Author: Jessica Bell
Genre: Memoir, Teen, Drugs & Alcohol
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Critiquing a memoir always feels almost unfair... you can't say that someone didn't feel the way they did or isn't being genuine; as likely they have explained things in the only way they know how.
So how can you criticize them?
The short answer is, you can't.
The long answer is more complex.
If I end up sounding like a heartless bitch by the end of this then I will only apologize to Jessica Bell to say that it's not about devaluing her experiences, it's about how they were written about and discussed.
I found this memoir to use 'shock' value moments in a very odd way. Not to send a morale or turn you straight message to the reader, not to show the progression of Bell as a person, but instead as an excuse. It's like each time something happens that is a 'big deal' Bell uses it as a reason for why it's okay to then do something else. This is not really a good message in my mind, especially for teens. I'd like to have read more about the actual consequences of her binge drinking, of having an abortion, etc. I'd also like to have read more about how those situations have made her the person she is today. Instead by the end of the memoir I feel like Bell has just made a myriad of excuses for why she hasn't done things in life that she maybe wanted to. Or is with the man she is with.
That said, her definition of love is different; and this I commend her for. She does discuss how love is not a blinding moment or 'instant' and how sometimes it's hard to even see it. So I give her props for describing a non-typical relationship and allowing readers to maybe gain a sliver of insight into why people stay together that may not seem like a perfect match.
Now alternatively you could easily say that Bell settled. But I will give her the benefit of the doubt here that she isn't taking the easy way out on this one.
I think overall the glazing over of issues is what bugs me the most here. I hate when moments in life are used as a crutch or justification for why someone should receive sympathy... maybe it's because I can go toe-to-toe with Bell on a lot of situations I personally experienced as a teen myself. And maybe that isn't fair to her... but in my mind those experiences are not something to be used as a way to garner sympathy or used as an excuse. They are moments that make us stronger, more resilient and overall shape our personality today. They also inform our current decisions. And here is where I felt like Bell missed out in this memoir. She didn't connect her past decisions with her future ones. Let's face it, whether we like it or not, the things that have happened to us in the past ALWAYS influence the future us.
While some may connect with Bell's story and her aloneness, I personally felt like this was missing something. Some piece of Bell that I craved. I still feel like I don't know her even after reading this. I feel like I know about her; but don't actually know HER.
Overall if you want to read a shock value story about drugs, alcohol and how damaging it can be; read Go Ask Alice instead.
Please note: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This is an honest and unbiased review.