If you think I have spoiled the ending of Heroine by Mindy McGinnis with the following quote, I have not. This is how the book begins.
My advice? No matter your age, your stage in life or position in society? Buy the book. Shut up and open your mind. If you do not heed the warnings and take in the brutal honesty wrapped in a gripping fictional story? You or someone you know, care for or love will fall victim to the opioid crisis terrorizing the nation.
Thank you to Edelweiss and Katherine Tegan/Harper Collins
for an Arc in exchange for an honest review.
McGinnis’ strongest impact is her ability to weave the warning signs, points of possible of intercessions and root causes for the main character’s spiral into addiction within a fictional narrative. It is never preachy, continually gripping and fearless in its portrayal of not just the impact of the main character but the family, closest friends and new friends throughout the narrative.
Mickey Catalan is the star catcher of her baseball team when a horrific ghastly car accident gravely injures both her and the star pitcher. Both are prescribed oxycontin but it only Mickey is sent on a spiral that leads to heroin.
It starts before she ever leaves the hospital with a nurse that is trying to just ease her pain.
The nurse notices and puts a button in my hand, curling my fingers around it. ” For the pain, ” she says. I push it. I push it until the pain is dull and the room is fuzzy. I push it until I can’t tell Mom’s voice from the doctor’s. I push it until I’m floating. I can’t hear words like options, therapy, and graft. I push it because I can’t be here right now, and that button is the only way I can leave.
Right then Mickey finds her escape. Not just from the pain but from life. The problem is there is much more than the accident that Mickey realizes, over time that she needs to escape. With the best of intentions, her parents have put her on a pedestal, her team has put her on a pedestal, her small town in Ohio has put her on an impossible pressure packed pedestal of sports phenom that can’t fail.
Problem is, that isn’t the only hole in her life Mickey and her parents don’t realize she hasn’t dealt with that needs to be filled. I don’t want to spoil everything that is going on in Mickey’s life. Suffice to say, oxycontin doesn’t just become a source of pain relief but a place to run from things that she doesn’t even know she’s running from until it is too late.
Add her denial into the mix. She doesn’t see herself as an addict. Why would she? Like most she has a picture of an addict in her mind. She doesn’t fit that picture. Mickey sees addicts and junkies as she refers to them often as in a very certain context. She’s still the star catcher of her team. She is still getting good grades in school.
Like many addicts that are in denial right now Mickey think she has everything under control. She has moved on to heroin, but she knows just how and when to take it. So, she can play, so she can have be who her team needs her to be and then who she who she wants to be and escape all the pressure, guilt and realization that what used to be enough, no longer works. Being in control and compartmentalizing her two different selves is no longer working.
McGinnis’ ability to write Mickey’s conflict with herself through her inner dialogue brings readers into the story and emotional confusion of Mickey’s daily struggle to life. From the feelings of initial euphoria to withdrawal then to just not caring at all about anything.
With other pressures now mounting not to mention growing self-hatred, we follow right along through Mickey’s distressing point of view. Is it rationalization that she doesn’t want to disrupt the lives of her team, her family and friends? Because doing so would mean giving up this new-found freedom, relief from the pain, anguish and pressures she has been bottling up for so long?
Or is it truly that she wants to come clean about all the lies, all the escalating abominable actions she has taken, as addiction grips her tighter and drags her further and further into an abyss she can’t control?
I will leave Mickey’s story here for the sake of spoilers but move to those that love, care and love her. Throughout the story many friends and family members see signs. They have gut feelings and red flags are apparent. Mickey quickly learns to lie, play on the emotions of the ones she loves most or distance from those she can.
However, one thing I believe this story can do the most good is save lives through bringing out in the open that by not ignoring these warning signs, by banning together as a group of those that care and being willing to push even when those you suspect make you feel guilty or wrong for accusing them, you can stop addiction before it gets worse.
Friends start to disappear. Family members start to feel guilty and fight amongst themselves. If they had just talked to each other. If they had just pushed a little harder when their gut told them something was wrong, that the girl they knew and loved just wasn’t the same. Things could have been much different and not just for Mickey, but for others in the story, as well.
It is essential that communication among everyone in the lives of anyone suspected to be in the grips of any kind of addiction communicate. McGinnis does a brilliant job showing how dangerous it is when it is hidden. When family members, circles of the closest of friends say that we can talk to them about anything but just don’t mean it. When shame, pride or the need to believe your little girl is still right in front of you, not a change in that girl, gets in the way of being able to help her, instead the results can be catastrophic.
It is the community, from those that interact with a person every day to work together, communicate and just say- hey, maybe it is something or maybe it is nothing- but I just noticed- is your kid ok? Lately, they just seem- off. You never know what those five seconds can do. Heroine shows us that we can no longer let shame get in the way of support. Asking the addict is easy because they know how to lie. Asking enough of those that care? Those that care asking each other? That, to be apropos to the book, is a whole other ball game.
Again, and I can’t stress this enough, Heroine is out on 3/12. In the back there are numerous resources for support if you or someone you know may be struggling with addiction.
*A side note: there is a bestselling memoir called the Heroin Diaries by Nikki Sixx. This is not for the faint of heart. Is much more graphic, disturbing and descriptive in nature (as it should be, being it is literally his diaries during the throws of his heroin addiction). It was a New York Times best seller. I don’t suggest reading it before reading Heroine. However, should you want a non-fiction account (many who didn’t know anything about Motley Crue nor his being a part of the band say the book saved their lives) of what heroin addiction can do to anyone (even a famous and rich rock star who has it all), I suggest it highly. *
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