contemporary · review · young adult

Clean – Juno Dawson

“Shit just got really real.”

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Blurb: “When socialite Lexi Volkov almost overdoses, she thinks she’s hit rock bottom. She’s wrong. Rock bottom is when she’s forced into an exclusive rehab facility. From there, the only way is up for Lexi and her fellow inmates, including the mysterious Brady. As she faces her demons, Lexi realises love is the most powerful drug of all…”

*This book was sent to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

Trigger warnings: drug overdose, scenes of drug taking, recovery, relapse, suicide and eating disorders.

The reader first meets Lexi Volkov when she wakes up in the back of her brother’s car on the way to rehab. I really liked how this is where the story began because it was really disorientating and took a while to get used to where the protagonist was and where she was going; it created that same sense of confusion and anxiety that Lexi was feeling.  As a character, Lexi verges on unbearable at times; informing everyone of who her father is, being ignorant to other people’s problems and frequently offering sexual favours just for an extra pill.

If you’re looking for a cute little story that just happens to have drugs on the side, this is not that story. As the tagline says “it’s a difficult business getting clean.” You’ll have noticed that I included trigger warnings at the start of this review and that’s for good reason. This book is graphic: nothing is hinted at by the way scenes are set up; the reader witnesses everything first hand along with Lexi. It’s raw, brutal and –at times- incredibly uncomfortable to have to read. If it was a film, I would have probably covered my face with my hands and turned away. While it’s incredibly discomforting to have to face head-on, these stories need to exist and especially in Young Adult.

Watching Lexi come to terms with her problems and look back over key moments in her life was heart-breaking to watch but just shows the importance of looking at aspects of our own lives with a different lens; to see what other people do when they’re desperately trying to help us with our own problems.

One big apprehension I had going into this was the hint at a possible romance in the synopsis. I’ve spoken quite loudly on my issues with “boy fixes girls problems” stories and I was really praying this book wouldn’t go that way. While I did groan quite frequently as that sub-plot started to build, I liked the turn that it took, showing that all of the characters involved were focused on their recovery first. Having said that, I wasn’t invested in the slightest in the love aspect of the story.

Lexi is obligated to attend both solo and group therapy and it’s in the latter where the story thrives. The reader is introduced to a whole host of characters all with a variety of problems and I liked how the preconceptions of these were broken down and it was made clear that they’re still problems to the individual regardless of whether you understand them or not. It was nice seeing Lexi adapt and slowly start to trust them.

Clean does an utterly brilliant job of showcasing the recovery process in all its ugly glory along with relapses, while also highlighting that slipping up does not mean that you’re a failure, or you won’t ever get…well…clean.

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4 thoughts on “Clean – Juno Dawson

    1. I think the process of her going through the initial “accepting her addiction” stage was brilliantly done but I struggled a fair bit with the romance. It just felt like it was being forced to sort of add temptation to Lexi’s journey.

      Liked by 4 people

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