‘Clean’ – Juno Dawson

Clean. To be clean involves removing dirt. And, in this, there’s A LOT of dirt.

Due for release in April 2018, I was fortunate enough to receive an ARC of this latest release from Juno Dawson. It brought back memories of the first time I read ‘Junk’ by Melvin Burgess, and I sincerely hope that this does not get ignored because people think teen readers can’t handle such topics.

We first meet our main character, Lexi, as she is passed out in her brother’s car on her way to a rehabilitation centre for heroin addiction. I’d read the opening some time ago, but it was just as disorientating and confusing this time around. Watching Lexi go through the first steps in her seventy day treatment is hard to read.

Dawson packs a serious punch here and we get a warts-and-all account of not just Lexi’s addiction but those with her in the centre. We relive some of the experiences that bring Lexi to this point and, though there were some alarming situations, there was no scare-mongering ‘just say no’ preaching.

What this novel conveyed so well was the deception that someone who is addicted might practise. Particularly on their sense of self. If you surround yourself with enablers, it’s easy to deny you have a problem.

Initially I did not think Lexi would be a character I felt much for. But, thankfully, she is not simply a shallow spoilt little rich girl. She, like a lot of the other characters we meet, is lost and needs help finding her place. As we learn more about Lexi it becomes easier to see beyond the persona she presents to the world.

There was a sense of knowingness to ‘Clean’. Sometimes the first attempt at rehabilitation is unsuccessful, but it doesn’t mean you should stop trying. There were moments of humour within this – which I wasn’t really expecting – and I found myself wanting to know more about some of the other characters Lexi meets. I also found myself really irritated by Lexi’s so-called friends and the ‘rich absent’ parents who seemed to be being held more than accountable for their childrens’ issues.

While it doesn’t give us all the answers, it certainly raises some interesting questions.