Thursday, August 29, 2019

Opioid, Indiana by Brian Allen Carr

What a strange book. OPIOID, INDIANA paints a rather desolate portrait of Middle America under the Trump presidency. Riggle is a transplant from Texas, and in every comparison to the Lone Star State, Indiana ends up falling short. Orphaned, Riggle lives with his drug addict uncle and his uncle's girlfriend, in a town infamous for drug use and abuse, and a host of characters who are all backwards and dysfunctional in their own way.

When his guidance counselor frames him for drug use and gets him suspended as a result, Riggle has a week to himself. As he looks for his missing uncle to have him pay the rent and does some job hunting and soul-searching, Riggle is haunted by memoirs of his late mother and the stories she used to tell him, accompanied by shadow puppets, about her own rather bizarre take on mythology, including how the days of the week were named.

OPIOID, INDIANA is one of the few books I've read that really gets the edgy voice of a young adult right. Riggle is a dysfunctional teen, and you believe it, 100%. At times, it reminded me of a less elegantly written WHITE OLEANDER because of how successfully it portrayed people living on the fringe. I do think it gets a little too weird, though, especially at the end. OPIOID, INDIANA is not a book for everyone, but its raw takes on racism, the toxic cultures of small towns, politics, grief, and injustice are pretty well done, and the odd mythology elements were reminiscent of Tanith Lee's Flat Earth mythos.

If you're looking for something different that will grab teens' attention and not let go, I do think that this book has the ability to appeal to reluctant readers looking for characters they see themselves in.

Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review!

3.5 out of 5 stars

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