Clean by Amy Reed

 Publisher: Simon Pulse 
Date: July 19, 2011

Series or Standalone: Standalone
ISBN:  978-1442413443
Format: Hardcover, 288 pages  
Source: Galley Grab

 Rating: A+    

First line: My skin looks disgusting.
Image by FlamingText.com

When I started reading Clean I wasn’t really sure it was something I would like. This is partly because there are FIVE perspectives. It seemed daunting in the opening four pages that this story would work for me. When there are more than two people talking it’s really difficult for me to follow the story and how do you make five voices distinctly different? Plus, the whole concept—teens in drug rehab? How can the outcome be anything but depressing? It didn’t seem possible to me. How would someone portray so many stories, emotions and challenges in a book as short as this one without leaving someone behind? Well, ask Amy Reed—because she did it fantastically.

To tell you what the story is about is to border the line of ruining all the things that live in the pages. I don’t want to do that. This is a book you have to experience. You have to read it and let the words and the characters and the setting run through your veins like a drug. Okay, that analogy was supposed to be punny—since it’s about rehab—but the intent of is whole-hearted. You have to experience Clean. You have to know the characters. You have to root for them and connect with them and see it all happening for yourself.

This story is mostly told from two characters—Kelly and Christopher. It’s told in group therapy, which reads from the page like dialogue from a play. It’s told by questionnaires, where the characters are asked about the events that lead them to rehab and each take a turn answering them. It’s unique and powerful. It’s the reason the book is so effective because it’s done a way that connects you to everyone in a very interactive manner.

I can tell you there are five characters. In the opening of the story, four are already in rehab and another is on her way there.  Throughout the book, you get to see the true transformation of these characters and that is a beautiful thing. Their voices are distinct. Their stories are riveting and emotional. I can honestly say that I connected to every single person in the story. To fully grasp the awesomeness that are these five characters, I’ve pulled out a few lines from every character. They aren’t spoiler-y (I hope) but they are something beautiful. I don’t know how else to tell you how wonderful this book is other than to let you experience it as well.

And then what? Definitely not this. Definitely not seventeen and in rehab, definitely not angry and scared and convinced nothing will ever change. Not with that feeling in my stomach and in my chest like I can’t breathe, that feeling like a giant fist squeezing. And now they’re telling me I have get rid of the only thing that loosens its grip. That’s the irony, isn’t it? That’s what these old men are trying to tell me with their sad stories and coffee breath. The thing that helped has become the thing that imprisons us. We keep feeding it and it keeps wanting more. This is a disease that tries to convince you that you don’t have it. This is a disease where the medicine that gives relief is the same thing that kills you.


If I don't get a cigarette soon I'm going to F---ing kill somebody. We can smoke in here, right? They said we could smoke in here..

I’ve been feeling a little off, like maybe there’s something lurking beneath the surface, like maybe there’s someone here besides the sweet innocent Christopher everyone knows, and maybe it’s about time for him to come out. I don’t know what it is but the longer I’m in rehab the more it grows. This thing that’s always been inside and hidden deep is getting bigger and stronger and threatening to show itself, and I want to stop it but I also don’t, and I don’t if I’m ready, but I think maybe I want what’s inside turned outside, maybe I want everything out in the open, all my secrets laid out for everyone to see. I wonder what that would look like. I wonder what kind of mess it would make.  I wonder if you can ever really be ready for that part of you that you’ve been hiding all your life to finally come out.

She was the girl with pigtails. She was the girl with the smile and the laugh like seashells, with the magical powers possessed only by perfect children. The mom in the PTA. the dad who'd take her to Mariners games on the weekends. Rosebushes. A vegetable garden full of nutrition. Three square meals a day by loving hands. These memories are shades of pastels, smoky and warm, like drifting off to sleep, like a velvet painting of heaven. They live in a box strangled by chains. To keep them safe. To keep them from the dark that took their place.

I come from a whole society of perfect people. But somehow, despite the work it takes to be perfect, everyone else at my school still seems to find the time for frivolous things like dating and parties. Somehow they are capable of having relationships with people besides their maids. It seems like I’m always scrambling to keep up, to maintain my position in the various hierarchies that fate signed me up for. I have no time for friends, let alone boyfriends. I barely have time to sleep. Everyone else makes it look so easy, like it’s in their blood to be flawless and exceptional.

Amy Reed flawlessly tells the stories of these teens. She captures a world that I have no real idea about. She shows you the struggles that millions of people face in the essence of these five voices. There is growth. There are tears. There are lies and lives and truth. There is hope. I cried when I finished this book. That never really happens to me.

Check out Clean for yourself. It’s a book everyone should read because it shows you the things that can push people over the edge, that can be the singular differences between a normal life and an escape that has dangerous and deadly consequences. Go buy it and when you read it, come tell me what you thought it about it.

*all quotes are from ARC form and subject to change in final version

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1 comment:

  1. I bought this book yesterday because of you! Can't wait to read it for myself. Great review :)


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