This gripping collection of young adult short stories delivers a chilling portrayal of “those who struggle to make their way” (to whom the book is dedicated). It is a subtle and sophisticated collection that requires careful previewing for classroom appropriateness prior to being offered to students. With that proviso in place, I highly recommend it.
The stories depict the lives of 10 teenagers who are directly or indirectly involved with drugs. Their vivid lives and desperate situations are portrayed in simple language, but their experiences are as complex as they are heartbreaking. Settings include locations in North America, Afghanistan, Russia, the Philippines, Mongolia and Bolivia.
In the first story we meet Matthew, a straight-A student who rolls and smokes a joint with his grandmother in her nursing home to ease her physical pain. The following nine stories are equally full of thought-provoking contexts and social issues. From the opium fields of Afghanistan to hardcore heroin addicts on the streets of Moscow, we see the similarities of lives controlled and often destroyed by drugs. Crystal meth, ecstasy, glue sniffing, child neglect, police corruption and rehab are just a few of the themes that may prompt discussions about rich and poor, right and wrong, the war on drugs and whether the end justifies the means.
Andrea Murik, OCT, is a Special Education resource teacher at Angus Morrison Elementary School in Angus.