Clean by Juno Dawson

Image result for clean by juno dawsonA few weeks ago I entered a giveaway by another book blogger. Rebecca writes mostly (but not entirely) about young adult literature and you can find her blog here - she reviews books for adults too but I think if you're a teenager, have a teenager in your life you'd like to buy books for or if you're an adult who enjoys YA books, you'll find it really informative, particularly if you're keen to find books that are a bit more inclusive in terms of the types of characters they represent.

Anyway - through her giveaway I was lucky enough to win two YA books of my choice from Wordery and one the books I chose was Clean by Juno Dawson. I've read some of Juno's previous books and enjoyed them. She writes for a young adult audience and the books of hers that I've read have been smart, lively horror thrillers with teenage protagonists - great fun.

Clean is a little different to those but I have to say, I really loved it. It's the story of Lexi Volkov, the teenage daughter of a billionaire Russian hotelier now mainly resident in the UK. Lexi is a well-known London socialite (she's so well-known, in fact, that there's a House of Holland t-shirt with her name on it).

At the start of the book, Lexi wakes up in the back of a car as she's driven to an ultra-exclusive island rehab facility after her brother discovers she's been using heroin. The rest of the book is the story of Lexi's troubled road to recovery, but it's also a thought-provoking exploration of how utterly damaging Lexi's very specific brand of privilege can be. One thing that's particularly notable is that Lexi and her friends constantly socialise with adults who have absolute no interest in their welfare and never acknowledge that they're children. Lexi herself meets her much older boyfriend, Kurt, at a friend's 16th birthday in an exclusive bar. Lexi is astutely perceptive of the people around her and at times extremely self-aware. She introduces herself as being 17, but "about 28, in socialite years" and she knows exactly how the media takes a creepy pleasure in watching little girls in the public eye "ripen and spoil" with adolescence.

Kurt, however, is her blind spot, along with the scale of her addiction, and Lexi makes some painfully terrible decisions which will absolutely make you want to shake her. She's spoilt, lazy, cynical and sometimes downright cruel. Despite all this, though, she's also extremely clever and few people are more aware of Lexi's faults than Lexi herself, even when she finds it hard to admit it. Plus, Lexi is witty, sharp and fully understanding of her own immense privilege - wary of being seen as the 'poor little rich girl' she's rarely self-pitying. Moreover, while she's prone to bitchiness and often hard on others, she does remain loyal to the few people she really loves. She's a complicated character who is by turns obnoxious and charming, and as such I found her a compelling narrator.

I was about to say that the plot is relatively straightforward, but it's only now I've come to write this review that I've realised how much there actually is going on in this book. There are revelations aplenty - some large, some small - to keep you turning the pages and in addition to Lexi's recovery from addiction there's a romance subplot and a flashback sequence to a trauma from Lexi's past and the destructive relationships that led to it. Lexi's fellow patients at the rehab facility are a pleasingly diverse bunch and frankly each worthy of a book of their own.

Given the luxuriousness of Clean's rehab facility this isn't a gritty tale like, say, Junk (although I have to say, I did actually find Clean more enjoyable), and if you're buying this for a teenager it probably helps to be aware of that. There were times when I quite fancied a stay at the Clarity Centre myself, what with all the Calvin Klein pyjamas, equestrian centre and healthy gourmet meals, and I think there are some elements of Lexi's lifestyle that might have seemed seductively edgy to me when I was a teenager. But equally, it doesn't shy away from the grimmer realities of opiate withdrawal and addiction-fuelled behaviours and it doesn't make Lexi's path towards recovery look easy.

Despite some harrowing moments, Clean is often very funny, full of sharp observations, entertaining details and smart dialogue and as an adult reader I greatly enjoyed it.