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Mailing: TJ's Gift Foundation, 38 Hawkins Crescent, Winnipeg, Manitoba, R2N 1G9

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Teacher Resources

Listing of Reading Material for Students (teachers should evaluate the various reading levels for their students). These books are available for purchase at McNally Book Store.

The Recovery Village - https://www.therecoveryvillage.com/teen-addiction/

Drug abuse can inflict severe — sometimes permanent — damage on your teen’s mind, body and future. Though drug use may begin casually, your teen may not realize that they risk addiction. If your child is abusing illicit substances, there is hope for recovery through treatment.

DrugRehab.com - https://www.drugrehab.com/

We provide information, resources, and treatment for people battling addiction and related conditions. At DrugRehab.com, our mission is to equip patients and families with the best information, resources and tools to overcome addiction and pursue lifelong recovery. We are here to help you or your loved one every step of the way.

Tweaked

Author: Katherine Holubitsky (2008)

 

Sixteen-year-old Gordie Jessup is a good kid but he's living a nightmare. His eighteen-year-old brother Chase's two-year addiction to crystal meth has left their family emotionally and financially drained. And just when Gordie thinks he can no longer stand the manipulating, the lying and the stealing, things get even worse. Chase is arrested for aggravated assault, released on bail and sent home to his family. But his dealers are after him and Chase appeals to Gordie for help. Gordie, disgusted with his brother and fully aware that it's a gamble, risks everything he has in the hope of bringing his family some peace.

Tweak: Growing Up On Methamphetamines

Author: Nic Sheff (2008)

 

This New York Times bestselling memoir of a young man’s addiction to methamphetamine tells a raw, harrowing, and ultimately hopeful tale of the road from relapse to recovery and complements his father’s parallel memoir, Beautiful Boy. Nic Sheff was drunk for the first time at age eleven. In the years that followed, he would regularly smoke pot, do cocaine and Ecstasy, and develop addictions to crystal meth and heroin. Even so, he felt like he would always be able to quit and put his life together whenever he needed to. It took a violent relapse one summer in California to convince him otherwise. In a voice that is raw and honest, Nic spares no detail in telling us the compelling, heartbreaking, and true story of his relapse and the road to recovery. As we watch Nic plunge the mental and physical depths of drug addiction, he paints a picture for us of a person at odds with his past, with his family, with his substances, and with himself. It's a harrowing portrait—but not one without hope.

We All Fall Down: Living with Addiction

Author: Nic Sheff (2011)

(Taken from http://www.nyjournalofbooks.com/book-review/we-all-fall-down )

Following Tweak, Nic Sheff’s memoir about methamphetamine addiction, the sequel, We All Fall Down,chronicles the author’s continued struggle to stay sober.

It recounts his time in rehabilitation at the Safe Passage Center in Arizona (also described in Tweak), his later experiences in Savannah, Georgia, with a new girlfriend, and the unexpected changes in his life after his first book was published to considerable media attention. At the end of We All Fall Down, Sheff is back in Los Angeles after splitting with his girlfriend.

 

The narrative voice is similar to the one in Tweak—present tense, immediate, and mimicking orality—but in many places it is more stripped down and staccato and reluctant to linger in a moment. Here is how he describes falling in love with a girl called Sue Ellen:

“So I might as well try ’n’ believe this is what I really want.
Because it is, you know?
It really is.
I mean, it’s gonna be okay.
It’s gonna be okay.
It’s gonna be okay.
I’m going to worship Sue Ellen like I did Zelda.
I’m going to make her matter just as much to me.”

This style puts a premium on the visceral; it is probably intended as a mark of authenticity. But toward what end? Readers of Tweak will notice different versions of people and events. Some of these discrepancies are trivial and surely quite defensible—changing names, for instance, in order to provide third parties with a degree of anonymity.

 

Other examples and omissions are more complicated, even problematic. In Tweak, for instance, Sheff says that he completed treatment at the Safe Passage Center. In We All Fall Down, the reader finds a long account of the circumstances under which he was expelled. In Sheff’s Internet blog, “New Dawn Transmission: Nic Sheff’s Journal of Recovery,” he describes many of the same events and people of We All Fall Down—in fact, some long passages are lifted verbatim from the blog and appear in this book—with the notable difference that the book version also includes references to Sheff binge-drinking, smoking marijuana, or abusing prescription drugs from his mother’s medicine cabinet at a time when he was presenting himself to the public as being sober.

