by Mia Kerick
Published by Young Dudes Publishing
High school senior Lanny Keating has it all. A three-sport athlete at Lauserville High School looking at a college football scholarship, with a supportive family, stellar grades, boy band good looks… until the fateful day when it all falls apart.
Seventeen-year-old Trevor Ladd has always been a publicly declared zero and the high school badboy. Abandoned by his mother and sexually abused by his legal guardian, Trevor sets his sights on mere survival.
Lanny seeks out Trevor’s companionship to avoid his shattered home life. Unwilling to share their personal experiences of pain, the boys explore ways to escape, leading them into sexual experimentation, and the abuse of illegal drugs and alcohol. Their mutual suffering creates a lasting bond of friendship and love.
When the time finally comes to get clean and sober, or flunk out of high school, only one of the boys will graduate, while the other spirals downward into addiction.
Will Lanny and Trevor find the strength to battle their demons of mind-altering substances as well as emotional vulnerability?
Clean takes the reader on a gritty trip into the real and raw world of teenage substance abuse.
Trevor wouldn’t even look at me when I walked over to the gas station this morning to say hi. And Jimmy’s Fuel Stop is like three miles from my house so it took a major effort to walk there, especially since I’ve been feeling like total crap lately. Another one of my shaky human bonds bites the dust. I need to go out and get myself a cat.
“Can’t you see I’m working, Keating?” That was all he said.
But I’ve always been good at reading between the lines. I could tell what he was thinking as he stood beside the gas pumps, totally caught up in not looking at me. “Take a hike before you get me fired, loser. Some of us got goals in life….” So I took off before he had a chance to make me feel like I shouldn’t have ever made an appearance on the planet earth. But I still know it would have been better had I never been born…maybe Joelle would still be okay.
It’s Saturday afternoon and nobody’s home. Mom and Dad are probably off at the park with Joelle, sloshing through the wet snow together so she gets her daily exercise. Or maybe they took her to the make-your-own-sundae-place to improve her fine motor skills by sprinkling sweet
toppings on big scoops of ice cream. I’m in Mom and Dad’s bathroom, bent inhalf with my head stuck in the closet, searching the cluttered shelves for anything that will get me high enough to escape. And I mean anything.
That’s when I see the cough syrup. The bottle in front is almost new, and there’s an older bottle of a different brand right behind it, little more than halfway full. Seeing these medicine bottles reminds me of something Chad suggested about a week or two ago— that we should try robo-tripping. He told me that if we drink enough cough syrup, the DXM in it would get us high in a “super blissful, tingling-body-parts way,” which sounded pretty decent to me then and still does now. Not completely surprised I remembered Chad’s exact description of a DXM
high, I thank God for this dextromethorphan stuff that suppresses nasty coughs, because it looks like I’m going to find my much-needed buzz after all.
Pleased that I don’t have to resort to sniffing glue from the tube on my father’s basement workbench or huffing my mother’s hairspray—and believe me I came close—I snatch the bottles with a shaky hand. They’re both sticky with the syrup that dripped down the side last time one of the Keating’s had a major head cold accompanied by a hacking cough. Licking my fingers
provides me with a hint of the cherry flavor I’m probably going to be barfing up later tonight. But I don’t care. I can’t get through a single day without some help, and by that I don’t mean help from my human friends, seeing as I have none left.
Kerick is the mother of four exceptional children—all named after saints—and five nonpedigreed cats—all named after the next best thing to saints, Boston Red Sox players. Her husband of twenty-two years has been told by many that he has the patience of Job, but don’t ask Mia about that, as it is a sensitive subject.
relationships, and she believes that physical intimacy has a place in a love story, but not until it is firmly established as a love story. As a teen, Mia filled spiral-bound notebooks with romantic tales of tortured heroes (most of whom happened to strongly resemble lead vocalists of 1980s big-hair bands) and stuffed them under her mattress for safekeeping. She is thankful to
Dreamspinner Press, Harmony Ink Press, CoolDudes Publishing, and CreateSpace for providing her with alternate places to stash her stories.
human rights, especially marital equality. Now marital equality is the law of the land!! WOOT!! Her only major regret: never having taken typing or computer class in school, destining her to a life consumed with two-fingered pecking and constant prayer to the Gods of Technology.
This was quite a steep learning curve for me as I had never read a YA romance. I sort of expected wall to wall angst – and there was certainly plenty of that – but I also got a well researched story with a compelling arc and precisely drawn characters. It is all written in the first person from the POV of both characters. This can cause problems if, like me, it takes you a moment or two to remember where you are after a gap in reading but it was easy to tell whose head we were inhabiting because of the huge difference in style between them. I enjoyed the self-consciously grown-up phrasing of Langford but the palm goes to the choice of a breathless almost inarticulate barely punctuated babble for the inner monologue of ultra-cool boy Trevor whose favourite word is “whatever”.
I think teenagers would love this book. Ms Kerick certainly seems to have tapped into their world view which, if my kids are anything to go by, can be best summed up as “I didn’t ask to be born, nobody understands me, nobody cares, life sucks and so do I”. It’s a horrible time of life even if they aren’t facing the kind of pressures undergone by the protagonists of Clean. Luckily there is a happy ending but it has to be earned by both Langford and Trevor.
Some of the tone in the latter part of the book is rather preachy, in part due to Langford clinging to his Twelve Step Plan but not helped by the extraneous material. The final author interview was a particular problem because in my version it ran on directly from the end of the book and I thought the two things were connected and it was part of the story. Ending a book by feeling stupid isn’t a particularly nice feeling. There was also a section at one of the major climaxes of the book where Langford’s name was used instead of Trevors and that was a HUGE pity because I had to step back from the story to sort it out in my head and so was more detached than I should have been at a very important, in fact life changing, moment. These are editorial problems and are unfortunate but don’t really detract from the story.
To sum up I think this was a very good sample of YA literature, probably very good for older teens to read – there are some sex scenes – very informative and quite touching in some sections. I’d also recommend it for parents of teenagers.