Posted by : Deborah Takahashi Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Plot Summary:
When Hurricane Katrina hit the town of Pass Christian, Laurel's happiness washed away with the deaths of her mother and grandmother (M'Lady). After moving to a new city, Laurel tried to start all over again, but no matter how many stories she told, or wrote, those stories could not heal the pain and then she met Kaylee. After moving to Galilee, from Jackson, Mississippi, Kaylee showed up on Laurel's doorstep at the right time because she never felt so alive. Just when things couldn't get better, Laurel tried out for the cheer squad and then she met T-Boom. T-Boom was everything a girl could want, but it was the blue tattoo that said "Gumbo" that reminds her of M'Lady's gourmet gumbo and the smell of the salt and the sea, T-Boom was Laurel's savior and nothing could be more perfect until T-Boom opened up the dime bag of Moon. How could she refuse or question the man she was going to love for the rest of her life, but Laurel had no idea what his kiss and powder would lead her to. What should have been a perfect life led to events that not only shattered her family, and friendship with Kaylee, Laurel's addiction led her to places that she never meant to be. T-Boom promised her that one day they would get clean, but it seemed that day would never come and then Moses appeared. Luckily for Laurel, she finally found the angel M'Lady was always talking about because it was his words that forced her to make another difficult choice: go to rehab or die on the streets. This road wasn't going to be easy, but life rarely is and Laurel has to decide if she is willing to deal with her pain or become a mural on the Meth Head row. 

Critical Evaluation:
The hardest part of this story is reading about all of the pain Laurel held onto. Not only did she lose her mother in grandmother in one of the biggest natural disasters in history, she had to cope with this loss the only way she could: burying it deep inside. The hardest part about death is there is no easy way to explain it, nor is there a way to escape the pain that we feel. For Laurel, the death of her mother and grandmother was just too much to bare and when she tried Meth for the first time, she started to feel alive again. For Laurel, she wanted to feel her grandmother and mother again and she saw T-Boom as the way back to them. All Laurel wanted was to be happy and, like most people, in need, she went looking for comfort in relationships and habits that quickly destroyed her friendships and family. T-Boom does seem to care about her, but, like most addicts, their number one priority is themselves, especially when it comes to acquiring their next fix or protecting their investments. Rather then helping and comforting her, T-Boom quickly abandoned her and that forced Laurel to pursue the dangerous path to her next fix. Unfortunately, this story is not unheard of because there are a lot of people who lose there way in life, especially when it's a result of tragic events. Teens, who are already mentally unstable due to adolescent development, have it the hardest when things go completely wrong and out of control. However, with every hopeless situation, there is always a silver lining. Moses was Laurel's intervention because he told her that she is not alone in this struggle, but, more importantly, he told her the plain truth that if she keeps doing what she is doing that she will die. Furthermore, he reminded her that she has a family who probably loves and misses her and her addiction, in many ways, makes her take everything she has for granted.I definitely needed a tissue because it's too easy to imagine ourselves in Laurel's shoes and we hope, and pray, that it will never happen to us.

Information about the Author:
According to her website:
I wrote on everything and everywhere. I remember my uncle catching me writing my name in graffiti on the side of a building. (It was not pretty for me when my mother found out.) I wrote on paper bags and my shoes and denim binders. I chalked stories across sidewalks and penciled tiny tales in notebook margins. I loved and still love watching words flower into sentences and sentences blossom into stories.
I also told a lot of stories as a child. Not “Once upon a time” stories but basically, outright lies. I loved lying and getting away with it! There was something about telling the lie-story and seeing your friends’ eyes grow wide with wonder. Of course I got in trouble for lying but I didn’t stop until fifth grade.
That year, I wrote a story and my teacher said “This is really good.” Before that I had written a poem about Martin Luther King that was, I guess, so good no one believed I wrote it. After lots of brouhaha, it was believed finally that I had indeed penned the poem which went on to win me a Scrabble game and local acclaim. So by the time the story rolled around and the words “This is really good” came out of the otherwise down-turned lips of my fifth grade teacher, I was well on my way to understanding that a lie on the page was a whole different animal — one that won you prizes and got surly teachers to smile. A lie on the page meant lots of independent time to create your stories and the freedom to sit hunched over the pages of your notebook without people thinking you were strange.
Lots and lots of books later, I am still surprised when I walk into a bookstore and see my name on a book or when the phone rings and someone on the other end is telling me I’ve just won an award. Sometimes, when I’m sitting at my desk for long hours and nothing’s coming to me, I remember my fifth grade teacher, the way her eyes lit up when she said “This is really good.” The way, I — the skinny girl in the back of the classroom who was always getting into trouble for talking or missed homework assignments — sat up a little straighter, folded my hands on the desks, smiled and began to believe in me.

Teen Contemporary Fiction, Teen Hi/Lo Fiction

Reading Level/Interest:
Teen Hi/Lo for Grades 9 & up

Books Similar to Beneath a Meth Moon:

Awards & Recognition:
"A moving, honest, and hopeful story."
(Kirkus, starred review)

"Woodson maintains tension throughout, making it abundantly clear how easy it is to succumb to meth and how difficult it is to recover from it."
(Publishers Weekly, starred review)

"This powerful, stripped-down novel chronicles a girl's journey from popular cheerleader to homeless meth user to recovering addict...An outstanding novel that succeeds on every level."
(School Library Journal, starred review)

"Woodson takes us on the dark journey of addiction, mimicking the slow, hazy spell of drug use with the lull of her poetic prose. . . . Laurel's descent is brutally honest. . . . An intimate and compelling story of survival."
(The Horn Book)

"As accurate as it is heartbreaking; readers will be deeply moved . . . they'll sympathize with [Laurel's] desire to find some way to feel better. . . . Readers looking to understand the attraction of a destructive substance will get a glimmer of understanding."
(The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books)

"Will not disappoint readers. . . . Ends on a hopeful note: perhaps it is possible to write pain 'into the past and leave some of it there,' and reimagine a future."

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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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