Kroger's Hand and Body Lotion. 

"I go back to my room.  Our room, I should say, with its six bunk beds and group closet.  I start digging through the shelves there, slamming things around. 

"Then I know who did it: Jenna.  The new girl.  The one who threw a hissy fit about her kitchen duties.  Tough shit, Jenna.  You gotta wash the dishes your first week.  THAT'S HOW IT WORKS.  THAT'S WHAT EVERYONE DOES.

"That reminds me.  Trish said something about her dental floss.  She bought some and the next day it was gone.  This is Jenna's doing too, no doubt.

"I go into Jenna's room.  I don't know which bunk is hers or which suitcase.  I start tearing through the shelves and the closets.

"I storm back into my own room.  I am furious.  I am spinning in place, looking for something to break or throw or turn over.  If I had my cell phone I could call Trish right now and we could find Jenna and beat her skinny ass.  But I don't have my cell phone thanks to my asshole parents who locked me in here and TOOK AWAY MY CELL PHONE LIKE I WAS SIX YEARS OLD.

"I look around.  I'm gonna break something BUT EVERYTHING'S BROKEN ALREADY in the stupid HALFWAY HOUSE, because it's full of CRIMINALS and DRUG ADDICTS and TEENAGE PROSTITUTES or whatever you are, JENNA, YOU STUPID BITCH.

"I am really worked up now, I grab my bunk bed and shake it, smashing it against the wall until a painting falls off and breaks on the floor.  Angela's secret ashtray drops through the springs of our bunk bed and scatters ashes and butts over my blankets.

"I grab one of the bureau drawers and yank it out of the cabinet.  Clothes fly around the room.

"That's when a small white tube pops out of my bathrobe pocket, hits the floor, and bounces at my feet.

"My toothpaste.

"I pick it up.  I look at it."


Meet the high school junior who, in recent years, has come to be known to all as Mad Dog Maddie. 


After a long history of parties, fights, substance abuse, and arrests, Madeline Graham finds herself stuck in rehab.  I've never before read detailed accounts of what it is like for a teen going through rehab.  It's pretty scary stuff.


But not half as scary as watching Maddie trying to navigate her way through her fancy high school when she returns after being gone for a couple of months with everyone knowing where she's been.  How do you deal with people talking about you?  How do you deal with your old partying buddies?  How can you have a social life when you cannot drink a beer or take a hit off a joint?  Or anything?  How long can you hide out in the school library during lunch?  How long before you lose it?


"Around eleven, a bunch of new people arrive.  The party really kicks in then.  People are dancing in the living room, crowding into smaller rooms, making out in corners.

"It's extremely weird to be sober in the midst of it.  It's like I'm watching everything on TV."


And what about the friends you made as you struggled together in rehab?  Once you are all out, will they help keep your strong, or drag you back down when they, themselves, fail? 


Given the headlines one always sees about the bad-girl celebs who are regularly in and out of rehab, I followed Maddie's day-by-day struggle to create a life after her partying days are over, wondering, Can she really keep it together?  Her threadbare support system always seems right on the verge of unraveling. 


When the struggle is the toughest, when there is absolutely no one there to help, when it comes down to gutting it out on inner strength, what is going to happen?  Will she have that kind of strength?


Powerful, engaging, unique, and potentially life-saving, the tale of Maddie's journey to survive and make up for wasted time makes RECOVERY ROAD a story you need to read.  

Richie Partington, MLIS
Richie's Picks http://richiespicks.com
author, I Second That Emotion: Sharing Children's and Young Adult Poetry

Moderator, http://groups.yahoo.com/group/middle_school_lit/

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