Posted by : Deborah Takahashi Thursday, April 26, 2012

Plot Summary:
Madeline, or Mad Dog Maddie, has landed herself to rehab. After getting arrested, stealing a car, sleeping with a drug dealer, years of drug abuse, and one heck of a temper, she is placed in a drug rehabilitation program to gain control over her life. After spending twenty-eight days in a hospital facility, she has to live in a sober-living home where she is shacked up with women twice her age and holds down a job at the laundry facility. Although she managed to make friends with a girl named Trish (two years older than her), when Trish leave, Maddie isolates herself from the rest of her housemates, counting down the days until she goes home. Once a week, a van picks her up in front of Spring Meadows home and takes her to the movies. Known as Recovery Road, Maddie took this trip with Trish, but not, she as all alone. However, when Stewart stepped into the van, Maddie's world is changed forever. Maddie and Stewart, both former addicts, instantly find comfort in each other, which brings about feelings that go beyond friends. When Maddie's time is up, she promises Stewart that she will wait for him and continue to stay sober. Now that Maddie is back at school, not only are the temptations back, she has to find new friends, get her grades back on track, and fight off the awkwardness of her disappearance. Despite having to transition into the real world again, Maddie actually does all right and with the help of Martin, her new dork friend, she might be able to achieve the possible: sobriety and have hope that everything will be okay.

Critical Evaluation:
Blake Nelson has written a very candid, yet inspiring story of a teen fighting for her life. As much as we don't want to acknowledge teen drug abuse, its heartbreaking and devastating how rampant drug addiction is amongst this age group. Maddie is a great character because when we first met her, she didn't have a care in the world  and very little self respect. As she meets Trish, Stewart, Martin, and Emily, Maddie's  development is so inspiring because not only did she had grow up quickly, she had to face the temptation and relapse all on her own. Although her classmates are partying it up and not worrying about the repercussions, Maddie is living proof when the fun takes over and leaves everything in shambles. Unlike Trish and Stewart, Maddie hasn't hurt anyone, but herself, and because of these examples, she takes her fate into her hands and decides she wants to be a normal, healthy teenager. In many aspects, this story provides a cautionary tale for those who dabble in drugs, but; more importantly, provides readers who are lost with hope that they can change their ways. Along with providing an important lesson, Nelson doesn't hold back when it comes to consequences. The death of Ashley's sister and Stewart's fate are solid examples when individuals are just not able to say no due to lack of support or faith in themselves. Although Maddie tries to tell Ashely that she needs to stop, it really oils down to a person wanting to change. Sure, Ashely could have gone to rehab, but she has to have the will to stay sober. Although we don't get the happy ending we are hoping for, we are left feeling that Maddie will do just fine and will continue to thrive and grow. I am seriously mesmerized by Nelson's ability to capture the voice of of such a dynamic female character, starting from the vulnerable bad girl, to the confident, goal-oriented, and happy woman she is at the end of the story. Bravo, Blake Nelson!

Information about the Author:
Blake Nelson is from Portland Oregon. He has degrees from Wesleyan and New York University. Nelson has written twelve young adult novels and Girl and Paranoid Park have been made into films. According to his blog:
His science fiction novel THEY CAME FROM BELOW was a Kliatt Editors Choice pick in 2008. His 2006 novel PARANOID PARK was made into a film by Gus Van Sant which won the Cannes Special Anniversary Prize Award in 2006.   The book won Italy's Grinzane Literary award.

His environmentalist book DESTROY ALL CARS has been praised as "Smart and Entertaining" by the New York Times, and was called "A wonderful novel" by the Los Angeles Times. 
He newest title, Dream School, is the sequel to Girl where "Vanity Fair called Andrea Marr of both books,  a "bright, sensitive, Sassy-era Holden Caulfield for tortured good girls."

Teen Contemporary Fiction, Teen Romance

Reading Level/Interest:
Grades 9 & up

Books Similar to Recovery Road:
Awards & Recognition:
  • Starred Review Horn Book Magazine (3/1/2011)
  • Starred Review Kirkus (1/10/2011)

{ 1 comments... read them below or add one }

  1. Wow, you simplified the whole book so amazingly.


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Deborah Takahashi
Pasadena, CA, United States
My name is Deb and I am a Librarian who absolutely loves to read and recommend books to teen and tween readers. In this blog, you will find reviews on a variety resources ranging from books, movies, video games, and much more. Please feel free to leave any feedback, especially book recommendations!
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