Renowned YA author Jacqueline Woodson writes poetically about an intense and sobering subject: teenage drug addiction. BENEATH A METH MOON is a touching novel that challenges many commonly held notions about teenage drug use and the way society treats young addicts --- the idea that addicts begin with a lesser substance, that they are troubled kids, that they lack good parental support, that most are criminals or misfits, that addiction doesn’t happen to smart, good kids. This is the story of a good-natured girl who falls easily into a haze of invisibility, a peculiar kind of elegy to family and friends who support and inspire substance abusers, and to the twisted poetry of “the moon,” the euphoric substance with deadly appeal for those with a death wish.
"This is a transformative novel I would highly recommend to any young adult reader, and every parent or adult who seeks a better understanding of the nature and victims of deadly substances."
By all standards, Laurel Daneau was a good girl before using meth. She came from a loving Southern family and was a cheerleader in her Mississippi high school, the new kid in town who had made a few solid friends and had shown fair prospects. But her emotional troubles began long before using meth or becoming friendless and hopeless. Laurel lost her mother and grandmother in a tragic flood during a hurricane that hit much of Mississippi hard and left the family drifting.
Laurel’s father was unaware of the degree of Laurel’s emotional displacement when he moved the family away from their home at Pass Christian, Mississippi, to live with relatives in Galilee. He had been dealing with his own grief along with his daughter’s and was just hoping to “make a new start.” Unfortunately, Laurel was still in shock even while attempting to relive many cherished childhood memories. Ironically, her grandmother’s words would become prophetic and redeeming for her: “While you’re living…It’s the rocks in your life that will stand by you. Your words, your friends, your family.”
This girl’s complex psychological state is revealed very subtly and makes for some interesting reading from beginning to end. Obviously there is some increased susceptibility to peer pressure here and dangerous modes of coping. In no time at all, after her first use of “the moon,” Laurel becomes a deranged beggar, her family unaware of her whereabouts and her father worried sick about her as she’s out begging, unsettled, freezing, and nearly starving to death on the streets --- but still in denial. It is too easy for “respectable society” to forget and ignore kids like her, people who do nothing more than throw a coin and not look at or recognize the homeless --- something most of us are guilty of, a simple means by which we deal with our feelings of guilt, worry and disgust. Were it not for the saving grace of true friends, children like Laurel wouldn’t stand a chance at recovering from serious drug addictions.
BENEATH A METH MOON is intoxicating, very artistic and emotive. It will capture hearts even while it educates readers about the complex, difficult experiences and mindsets of drug-addicted teens. Woodson is very honest in her writing style and provides a direct but caring perspective for teenagers and parents. She also provides an equal focus on society’s ill treatment of the homeless, a marginalized group that is much too easily discarded and forgotten by everyone but their own families. This is a transformative novel I would highly recommend to any young adult reader, and every parent or adult who seeks a better understanding of the nature and victims of deadly substances.
Reviewed by Melanie Smith on March 23, 2012
Beneath a Meth Moon