“There were kids like us all over rural America, I’d find out later; we were basically statistics, Marlena especially, members of a numb army, ranks growing by the day. Alone in our bedrooms, falling asleep in class, meeting in parking lots and the middle of the woods….Now it strikes me as a profoundly American thing – an epidemic that started as an abuse of the cure, a disease we made ourselves. But what did I know of America? Back then I had been infected with a chronic political apathy, a symptom, maybe, of being part of a family that was always barely scraping by, conditioned to be wary of the system.” This is definitely the saddest book I have read so far this year, but I thought it was so beautifully written. Julie Buntin has given us a gritty coming of age novel that focuses on the friendship between Cat (a studious new comer to the dead end town of Silver Lake) and Marlena (the tough, beautiful, pill popping girl next door). This is a heavy read, as Buntin takes us into a world of addiction and poverty that two teenage girls are trying to navigate their way through, with only one coming out on the other side. There are a hundred reasons why I found this book so incredibly, heartbreakingly sad, (don’t get me started on poor little Sal), but none more so than the depiction of Marlena’s addictive behavior. I have watched close friends struggle with their own demons as they fought to have the power to walk away from pills and alcohol and I thought Buntin gave an insightful, accurate account of it. Buntin does not glamourize addiction in this novel -- she puts it out there in all its realistic ugliness and yet writes with an empathy and compassionate tone even when her characters are spiraling into the abyss. Tragic andpoignant, this book is about the choices and the friendships we make that forever shape us. 4.5/5 stars.