Beneath a Meth Moon

182p. Penguin/Nancy Paulsen Bks. Feb. 2012. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-0-399-25250-1. LC number unavailable.
RedReviewStarGr 8 Up—This powerful, stripped-down novel chronicles a girl's journey from popular cheerleader to homeless meth user to recovering addict. When her mother and grandmother perish in Hurricane Katrina, Laurel's idyllic childhood in Pass Christian, MS, abruptly ends. After living with relatives for two years, she relocates to Iowa with her father and younger brother. There, she falls in love with basketball co-captain T-Boom, who introduces her to meth, or "moon." The novel's real romance is between Laurel and the drug; the euphoria she experiences while high fills a void inside her and helps her forget all she has lost. Her other relationships crumble away as addiction takes over her life. A poignant friendship with a street artist reawakens Laurel's desire for human connections and propels her toward recovery. The narrative, which is full of rich, sensory images, jumps between the present day, Laurel's childhood memories, and scenes from rehab, giving the story a dreamlike quality. Though this is a gentler read, it would be a natural choice for fans of Go Ask Alice (Prentice Hall, 1971) or Ellen Hopkins's Crank (S & S, 2004). An outstanding novel that succeeds on every level.—Amy Pickett, Ridley High School, Folsom, PA
Two years after Hurricane Katrina takes Laurel's mother and grandmother, she, her father, and brother move to Iowa, where she finds new friends and a boyfriend--and meth. Laurel's descent into addiction is brutally honest and narrated in her lilting, Southern cadence. Linking the large-scale tragedies of Katrina and drug addiction, the novel tells an intimate and compelling story of survival.
Woodson takes us on the dark journey of addiction, mimicking the slow, hazy spell of drug use with the lull of her poetic prose. Laurel's happy childhood on the Gulf shore ends abruptly when Hurricane Katrina destroys her city of Pass Christian, Mississippi, taking her mother, grandmother, and house. After two years of refuge with an aunt, Laurel, her father, and her baby brother move north to the small town of Galilee, Iowa. With new friends, cheerleading, and a basketball star boyfriend, a new life seems possible. T-Boom's affections feel like home to Laurel, and she trusts this good feeling when he offers her first sniff of meth, just to warm her up on a cold night. Laurel loves the way "the moon" fills up her head "with so many different beautiful things" and washes the painful past away. How does a pretty, popular cheerleader become an addict? Just that easy, Woodson shows us. Laurel's descent is brutally honest: wasted and shivering in the cold rain with burnt and bleeding lips, she craves only more meth to soothe the pain. Laurel narrates her own story in a lilting, Southern cadence. Woodson uses biblical references boldly and effectively, as though proclaiming the magnitude of her characters' trials. For instance, the water rises to take Laurel's home and family in Pass Christian, while the sign for their new city reads: "Welcome to Galilee, where life is a walk on water." Laurel's recovery will take no less than such a miracle. Linking the large-scale tragedies of Katrina and meth addiction, the novel tells an intimate and compelling story of survival. lauren adams

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