 

How much does this matter? Who will wring their hands if another Oprah-featured memoir writer appears to have recounted something less than the gospel truth? Only the most credulous and needy can be surprised; it is hardly a scoop that addicts are prone to lying, and at a certain levelTweak and We All Fall Down are, despite pretensions of being raw or edgy, standard fare in a confessional, consumerist culture.

 

Even so, only the most cynical can read this memoir without sadness, and concern for Sheff’s loved ones, notably his rather fragile girlfriend Sue Ellen and his father David Sheff, whose own memoir, Beautiful Boy, gave his version of Nic’s addictions and a parent’s struggles to deal with them.

 

And, of course, there is concern for Nic Sheff himself, who unflatteringly documents his denials and betrayals and who, despite his professed interest in “rebel” types like Henry Miller or Charles Bukowski, often adopts an affectless, almost Warholian voice, which is repetitious but convincingly captures the anomie of the addict.

 

Sheff’s relatively privileged San Francisco upbringing contrasts with the situation of most methamphetamine addicts, who are usually rural and poor, as reported in Nick Reding’sMethland, which is probably the best general reference on the subject to date. On the surface, at least, Sheff has little in common with dead-end batchers in Iowa and Missouri, and the blue-collar working addicts in the meth-fueled meatpacking industry. But, below the surface, it is obvious that addiction is a great leveller—horrible suffering is horrible suffering—and the hell that Nic Sheff has experienced is every bit as bad.

 

He just gets to talk about it more, in a memoir industry in which he is part of the food chain. In the economic scheme of things, his role neatly parallels the blue-collar tweaker on the job. A burger, a book. Here, take it, the reader is told. Never mind the empty calories. Consume.

Sheff’s more important challenge remains in front of him, and, to his credit, We All Fall Downacknowledges as much. Some of the most interesting passages are when he recounts ambiguities, such as the conflict between his pretending to be sober, which was a self-destructive pose, and the real comfort and inspiration that Tweak and Beautiful Boy offered to other addicts and their families—which, on a book tour, could be assisted by this charade.

 

He also makes debatable nuances about degrees of sobriety based on the fact that for Sheff, abusing other intoxicants was not as terrible or as nihilistic as the earlier days of methamphetamine addiction. This is controversial in treatment circles, but it is better for this debate (or this version of denial) to be aired than to be swept out of sight.

 

Lastly, Sheff has interesting things to say about 12-step programs, notably their premise that the addict must recognize a “greater power,” which will always be an obstacle for individuals who cannot muster belief.

We All Fall Down ends with Sheff in California again, trying to stay sober and taking steps to address his diagnosis as being bipolar, which was also mentioned in Tweak, but which he did not consistently treat with medication and which likely contributed to his later problems. He offers a hopeful conclusion, and there is every reason to want to believe it.

Bad Deal: Surviving South Side

Author: Susan J. Korman (2011)

It's not going to hurt anyone. Fish hates having to take ADHD medication. It helps him concentrate, but it also makes him feel weird. So when his crush, Ella, needs a boost to study for tests, Fish offers her one of his pills. Soon more kids want pills, and Fish is enjoying the profits. To keep from running out, Fish finds a doctor who sells phony prescriptions. But suddenly, the doctor is arrested. Fish realizes he needs to tell the truth. But will that cost him his friends?

Street Pharm

Author: Allison van Diepen (2006)

If a brother wanna get ahead, he gotta use every minute to better himself. Everything I did made me better -- tougher, stronger, richer, smarter -- or I didn't do it.

Take high school. A waste of time. Nobody there taught me what I needed to survive on the streets....

 

Ty Johnson knows survival. Since inheriting his pop's business at sixteen, Ty's developed smarts, skills, and mad discipline. The supply game's in his blood. And life is pretty sweet when you're on top.

 

But one slip -- or one serious competitor -- and life turns ugly fast. Suddenly, Ty's got to rethink his whole strategy. And for the #1 dealer on the streets, strategy is not just about staying ahead. It's about survival.

