First impressions: Oh, Nan. Poor, poor Nan. Twice in the opening chapters we see her waking up from being blackout drunk – once as a memory, and once to set the plot in motion in real time. Adrienne Maria Vrettos writes these so picture perfectly that I actually winced. Nan’s predicament is unsettling and upsetting, which sets up nicely the tone for the entire book.
Lasting impressions: Although this was an interesting book, I’m not sure it has the punch to make this one everlasting for me.
Conflicting impressions: While some aspects were extremely true to life, other parts had me shaking my head in disbelief.
Overall impressions: In general, Nan’s story is not a happy one. This is no feel-good tale. I think the summary is a pretty big clue, but the opening chapters are certainly going to weed out the ones who want to read this and the ones who should probably close it up quickly and back away. Either you want to experience life through a teen’s blackout drunk phase or you don’t.
I hesitate to use the term “alcoholic” only because Adrienne Maria Vrettos dodges the term herself. Nan is an abuser, but mostly at the whims of her best friend, Seemy. She goes to sort of “rehab lite” and acknowledges that it wasn’t the most hardcore of programs. Nan seemed more like a lost girl caught up in the peer pressure of Seemy’s crazy existence rather than a bona fide alcoholic.
The book is told in alternating chapters of Nan in the present, slowly piecing together the last 24 hours that she can’t remember, and vignettes from the past. We see how she met her friends Toad and Seemy, how she handles waking up in strange places, how she relates to her mother and little brother. Nan is insecure, and drawn to the vivacious Seemy like a moth to a flame. Based on the few interactions we see with her, it’s not hard to follow how Nan could end up where this story begins.
Although it was interesting finding out how Nan woke up on the subway in a tiny Halloween costume, I didn’t connect to the bigger life lessons here. Beyond the obvious – don’t drink so much and don’t be friends with people who suck – there isn’t a lot of meat to this story. Vrettos hints at growth in Nan’s relationship with her mother, and even at growth in her own self-confidence, but at under 200 pages, this quick read didn’t quite nail the heart of these issues.
I felt the friendship with Seemy was well-executed, and I found their exploits to be quite imaginative, if a little over-dramatic. When Nan realizes who or what is responsible for her blackout, the plot veers into a scenario I found a little hard to believe. Was it exciting to read? Yes. Did I think that’s what would have really happened? No effing way. Part of my disappointment with the book is that I felt it would have more impact if it had a more realistic ending. It was like I was watching the made-for-TV version of real events, when the actual story is more compelling than the media hyped version.
Bottom line is that this is a good mystery set around the bitter effects of drinking too much. Nan is a sympathetic character that finds herself in the most awful of circumstances, but ultimately rises to face the challenges of her day head-on.
Rating: 3/5 stars
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