Sarah's Stars

Nic Sheff. Tweak: Growing Up on Methamphetamines
Atheneum $11.50  ISBN 978-1-4169-7219-8  322 pg.
Reviewed by Lindsey, Age 15

Lauren has to support most of my weight as we walk. I'm actually sicker than she is. Those dogs bark at me all over the place and the smell of them makes me cringe. I'm blacking out. I lie in Lauren's white bed and try to just focus on my breath going in and out the way my lungs expand and contract like they do. I'm hyperventilating some and I try to calm myself, but it doesn't really work. Lauren holds me, but the feel of her skin on me is suddenly repulsive.

"Please please, I just need to lie here." That's all I can say. I maybe pass out for a moment, waking up only to take some pill Jules is shoving in my face.

"Thank you," I say, but I throw up whatever it is he gives me. I roll out of the bed onto the floor and vomit into a blue plastic trashcan.

I sleep like that on the carpet.

Nic Sheff was drunk for the first time when he was eleven years old. And it seems he never came down from that buzz. All throughout high school he maintained a 4.0 GPA while getting drunk and high with his friends all the time. He battled a less than perfect family life with stepfamilies, and constant feelings of worthlessness and depression. Finally, he dropped out of college to get high all the time, always chasing that oblivion. And so begins Nic Sheff's memoir, a dark and riveting tale that's all the more gripping because it's all too true.

When Nic's story first begins, he is living in San Francisco; sober for eighteen months, but a chance meeting with a childhood friend named Lauren suddenly propels him into a drug-fueled romance. While buying some crystal meth, he forges a tentative friendship with Gack, a local dealer. Soon the two are hatching plans to make their own drug deals, with all of the profit going towards more drugs, of course. But things turn desperate, and soon Nic is unwillingly on the way to recovery. And recover he does. He's clean for more than a year, working at a job he enjoys as a receptionist at a local salon, babysitting his sponsor's daughter and replacing the artificial high from body-destroying chemicals with a love for biking and writing.

For the first time in years, Nic is enjoying life. He's happy, healthy and completely clean. But one day, an e-mail from a lady named Zelda will change everything. Will Nic throw his life away again, if it's the only way to his true love?

Nic's story is dark and twisted and scary. It takes the reader on a journey to a place that they never want to go to, but its raw honesty and compelling insights draw you in, and keep you there. I found Nic himself to be rough, witty and even startlingly compassionate at times. His talent for writing is evident. He spins an absorbing tale of hitting rock bottom, and clawing your way back up, only to slip and fall down, down, down again, way past rock bottom. It's a story about fear and loneliness and sadness, but it's also one that represents hope and healing. But I'm not going to lie. I didn't enjoy the book. It was hard to read at times, and even though honesty is a virtue, there is such thing as too much information. But I guess putting himself out there is Nic's way of recovering. By baring his innermost thoughts to us, the readers and complete strangers, he's somehow making things right, at least in some small way.

Nic's hypnotic story is murky and dangerous but the unflinching protagonist, a life-ruining addiction and an uphill battle to recovery is a lethal combination that's in one word, addictive.

I give Nic Sheff's Tweak four out of five stars, and I wish him all the best in future endeavors.

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