 

For more support:  http://www.allisonvandiepen.com/street.html  for Study Guide and Teacher Resources

In Ecstasy

Author: Kate McCaffrey (2009)

A best friend sinks into a quicksand of teenage addictions.

Sophie and Mia have been best friends for most of their 15 years. Sophie is popular, so when she suggests they try ecstasy Mia figures it can't hurt her own chances with the in crowd. Mia is elated when the drug lives up to its name and amazed when Lewis, the hottest guy in school, kisses her goodnight.

Soon Lewis is Mia's boyfriend, and she and Soph are running with his fast, rich friends, until Sophie is sexually assaulted by Lewis's drug-dealing buddy. Reluctant to say what happened, Sophie grows distant, leaving Mia to conclude she's jealous of her popular boyfriend. But to keep Lewis's attention, Mia grows increasingly dependent on the confidence that only E seems to give her. When things worsen, it is the girls' strained but solid friendship that finally helps bring Mia back from the brink.

Powerfully told from the alternating points of view of each girl, In Ecstasy is a brutally frank and utterly convincing portrait of the challenges facing contemporary teens.

Go Ask Alice

Author: Anonymous (1971)

Taken from:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Go_Ask_Alice

 

Go Ask Alice is a 1971 novel about the life of a troubled teenage girl. It is written by Beatrice Sparks in the form of the diary of an anonymous teenage girl who becomes addicted to drugs.[1] The diarist's name is never given in the book. The novel's title was taken from a line in the 1967 Grace Slick-penned Jefferson Airplane song "White Rabbit" ("go ask Alice/when she's ten feet tall"), which is itself a reference to a scene in Lewis Carroll's book Alice's Adventures In Wonderland where Alice eats one side of a mushroom that makes her grow large. Go Ask Alice is presented as an anti-drug testimonial.

 

Claimed to be taken from an actual diary, the story caused a sensation when published, and remained in print as of 2014. Revelations about the book's origin cast doubt on its authenticity and factual accounts, and the publishers have listed it as a work of fiction since at least the mid-late 1980s. Although it is still published under the byline "Anonymous", it is largely or wholly the work of its purported editor, Beatrice Sparks. Some of the days and dates referenced in the book put the timeline from 1968 until 1970.

 

It became a TV movie in 1973 with Jamie Smith-Jackson, William Shatner, Ruth Roman, Andy Griffith, Wendell Burton, and Julie Adams.

Plot summary

A 15-year-old girl begins keeping a diary. With a sensitive, observant style, she records her thoughts and concerns about issues such as crushes, weight loss, sexuality, social acceptance, and difficulty relating to her parents. She eventually realizes that she has a serious problem with drugs.

 

The diarist's father, a college professor, accepts a teaching position at a new college. The diarist is at first optimistic about the move. After the move the diarist feels like an outcast at the new school, with no friends. She then meets Beth and they become best friends. When Beth leaves for summer camp the diarist returns to her hometown to stay with her grandparents. She reunites with an old school acquaintance, Jill. Jill is impressed by the diarist's move to a larger town, and invites her to a party. At the party, glasses of soda—some of which are laced with LSD—are served. The diarist unwittingly ingests LSD and has an intense and pleasurable trip.

Over the following days the diarist continues friendships with the people from the party and willingly uses more drugs. She loses her virginity while on LSD. She worries she may be pregnant, and her grandfather has a small heart attack. These events and the tremendous amount of guilt she feels begin to overwhelm her. She begins to take sleeping pills stolen from her grandparents. On returning home she receives sleeping pills from her doctor. When those are not enough she demands powerful tranquilizers from her doctor. The friendship with Beth ends as both girls have moved in new directions.

 

The diarist meets a hip girl, Chris, while shopping at a local boutique. The diarist and Chris become fast friends, using drugs frequently. They date college boys Richie and Ted, who deal drugs. They begin selling drugs for the boyfriends, passing back all the money made. One day they find the boys stoned and having sex. Realizing Richie and Ted were using them to make money, the girls turn them in to the police and flee to San Francisco. They vow to stay away from drugs. Chris secures a job in a boutique with a glamorous older woman, Sheila. The diarist gets a job with a custom jeweler whom she sees as a father figure.

