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Author: Lisa Luedeke
May Contain Spoilers
A field hockey star grapples with addiction in this riveting debut that will appeal to fans of Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak.
Stay out of trouble for one more year, and Katie Martin can leave her small town loneliness behind forever. She is a field hockey star on the fast track to a college scholarship, but her relationship with alcohol has always been a little questionable. Then trouble finds her. Alec is the most popular guy in school, and also the biggest bully—with his sights set firmly on Katie. When Alec turns on the charm, Katie thinks she must have been wrong about him.
Except that she wasn’t. On a rain-soaked, alcohol-drenched night, one impulsive decision leaves Katie indebted to Alec in the worst possible way. This debut novel is a fast-paced and compelling story of addiction, heartbreak, and redemption.
I am not going to lie. Parts of Smashed left me angry and frustrated. It’s a hard book to put down, because Katie’s life is such a train wreck. While I found it engrossing, I am torn about it. I wanted to like Katie more than I did, but there are many times throughout the narrative that she is unlikable, and hard to relate to. She is struggling with her father’s rejection of her family, and when Alec is nice to her, she ignores her reservations about him and starts falling for him. With a distant, distracted mother who is never there for her, she craves what Alec is giving her; attention and kindness. When he shows a darker side, she is frightened, but when he apologizes for his abusive behavior, she forgives him, and puts herself at risk again. Katie doesn’t trust adults, and frankly, who can blame her after taking a long, hard look at her parents, so she instead tries to deal with all of her problems by herself. She doesn’t even confide in her closest friends that she is in over her head with Alec. Instead, she decides to deal with him herself, but her way of dealing with him can only have one outcome, and it isn’t a pretty one.
Alec and his friends are the kings of her school, and they have a reputation for being bullies and getting away with crap. When their paths start crossing during the summer, Katie starts to think that she’s been wrong about him. He’s attentive and kind, and he’s there to listen as she vents about her family. Sure, a couple of things don’t add up, and he gets aggressive about a physical relationship, but Katie convinces herself that she’s sending him the wrong signals. She just wants to be friends. But the more she pushes him away, the harder he pushes back, until he has her scared and wary of him. When a drunk driving accident almost kills them both, Katie has to live the consequences of a very bad decision. In the months that follow, she puts her dream of playing field hockey in college, a scholarship, and even her life in danger.
I was so upset with some of the choices that Katie made. There is pressure on her and her teammates to not get caught partying during the season, or they will be kicked off the team. Instead of drinking publically, Katie starts drinking at home. Her mother is never there, so it’s not like anyone is going to know or care. Her mother is more focused on her job and finding a boyfriend to be there for Katie and her younger brother. Without positive role models, Katie is struggling to find her place and struggling to deal with the challenges she is facing. I kept wondering if and when her mother would take a step back from her own life and take an interest in her children’s. I also felt horribly sad that Katie felt so abandoned and alone. She feels that she has no one, so she starts drinking to forget all of her problems.
I don’t feel that Alec’s personality was developed enough, and I was disappointed at Alec’s lack of depth. I never felt that I got to know him or understand him. He’s just a one-dimensional jerk whose only purpose in the story is to propel Katie down a path of self-destruction.
If you enjoy contemporary fiction that deal with social issues, I think you will enjoy Smashed. It is a compelling and hard to put down read, and even though I didn’t always like Katie, I always sympathized with her.
Review copy obtained from my local library