The First True Thing

256p. HarperCollins/HarperTeen. Apr. 2019. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062360526.
Gr 9 Up—Marcelle is on the road to recovery from substance abuse—she attends an after-school rehab called The Center, where she is in a peer-led group therapy. When her friend Hannah asks Marcelle to cover for her, it seems like a harmless white lie, until Hannah goes missing. Now Marcelle must decide whether to continue lying to protect her friends or to tell the police about the things she knows they are into, including meeting with a college-age adult who runs a pornography website and is their source for cocaine, and that when Hannah can't pay for drugs she agrees to perform for his cameras. There are a lot of rules and procedures at The Center, and the first-person narrative can get bogged down by Marcelle trying to navigate these complicated dynamics. The main character's inner struggle with sobriety and honesty rings true, but supporting characters other than Hannah are underdeveloped, and a few reveals at the end strain plausibility. Readers should not expect an edge-of-your-seat thriller, but this book is a strong exploration of recovery and the dangers of substance abuse.
VERDICT A solid additional purchase for libraries where realistic and issue-driven novels are popular.

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