Sheila invites the girls to lavish parties where they resume taking drugs. One night Sheila and her new boyfriend introduce the girls to heroin and rape them while they are stoned. The diarist and Chris, traumatized, move to Berkeley where they open a jewelry shop. It is a small success, but the diarist misses her family. Tired of the shop, the girls return home for a happy Christmas.

Returning home the diarist encounters social pressure and hostility from her former friends from the drug scene. She and her family are threatened and shunned at times. Chris and the diarist try to stay away from drugs but their resolve lapses. The diarist gets high one night and runs away. She drifts through homelessness, prostitution, hitchhiking, and homeless shelters, before a priest reunites her with her family. She returns home, but encounters continued hostility from her former friends. They eventually drug the diarist against her will; she has a bad trip and is sent to an insane asylum. There she bonds with a younger girl named Babbie. Chris and her family move to a new town.

 

Released from the asylum the diarist returns home and finally is free of drugs. She becomes romantically involved with a student from her father's college, Joel. Relationships with her family are improving, as are friendships with some new kids in town. She is worried about starting school again, but feels stronger with the support of her new friends and Joel. In an optimistic mood the diarist decides she no longer needs a diary; now she can communicate with her family and friends.

 

The epilogue states that the subject of the book died three weeks after the final entry. The diarist was found dead in her home by her parents, who came home from the movie theater. She died either by an accidental or premeditated overdose.

The diarist and her family reside in two different towns. The only description provided is that they are college towns.

The diarist describes running away to real locations in California and Oregon, and visiting New York City.

Crank

Author: Ellen Hopkins (2004)

Taken from:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crank_(novel)

Crank is a novel by Ellen Hopkins published in 2004. The book has been banned in many locations due to complaints of the book's drug use, language, and sexual themes.[1][2] Hopkins has stated that she has based the book loosely around the real life addictions of her daughter to crystal meth[3] and that the book is required reading in "many high schools, as well as many drug and drug court programs".[4]

Plot

Crank takes place the summer before and during the protagonist Kristina's junior year of high school. She is a straight-A honor roll student and decides to visit her father for three weeks. Her father is rarely home, leaving her a lot of time alone. Kristina meets the character Adam in Albuquerque, where she is staying with her father. Adam convinces Kristina to try Crank (Methamphetamine), or "the monster", but Kristina runs away the first time she tries it.[5] She is attacked by three men, but before anything can happen to her she is saved by Adam. An antagonist, Lince, Adam’s girlfriend, sees him comforting Kristina and jumps off of a balcony in a suicide attempt. Kristina starts a relationship with Adam, but feels guilty about Lince. When the three weeks are over, Kristina goes back to Reno, Nevada, where her mother’s house is. Kristina is now addicted to Crank.

In Reno, Kristina, now calling herself Bree, meets the characters Brendan and Chase at a water-park, and they exchange numbers. They both promise her Crank. Chase and Kristina begin to get closer to one another, and they begin dating, though not exclusively. Kristina goes to see the antagonist Brendan, asking for more Crank. Brendan drives them both out into the woods, where they get high together, and he starts to take off her clothes. When she says no, he becomes violent, claiming that he has “waited weeks,” so she should “put up and shut up”.[6] He then starts ripping her clothes off and rapes her. Afterwards, Brendan takes her home and makes her pay for the drugs, even though he had just violated her.

 

At home Kristina, still high and shaken up from the rape, writes a letter to the character Adam telling him she was raped. Soon though she abandons her letter and calls Chase to come over while her parents are out. Chase comes over and she tells him about Brendan before trying to persuade him to have sex with her. Chase says no, wanting to wait until she had healed from her rape. However, she does end up having sex with him later in the novel.

 

Kristina gets caught hitchhiking by a cop and goes to Juvenile hall, where she gets a direct connection to a Meth lab in Mexico through an inmate. Once she is released from Juvenile hall, Kristina uses her mom’s Visa card to pay for the illegal narcotic, and she takes her new supply to her druggie friends on “The Avenue.” At this part of the novel, Kristina has become a drug dealer, which she describes as making her instantly more “popular.” Kristina now has a very large amount of Crank on her hands, so she is getting high even more often. This leads to her becoming more irritable, causing her relationship with her mom to become even more strained. Kristina is also not showing up to classes, because she is spending all of her time getting high and dealing drugs on “The Avenue”.

