- Hardcover: 304 pages
- Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers (October 27, 2015)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0553497243
- ISBN-13: 978-0553497243
- Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1 x 8.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 30 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,648,849 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Placebo Junkies Hardcover – October 27, 2015
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From School Library Journal
Gr 10 Up—Audie and her friends are professional lab rats, guinea pigs who "volunteer" for numerous pharmaceutical drug trials as a way to get quick cash. They have the system down—Audie's roommate Charlotte even has a list of ways to fake drug trial results, if need be. Audie is willing to endure a plethora of treatments, because she wants to finance a trip for her cancer-ridden boyfriend Dylan—the only one who understands and loves her despite everything. However, as the pills wear away at her body and mind, Audie's sense of reality becomes totally distorted, until she can no longer distinguish truth from fiction. With its short, fast-paced chapters filled with raw language and graphic details, this title is a departure from Carlson's previous, CIA-themed The Tyrant's Daughter (Knopf, 2014), although, as with spy stories, her new novel has both suspense and a convoluted plot. Even at the novel's conclusion, readers cannot be totally sure that what appears to be is real, a challenge that is sure to appeal to high school readers. Audie's blog entries will keep teens' interest, and her first-person narrative reinforces the personal pull of the story. Audie's character is well-drawn and totally believable, immersing readers in her world and, hopefully, opening the door to an ethical discussion about current mental health issues. Strong language and graphic descriptions of medical procedures might be problematic for libraries with a restricted collection policy. VERDICT For fans of works with unreliable narrators.—Nancy Menaldi-Scanlan, formerly at LaSalle Academy, Providence, RI
"A perplexing, thrilling whirlwind of a read... This smart, beguiling novel will usher readers into the bizarre—but reality-based—subculture of drug-trial 'volunteers.'" —Booklist
"There's no denying the story's power. Raw, funny, grotesque, unsettling, and very sad." —Kirkus Reviews
"Audie’s character is well-drawn and totally believable, immersing readers in her world and, hopefully, opening the door to an ethical discussion about current mental health issues." —School Library Journal
"A chatty, clever narrator with a twisted sense of humor grounds the story . . . raising challenging questions about medicine, ethics, and the true cost of big breakthroughs." —Publishers Weekly
Top customer reviews
Audie and her band of misfit friends are professional lab rats, or as she calls them "guinea pigs." Forget needing a regular job, sign up for 6 weeks of trials here, 5 days here, and maybe another 10 days here and you've got a wad of cash in your hands. Don't mind the rashes, the boils, the crazy thoughts you have, it's easy money. Audie's in it for her boyfriend, Dylan; such a sick, handsome, so deserving boyfriend. She's got a trip of a lifetime planned, so he can finally stop making a list of places he's never been to. No pain, no gain, that's what Audie says, so she signs up for every trial she can to save the money. Except, all these trials are making things fuzzier and fuzzier for her.
Audie is such an unreliable narrator; she's queen of the damned and totally disillusioned by life, except for her love of Dylan. Her thoughts jump around, her judgement is skewed, and absolutely everything she did in this book made me worry about her like a mother hen. It was totally the right kind of book to bring me back to YA novels. This just isn't like any other YA novel you've read, not even close. There's no insta-love, no obnoxious love triangles that make no sense, and no run of the mill story line. No, Placebo Junkies is edgy, it's raw, it deals with an extremely tough subject, and it makes you live it right alongside the narrator.
Placebo Junkies it written in two styles, first person POV from Audie and satirical blog posts. It's humorous, sarcastic, and a little bit depressing. As you weave yourself into the world of pharmaceutical drug trials things get a little turned upside down and the twists come at you when you least expect them to. The characters are twisted, they aren't perfect or beautiful, and they will make you pretty introspective. You see, nothing is what it seems in this book and as you unravel the story your mind unravels a teensy bit with it.
