It would appear that I’m at the halfway point of my GoodReads reading challenge for the year. Woohoo! Let me tell you about the 25th book I have read this year; Clean by Juno Dawson.
Clean by Juno Dawson
Publication Date: 5th April 2018
Format: Paperback, 400 pages
Synopsis: When socialite Lexi Volkov almost overdoses, she thinks she’s hit rock bottom. She’s wrong. Because rock bottom is when she’s forced into an exclusive rehab facility. From there, the only way is up for Lexi and her fellow inmates, including the mysterious Brady. As she faces her demons, Lexi realises love is the most powerful drug of all … It’s a dirty business getting clean.
I first heard of Juno Dawson’s upcoming release, Clean, from an article in The Bookseller in April 2017. At that time, April 2018 seemed so far away, and I was more than ready for a new book from Juno. You can imagine my delight when Clean finally arrived, in a gorgeous rose gold foil cover. *swoons*
Cover goals aside, I do have to begin this review by stating that Clean contains scenes of drug use, sexual assault, self harm and mental illness. Should you need it, there is some information about drug addiction support included at the back of the book.
Clean follows the story of Lexi, a Russian socialite. Her parents run a chain of premium hotels, and with a seemingly unlimited supply of money, Lexi can do whatever she likes. Designer clothes, celebrity parties… and drugs. Lots of drugs. After Lexi overdoses on heroin, her brother Nikolai intervenes and whisks her off to the Clarity Centre in an attempt to get her clean. However, the Clarity Centre is far from being normal facility. Initially determined to escape and resume her life of parties and drugs, Lexi soon finds a reason to stay, and tackle her addiction, in the form of her fellow resident, Brady.
Face-down on leather. New car smell. Pine Fresh.
I can’t move.
I’m being kidnapped.
Pitched as Gossip Girl meets Girl, Interrupted, Clean is a razor-sharp look at addiction and privilege. From the first page, Juno pulls no punches in depicting the harsh realities of being a drug user, and we are shown the graphic nature of addiction and withdrawal. Believe me, there is no sugar coating here. You can tell that Juno has researched the topic of drug addiction thoroughly in order to bring Lexi’s story to life.
In true Juno Dawson style, I was completely absorbed into the story. I found Clean to be utterly addictive, and I flew through the first 100 pages in an evening. I tried to slow down so that I could savour the story, but at the same time I also wanted to find out what happened next and I finished the book in a matter of days. The story begins with Lexi arriving at the Clarity Centre, and together with flashbacks to the past, I enjoyed the slow reveal of the secret at the heart of Lexi’s addiction.
Juno is the master of writing complex yet realistic characters and Lexi, our main character and narrator, is certainly a character I’m not going to forget! At the beginning of the novel, I did not like her. She was rude, arrogant and completely unaware of her own privilege. By the end of the novel I was rooting for her to get better, having followed her journey to recovery and watching her mature into a much better person.
At the Clarity Centre, Lexi’s fellow residents are each battling their own demons in the form of binge eating, anorexia and compulsions. Their portrayal shows that despite the best facilities, designer clothes and personal chefs, addiction and mental illness can affect anyone, and money isn’t a magic wand that can make it go away. Just like Lexi, each resident of the Clarity Centre were well written and memorable. One of the residents is trans, and being honest I can count on one hand the number of trans characters I have read in books, so it is fantastic to see this representation in YA. Whilst I usually enjoy a good romance, I have to admit I didn’t particularly root for Lexi and Brady as a couple. Personally, I would have liked more tension and build up to their romance, but I can appreciate that in a place like The Clarity Centre, things feel more intense in a short space of time.
Whilst Lexi’s story is one of fiction, it is a story that no doubt many people will be going through right now. Lexi’s story may have showed the ugly realities of addiction, but it also offers hope in her journey of recovery and relapse. Clean is another classic Juno Dawson book, and it was definitely worth the wait.