Review: (You) Set Me on Fire

(You) Set Me on Fire
Mariko Tamaki
Penguin Canada
2012
9780143180937

Allison has been burned in the past – literally and figuratively. A failed high school romance resulted in emotional and physical scars, but now Allison is off to college, where she can be whoever she wants to be. When she meets Shar outside a frat party, Allison is instantly drawn to her. The two quickly become inseparable, blowing off school to party and making fun of the “normal” girls in their student residence. As their friendship begins to become toxic, will Allison once again go down in flames?

I was inspired to read this book after hearing author Mariko Tamaki read from it at The Word on the Street in September. I guess this book could be considered part of the emerging “new adult” trend since it is about the college experience. I found this to be a nice change from reading about younger teens in high school. While I can’t say my university life was anything like Allison’s, having recently finished graduate school at a school where last night’s partying was a frequent topic of discussion among the undergrads on the bus, I can still somewhat relate. Allison finds herself in a number of awkward situations throughout the book, and these stories, such as getting sick from too many shots after climbing the “Tower of Power” at a frat party, are laugh-out-loud funny. Tamaki does an excellent job of capturing a young adult’s dialogue and worldview. Readers will cringe at Allison’s misfortunes while still rooting for her to get her life in order.

Review: Nice Recovery

Nice Recovery
Susan Juby
Viking Canada
2010
9780670069170

This gripping memoir tells the story of author Susan Juby’s addiction to alcohol. As a socially awkward teen in a small town, Juby turned to alcohol to ease her through social situations. Her heavy drinking led to fights with friends, random hookups, and waking up in a strange place after blacking out. Though she always vowed never to drink again, she continued her turbulent relationship with alcohol until finally seeking help at 20 – an age when most of her peers were partying heavily.

This book was so good I couldn’t put it down, finishing in just over a day. Juby doesn’t try to glamourize her substance abuse but instead presents her story in an honest and often self-deprecating manner that can still cause the reader to smile despite the tragedy unfolding. At the end of the book, Juby presents the stories of other young people in recovery and discusses resources of interest to those struggling with substance abuse. A powerful read.