Knopf Books for Young Readers
October 27, 2015
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Going Bovine meets Trainspotting in this gritty portrait of at-risk teens gaming the prescription drug trial system.
Meet Audie: Professional lab rat. Guinea pig. Serial human test subject. For Audie and her friends, “volunteering” for pharmaceutical drug trials means a quick fix and easy cash.
Sure, there’s the occasional nasty side effect, but Audie’s got things under control. If Monday’s pill causes a rash, Tuesday’s ointment usually clears it right up. Wednesday’s injection soothes the sting from Tuesday’s “cure,” and Thursday’s procedure makes her forget all about Wednesday’s headache. By the time Friday rolls around, there’s plenty of cash in hand and perhaps even a slot in a government-funded psilocybin study, because WEEKEND!
But the best fix of all is her boyfriend, Dylan, whose terminal illness just makes them even more compatible. He’s turning eighteen soon, so Audie is saving up to make it an unforgettable birthday. That means more drug trials than ever before, but Dylan is worth it.
No pain, no gain, Audie tells herself as the pills wear away at her body and mind. No pain, no gain, she repeats as her grip on reality starts to slide….
Raw and irreverent, Placebo Junkies will captivate readers until the very end, when author J. C. Carleson leans in for a final twist of the knife.
When I started Placebo Junkies I did not remember exactly hat it was supposed to be about: I think I combined bits of Concentr8's summary and some things I made up with what the book was. Oddly, that benefited me quite a bit. Placebo Junkies is a book where it works to keep wondering what's coming next, to not be sure of where things are going.
From birth control pills to psilocybin and much, muc more, Audie and her fellow guinea pigs have tested nearly every kind of pharmaceutical drug imaginable. They know the right way to answer questions to to get included in the study, the symptoms to fake and they covet side effects. After all, anything to increase their pay is worth it.
It isn't everyone's ideal life but the choice wasn't between drug trials and something more illustrious, something dreamed of. Not for Audie. And it beats minimum wage at a fast food joint.
I liked the tiny glimpses we got into Audie's life prior to living in the apartment and the testing. It helps you to understand why this is such an acceptable, even desirable, life for her. Through both her own anecdotes and her blog entries, we learn quite a bit about Audie. Nothing like a full biography, but things that help us understand her outlook on life and what she expects from the world.
I also liked that we both we, as readers, and Audie did not know her fellow guinea pigs stories. Like she says, they aren't exactly a group to sit around reminiscing. The not knowing left questions but anything else would not have fit her character and the circumstances.
The twists we get toward the end are fantastic. They are unexpected and you don't see them coming, yet they still fit with the story and what has happened. The ending itself actually let me questioning what really happened. (There are two things I can see and I am not sure, still, which of them is correct!)
Placebo Junkies is going to make you think twice the next time you see an ad for a drug trial or hear the side effects listed on a commercial for some prescription. More than that, though, you will be left thinking about Audie and teens like her who, due perhaps to fate and circumstances, could find such a life desirable.
digital review copy received, from publisher, via NetGalley