 

The story continues with Kristina discovering she is pregnant, soon after Brendan had raped her. Kristina spends the following days going through the symptoms of drug withdrawal. During this time in the novel, she believes that Chase is the father, having had sex with Chase a couple of weeks after being raped. Although after going to Planned Parenthood, she realizes Brendan is actually the father. At this point in the novel, Kristina begins to struggle with deciding if she should go through with the pregnancy because she “Feared the uncertainty of choosing parenthood” and “Doubted [she] could give [her] baby away”.[7] Kristina decides to have an abortion, but after feeling “A flutter in [her] belly,” the child moving, she decides to keep her baby.[8] After making this decision, Kristina tells her mother and stepfather about her pregnancy, although she does not reveal who the father is. The novel continues with Kristina giving birth to a baby boy, Hunter, who is described as 'healthy'. The narrative ends with Kristina implying that she is still using drugs, but is trying to stop.

50 Cent Playground

Author: 50 Cent (2011)

Thirteen-year-old Butterball doesn’t have much going for him. He’s teased mercilessly about his weight. He hates the Long Island suburb his mom moved them to and wishes he still lived with his dad in the city. And now he’s stuck talking to a totally out-of-touch therapist named Liz.

Liz tries to uncover what happened that day on the playground—a day that landed one kid in the hospital and Butterball in detention. Butterball refuses to let her in on the truth, and while he evades her questions, he takes readers on a journey through the moments that made him into the playground bully he is today.

This devastating yet ultimately redemptive story is told in voice-driven prose and accented with drawings and photographs, making it a natural successor to The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian.
Loosely inspired by 50 Cent’s own adolescence, and written with his fourteen-year-old son in mind, Playground is sure to captivate wide attention—and spark intense discussion.

Taken from:  http://articles.latimes.com/2011/oct/30/entertainment/la-ca-50-cent-20111030

As a genre, young adult fiction is teeming with "issues," but few are as topical as bullying, which many health professionals now view as an epidemic. Part of the solution to any epidemic is understanding it. And in that regard, 50 Cent is doing a great service to readers by leveraging his from-the-streets credibility and experience as a bully to explore how it can happen.

 

The 36-year-old rap artist has sold more than 22 million albums and earned 12 Grammy nominations, but as he notes in the book's introduction, "not everything I've done in my life has been role-model material. I've been on the wrong side of the law. I've been in violent situations. I've also been a bully. I know how a person gets to be like that. That's why I wanted to tell this story: To show a kid who's become a bully — how and why that happened, and whether or not he can move past it."

 

Like his music, which draws upon 50 Cent's rise from the streets, "Playground" also derives from experiences in his childhood and adolescence with an emotionally driven lead character named Butterball. So called because of his weight, Butterball is a seventh-grader whose parents split up a couple of years earlier, forcing him to divide his time between his dad's place in New York and his mom's apartment in the Long Island suburb where he goes to junior high. Told from Butterball's perspective, the story opens in a psychologist's office, where the overweight teen is sent twice a week to talk about why he smashed the face of a classmate with a sock full of D batteries.

 

His voice is slang-y, profane, defensive. His attitude is condescending toward authority and remorseless as an aggressor. In therapy, Butterball thinks the doctor is "stupid," "skinny" and has "zero taste." Beating up the boy he once considered a friend felt good, he admitted. It was the rare time he'd felt respect from his peers — or gotten much attention from his parents.

 

His mom works double time as an orderly and is also going to nursing school. His dad makes more time for his girlfriends than for his son. These details are casually dropped into the narrative as a backdrop to the action, which has Butterball progressing through his days like so many other disenfranchised teens. School isn't for learning so much as escaping what's happening at home. He goes through the motions of his days without any real effort or learning or connections.

 

There is, of course, the out-of-reach love interest, but there aren't any real friends. Instead of facing that sad reality, Butterball eats lunch in the handicapped stall of the boys' bathroom. His only aspiration is a new pair of $300 cobalt-blue sneakers.

