Depression, teenage drinking and abuse; some heavy topics converge in Toxic, a novel by Nicci Cloke that could have been the ultimate YA summer read, but just wasn’t.
Toxic by Nicci Cloke
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary
Published: 26th July, 2018
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Hope has never been happier. She’s on her way to Crete, after a group of her friends have made her an honorary ‘lad’ and let her tag along on their boys’ holiday. There’s a slight complication in that one of those boys, Logan, is Hope’s ex-boyfriend, but they’re still friends and Hope’s pretty confident it won’t be too awkward.
The next couple of days are exactly what Hope was hoping for – lazy days in the sun, and long, drunken conversations. She can’t help but notice that Logan’s flirting with her. Logan and Hope end up alone and Hope is horrified when, after she leans in to kiss him, Logan completely rejects her.
Embarrassed and annoyed, Hope is on a mission to get drunk, and with the alcohol flowing, and the sun going down, Hope’s starts having a great time.
The next thing Hope knows, she’s being woken up on the beach by two strangers. It’s 9 o’clock the next morning and she can’t remember anything about the previous night . . . what on earth happened?
Again, this was one of those cases where my expectations not only didn’t meet reality, but weren’t even close. Based on the blurb I thought there will be some mystery surrounding the unfortunate events that befell poor Hope who went on a “lad’s holiday” and got thoroughly fucked up. But no, sir!
Toxic is basically a collection of three stories involving Hope, Logan and Daisy, that blur into each other through the characters’ slightly messed up relationship to one another.
The only reason why I don’t think Toxic is a complete waste of space and time is because it touches upon some important topics that are relatable whether you are a teenager, like our main characters, an adult, or a parent of a teen. Is getting hammered really the best way to have a good time? If you can’t talk to your best friend about personal stuff, is he really your best friend? What if the worst bully in your life is not an asshole from school, but one of your parents? What is consent?
For Hope, Logan, Zack and the other guys in this story having a good time means getting absolutely smashed, often to the point of passing out. If nobody puked their guts out during a party, the night was not successful. I’m not sure where this idea comes from, but I must say, I encountered this sort of opinion way more often ever since I moved to England. The amount of people who considers getting stupid drunk a success and are actually proud of it are just alarmingly high, and I’m not talking about only teenagers, but some of my colleagues also share this sentiment. Mind boggling, really…
After one of these parties poor Hope ends up on the beach, completely alone. What happened to her? She has no clue, and her “friends” are no help either, simply because they abandoned her. Some friends, eh? The mystery is never solved, and it’s up to her to come to terms with it. Tough titties, but so often in life this is just how things are. It’s up to you to learn from your mistakes.
If you are still confused whether I actually liked this book or not, you are not alone. On one hand, the stories could have carried more power if they hadn’t gotten lost into tiny details, like for example the very detailed list of alcoholic drinks these kids guzzled down on a daily basis was quite unnecessary, or shit like having to spend some time trying to figure out what were text messages between characters and what are only their personal thoughts, because there was no indication of who’s texting, and it got a bit too much when they were on the group chat. Like, maybe using italics would help. No? But on the other hand, I think Nicci Cloke managed to capture the essence of being a teenager very well. You know, the classic “I have no idea what I’m doing but I won’t ask for help, because reasons“. We’ve all been there.
Depression, attempted rape and how some people treat gay people were handled really well, and yay for the author for not falling into the trap we’ve probably all seen, where mental illness is magically cured, or the bully suddenly turns into a nice guy just because happy endings are cute. Just like in real life, some characters will remain assholes and refuse to see just how wrong they are, and make friends with other assholes who validate their opinions, some will learn how to live with some shit that happened to them, while others will realize there’s no harm in being honest with the people who are there to help them.
While this book was far from being wow, there are some great messages hidden under all that rabble, and considering how short it is, you might just want to give it a try.
I received a copy from the publisher via NetGalley, but the opinions are my own.