Book Reviews · Books

Getting Clean is a Dirty Business

Trigger Warnings: Clean as a novel is full of triggers throughout, involving addiction, self-harm, drugs, substance abuse and so much more. I urge anyone who may be triggered to be careful reading this review and if you pick up Clean. Don’t be afraid to put it down or click on this review. 

Disclaimer: I received this book in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own and have not been swayed. 

I think I was maybe seven or eight when I was first made aware of drugs though it wasn’t exactly an explanation but a warning. You see, I come from a rather big family, my Dad is one of seven and Mum is one of five which means a lot of cousins. I’m actually the only ‘only’ child in the family apart from my cousin Susan who is once removed. Pretty big family. When I first made aware of drugs, I was in the car with my Granddad, and we were driving through the village when he started to slow down and pointed out a group of older lads. “That’s your cousin Tony, waste of space, he’s a drug addict keep away from him” I didn’t even know I had a cousin Tony never mind what a drug addict even was.  It was a warning from my Granddad, who is probably one of the proudest people I know.

Of course, as any seven or eight-year-old would do, I then began bombarding my Mum with questions about who Tony was and what was a drug addict. I think Granddad likely got in trouble for saying stuff like this since my parents didn’t want me to be aware of all that just yet. Afterall, that’s a parent’s job to protect their kids from the horrors and truth of the world. Tony was my cousin, but he was twelve years older than me and basically get into a wrong crowd, dangerous lifestyle and the family had tried to help. But there is only so much you can do. I didn’t actually meet Tony until a few years later, at his Dad’s funeral and he had gotten help during those years and was trying to keep straight and narrow. We actually got on and saw each other every now and then afterward. I always remember at a family party we played darts together with some of our other cousins and it was fun.

Last year, the news came on. A body had been found in the street a couple of villages away. I thought nothing of it, no one did, and as anyone does when tragic news appears, “Such a waste, I feel sorry for the family.” It wasn’t until later in the day that Tony’s brother rang us, the body found in the street was Tony. Tony has died as a complication of long-term drug use, his heart had just given out. That’s when I understood the phrase, ‘Getting clean was a dirty business.’ Tony tried to stay clean, but the drugs were stronger.

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Clean By Juno Dawson

I’ve loved Juno Dawson’s novels for years now, ever since I read her horror YA novel Say Her Name. Which is why when I received a copy of her latest book Clean, I was so excited to read it. Until that is, I realized the subject matter which is mainly addiction and particularly drug addiction, which made me apprehensive to actually pick it up, I’ve actually had a copy since December, but it was too hard. However, last week I picked it up and maybe that was because Tony’s anniversary had just gone, I was a bit more mentally prepared.

Clean, follows a young drug addict Lexi Volkov, privileged and entitled Lexi denies her addiction from the start claiming that everyone does what she does. Which is partially true, as she only surrounds herself with those who do exactly as she does, that is until her older brother kidnaps her and takes her to a top rehab facility, Clarity, which is located on an island away from the world. Here, Lexi is able to see not everyone does exactly as she does, though addiction is rife. Throughout the novel’s progression, Juno does an excellent job of showing that addiction is not straightforward. It’s not just drugs or alcohol, and it’s not about a quick detox then it’s all better. Juno Dawson makes addiction transparent that recovery from it is a continuous process and it’s never easy, proving the point, ‘Getting Clean is a dirty business.’ 

As Lexi goes through her detox and stays at Clarity, you are able to see the remarkable character development from admitting you have a problem, taking help and finally admitting you need help. Though it is not only Lexi whose journey with addiction is shown as we encounter others, their addiction and what addiction represents for them. Out of the gang on the island, it was Guy which I connected to the most as we both have OCD which I often feel in YA is something presented more as a quirky character trait rather than a severe mental illness. Guy’s OCD was presented in a real way, rather than the quirky character trait, which is why I connected because my own mind works similarly. The obsessive habits to keep out the dangerous thoughts in the way of controlling those thoughts but often you end up allowing those habits come in control of you.

Although within Clean, the characters all come from luxurious and rich backgrounds which I felt initially I wouldn’t be able to relate to at all. But as I just shown with Guy, I still found a character which I could relate to as really they are just like regular teens dealing with the pressures of society, family expectations and even school expectations.

I feel that Juno Dawson has really done the subject matter justice as she takes what is usually a ‘taboo’ subject within young adult fiction and presenting it truthfully. Juno doesn’t shy away from the fact that addition is not great, she writes the harsh and gritty pieces along with showing the light. The book for me is sheer brilliance and truth, I feel so thankful to have had the opportunity to read this book as not only has it helped me understand the mind of my cousin, an addict who started off like Lexi, but to understand myself a little better too.

Personally, I cannot wait to see what else Juno Dawson comes up with and whether or not there will be more YA novels challenging the ‘taboo’ and dealing with these harsh, gritty truths of real life. Because, even though this book was tough and a hard read, in all honesty, I think we need more books like this which aren’t afraid to confront topics such as addiction. And if there are more books, then this could mean more conversation about addiction itself.

34850295Clean By Juno Dawson

  • Format: Proof, 400 pages.
  • Publisher: Quercus
  • Release Date: 5th April 2018

Blurb: I can feel it swimming through my veins like glitter … it’s liquid gold. When socialite Lexi Volkov almost overdoses, she thinks she’s hit rock bottom. She’s wrong. Rock bottom is when she’s forced into an exclusive rehab facility. From there, the only way is up for Lexi and her fellow inmates, including the mysterious Brady. As she faces her demons, Lexi realizes love is the most potent drug of all …

It’s a dirty business getting clean …

Have you read Clean, what were your thoughts? Will you be adding Clean to your TBR? 

22 thoughts on “Getting Clean is a Dirty Business

    1. It is really good and filled with all the nitty gritty and dark topics. Let me know if you end up reading it. x


  1. I actually really like the sound of this novel. Similarly, I’m from a really big family so I am way too familiar with addiction in all its forms – drugs, alcohol, gambling. I’m very tempted to pick this up after reading your review.. 🙊

    Liked by 1 person

    1. If you pick up don’t be afraid to take breaks if you need to. It is a brilliant piece of work but can be quite hard in places.


  2. I’ve never read anything by this author but this book sounds amazing! This was a really good review and I’ll definitely be adding it to my wishlist! Thanks for introducting me to what I can only imagine is going to be a great author!!

    Jess //

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Juno Dawson writes amazing books, thriller and horror, historical and now with Clean it is amazing on a whole other level. I can’t wait to hear what you think of it.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. It comes out on the 5th of this month so you should be able to get your hands in it pretty soon! I can’t wait to hear what you think of it.


    1. Thank you for reading Rosie. We don’t talk much about my cousin in the family anymore so it was nice to find something which let me talk through my grief. x


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