This book will make you uneasy, it will make you think a lot, and it will also make you take a look at your world around you. While this is a work of fiction, the author shares that parts of it really are real life for some people. It also brings some serious mental issues that people are often afraid to talk about to the table. J.C. Carleson not only has you experiencing it with our narrator, but sympathizing as Audie's history comes to light. I gave this book four stars, because of how badly it messed with my own psyche after I closed the book. I got 80% of the way through, shut it and walked away for an entire day, because I felt so uncomfortable. It isn't a bad thing, while frightening, it is an important topic to cover and I think this book does it better than any other I've seen try to scratch the surface. Yes, it is a Young Adult novel, but I think this darkly humorous book is one than everyone should take the time to read, young or old. I'd like to see this book be a book club read, I think it is absolutely worth having a discussion about.
I would like to thank Random House Children's Books for providing a copy in exchange for my honest review.
The Good: I'm that kind of person who tends to watch videos of research experiments on Youtube, so the premise of Placebo Junkies was right up my alley. It also helped that you could tell that the author did tons of research when it came to guinea pigs, so there was this huge blast of reality throughout this whole book. Another thing that I loved was how...different Placebo Junkies was. Basically, take every YA trope you know (insta-love, love triangles, etc, etc.) and throw it all out the window. This book has none of those "been there, done that" tropes. And if there's something I like more than creeping on research experiments is a unique book.
However, one thing that trumps my love of research experiments and unique books is flawed, yet strong female characters. Audie was all this and more. Now, I didn't LOVE Audie (it's kind of hard to), but I appreciated the hell out of her. For the most part, she seemed true to herself (whatever that self may be) and didn't really take crap from anybody. That's my kind of heroine. Yes, she was flawed as hell, but she was entertaining (a big plus) and a character filled to the brim with depth.
One thing that I was kind of 'eh' about was the supporting characters. I just expected...more from them. I would've liked to know their background a bit more as well as had some more questions answered. The one thing that bothered me the most was how anti-climactic I found Placebo Junkies to be. However, the fault of that does not lie in the book. What I consider to be a mild spoiler below:
It's really hard to be shocked by a twist when everyone and their freaking mother is going on and on about how unreliable the narrator is. That right there tells me that I shouldn't believe a word that narrator is telling me. I consider that to be a huge spoiler. And had that been tagged appropriately under a spoiler alert on both Goodreads and Amazon, I would have enjoyed Placebo Junkies more. I wouldn't have been able to see the twist coming. But again, since every review blatantly referenced the unreliable narrator, I guessed the twist and went into this book expecting it. Not cool.
End of minor spoiler.
Anyway, for the most part, I enjoyed Placebo Junkies. It was different. And after reading tons and tons of YA books with the same kind of plot, filled with the same kind of tropes, this book was extremely refreshing. Highly recommended.
This is Trainspotting. It's updated, modern, and kind of heart rending. But it's definitely Trainspotting. And, while the clinical trial stuff is fascinating and the pharma stuff is interesting, they aren't what the book is about.
It's about lost boys and girls - kids who are dying to feel something - anything at all. It's about what's real and what's not. It's how you escape reality and how your heart just wants to feel something, even if all you can feel is pain.
Is Audie unreliable? Sure. But everything she tells you is true to her.
This book is most definitely not for everyone. It's edgy, painful, and hardcore. It's not pretty, but it feels real, even in its unreality.
Recommended for an audience who can deal with a little edge.
Most recent customer reviews
I’m not even sure how to word my review, honestly. I guess I’ll stick to the basics.Read more
This book is captivating, unique, devastating, heartbreaking, and utterly brilliant. I couldn't put it down.Read more
Audie finds herself out on her own after a horrible start to life and she finds that she can support herself with no questions asked by becoming a test...Read more
How do I even write this review? Where do I start?Read more
I wanted to read Placebo Junkies because I am drawn to stories about illness and the idea of putting yourself through medical procedures...Read more