For more information, check out: http://www.penguin.com/static/images/yr/pdf/PlaygroundDiscussionGuide.pdf

Recovery Road

Author: Blake Nelson (2011)

Taken from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Recovery_Road

Recovery Road is a teenage novel by author Blake Nelson.[1] The book is centered on a teenager Maddie Graham at the rehab center Spring Meadows and how she overcomes her addiction to alcohol and drugs. The book shows how Maddie transforms herself from a drug obsessed and beer addicted teen to a mature young woman who ends up going to University and turning into an English professor and settling down into a normal life.

 

Recovery Road is currently in production as a TV drama of the same name which will debut in 2016 on a new network called Freeform, which will be the successor to ABC Family.

Plot Summary

Madeline (or Maddie) Graham is starting junior year in rehab. She hates the losers surrounding her all except fellow rehab friend, Trish. Soon the two are escaping the halfway house every Tuesday to go to the movies with other recovering addicts. It is here that Madeline meets Stewart, another recovering addict, and the two teens are immediately drawn together. What follows is a story about being in love while trying to survive sobriety.

 

Eventually, the two are released from rehab and must return to their previous lives; for Madeline that means returning to school and her old friends and routines. Her struggle to stay sober and find a new path is realistic and the strength of the story. Her relationship with Stewart, on the other hand, has the expected narrative ups and downs. When a tragedy strikes, Madeline is left to figure out what she really wants from life and how Stewart fits into her plans.

 

Soon, Maddie discovers that she has lost so much in life because of drugs and she begins to take school more seriously. She graduates with a 3.8 GPA, a 30 on the ACT's, and gets into the University of Massachusetts where she studies English and Literature. Meanwhile, she and Stewart break up and he begins to date a girl named Kirsten. Maddie can't forget him but still decides to move on with her life and begins to date other boys including a smart and handsome young man named Simon who she begins to like more and more.

 

Then two years after she saw Stewart last, she finds him on the streets as a filthy junkie. She tries to help him but he runs away, swearing at her and telling her to leave him alone. Finally, Maddie decides to forget Stewart for one and all and goes back to U MASS. Simon and Maddie continue their relationship hinting that they might even have married but Maddie still keeps Stewart, her old Stewart, inside her heart and waits for him to come back to her.

The Piper's Son

Author: Melina Marchetta (2010)

Taken from: http://alphareader.blogspot.ca/2010/02/pipers-son-by-melina-marchetta.html

Thomas Mackee wants oblivion. Wants to forget parents who leave and friends he used to care about and a string of one-night stands, and favourite uncles being blown to smithereens on their way to work on the other side of the world.But when his flatmates turn him out of the house, Tom moves in with his single, pregnant aunt, Georgie. And starts working at the Union pub with his former friends. And winds up living with his grieving father again. And remembers how he abandoned Tara Finke two years ago, after his uncle’s death.And in a year when everything's broken, Tom realises that his family and friends need him to help put the pieces back together as much as he needs them.

 

This is Melina Marchetta’s follow-up to her 2003 Young Adult novel ‘Saving Francesca’.

It’s been five years since the events in ‘Saving Francesca’, and this time around the story focuses on Thomas Mackee and his family.

 

The Mackee’s life changed forever after the death of youngest son, Joe, in the 2005 London Underground bombing. Their world was suddenly segregated into ‘before London’ and ‘after London’ and the fracture of past and present as the book observes the ripple effect that grief has on families and relationships.

 

The death of Tom’s uncle in the bombing had his alcoholic father seeking comfort at the bottom of a bottle. Tom’s aunt Georgie sought physical comfort with the man who cheated on her years ago, and she finds herself pregnant as a result. Tom closed himself off from the world; his friends, family and the girl he loved.

 

The book is set in 2007 and the Mackee’s are still reeling after Joe’s death. Tom’s family are broken and scattered in the wake of their loss; his mother and sister moved to Queensland when his dad hit the bottle and shortly after his uncle Joe’s death Tom’s father vanished. But just as a tragedy tore the Mackee’s apart, old heartbreak is bringing them back together. A mass unmarked grave is being exhumed in Vietnam, and one of the bodies is thought to be Thomas Finch Mackee – the family patriarch who was drafted but never returned.

