Toxic by Nicci Cloke

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
Goodreads | Bookdepository | Amazon UK
Series: N/A
Rating: 3

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.



  1. I always love coming over and reading your reviews because you give it to us straight. After reading your review I really feel like I learned something about the novel, and it’s no different this time. There’s some good and some bad about this novel and it feels like real life is relayed in this novel! I think it doesn’t hold enough mystery and intrigue for me but interesting review Norrie!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, i think it has an important message to young readers especially! It just feels like the blurb was sort of misleading. I expected a mystery, but this was more like a “how to not get into trouble 101 for teens”


  2. Lovely review, Norrie, thank you so much for sharing this! It always amazes me, whenever in stories or in real life, people consider that you have to get stupidly drunk to call a night a success or something. I mean, WHY. Well that’s a whole other question, but it’s something that ALWAYS bothers me haha. Anywaaaaaay haha onto the book, I feel like this book has some great messages and I’m so glad it didn’t fall into the “mental illness magically cures” etc, but I’m not sure if this is a read I’d end up enjoying. I’d have to think about it πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Misleading blurbs are so frustrating, I hate when they really focus on something in the book, like that mystery, but… well, in the end it really isn’t πŸ˜‚

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Such a fair review. I appreciate that you highlight both the good but also point out to the not so good! I always fall for messaging in book though, that’s that inner aspiring life coach in me… can’t help it. I might check it out. πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Great review Norrie. Glad to hear about the themes being well portrayed. The text thing and the list of drinks does sound frustrating. I also don’t get why anyone would think shit-faced drunk is a good thing. Where is the fun in that? This sounds like an interesting read though not sure it would be for me.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I feel like this book would the quite appealing to teenagers, but as adults, we might not connect that well to the characters, hence i was feeling undecisive.


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