 

Melina Marchetta is one of Australia’s most popular YA writers. Her books have won the prestigious ‘Book Council of Australia’ award and her first novel was adapted into a movie in 2000. ‘The Piper’s Son’ is very different from Marchetta’s other YA books – mainly because it straddles the line between YA/Adult fiction.

 

Marchetta is definitely writing to her original audience – those Aussie Gen-Y kids who were the first to read and love ‘Looking for Alibrandi’ and ‘Saving Francesca’. ‘The Piper’s Son’ is about them – those who are more ‘adults’ than ‘young adults’ nowadays and living in the limbo after High School. Like the characters in this book, that original audience are now; in University, graduated, dropped-out, aimless, driven or any number of in-between. There’s a little something here for everyone who grew up with Melina Marchetta’s books.

 

‘The Piper’s Son’ will also appeal to an older generation who may have missed out on the hubbub of Marchetta’s record-breaking YA fiction. This book does have a mature voice and is narrated by both older and younger characters. The book is also dealing with an intense, far-reaching subject matter that will resonate with the young and old alike.

 

Grief is at the core of this book. Australian identity is built around tragedy – starting with Gallipoli and evolving in Vietnam and most recently with Black Saturday. It is the measure of our spirit, the way our country stands in the face of adversity. Marchetta deals with two devastating historical events – the 2005 London underground bombing (which we cannot claim as our own but is close to home) and Australia’s involvement in Vietnam. Marchetta doesn’t over-analyse these events, but she does acknowledge them as having played vital roles in the lives of Australian families. And the Mackee’s are a wonderful blueprint for the typical Aussie family – Irish Catholic blue-collar workers who all live shoulder-to-shoulder in the Sydney suburbs. Among themselves they’re loud, bullying and judgmental – but they’re also fiercely loyal, protective and affectionate.

 

Although ‘The Piper’s Son’ has a heavy theme of grief, Marchetta still writes her trademark wit and peppers the book with cultural references. These references are ‘hit-the-nail-on-the-head’ for their observations of Australian life and times, like Tom Mackee claiming to be a member of the club; ‘Survivors of childhood subjugation to watching The Bill’. Marchetta evokes a picture of Australia, through her descriptions of the Sydney Suburbs as they speed by the train line and the Paul Kelly soundtrack that seem to accompany her scenes.

 

I was excited for this book, and to become reacquainted with characters I met in ‘Saving Francesca’. But it’s the new characters Marchetta creates that I fell in love with. Aunt Georgie was a combustible and wonderful narrator – she’s 42 and pregnant to the man who cheated on her seven years ago; she is constantly swinging between being petrified, ashamed and ecstatic. Georgie also writes e-mails to her dead brother, in which she writes all the things she can’t say out loud.

 

‘Saving Francesca’ alumni also return for this book – Francesca Spinelli, Will Trombal, Justine Kalinsky and Tara Finke. We met these characters in 2003, and it’s incredibly comforting to know that they’ve all carried on with their fictional lives and remained firm friends.

 

But of course the stand out character in this book is Tom Mackee. When we meet him, Tom wants oblivion. It’s as though he’s found solace in grief – it gives him an excuse to be a fuck-up who smokes pot all day, gets laid when he can (by whoever he can) and let the hours, days and months bleed into one another. Tom is frustrating to read, especially when he has flashes of sincerity that prove him to be better than he’s acting. But that’s the beauty of Marchetta’s characters. They are real and imperfect and I love them.

 

It may all seem doom and gloom – but ‘The Piper’s Son’ has real heart. Grief is at its centre, but the book isn’t overwrought with tragedy. You’ll definitely cry, but in between you’ll laugh out loud and enjoy watching these characters figure out their lives in the wake of catastrophe.

 

‘Saving Francesca’ was published in 2003, so its been a good 7 years since we last met these characters. It’s a testament to Marchetta’s work that ‘The Piper’s Son’ doesn’t feel disjointed, but rather a logical extension of ‘Saving Francesca’. For Marchetta fans, this follow-up book is like catching up with old friends down at the local; we know and love them, we’ve missed them and now they’ve returned, just like we've always known they would.

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