Stay out of trouble for one more year, and Katie Martin can leave her small town loneliness behind forever. She is a field hockey star on the fast track to a college scholarship, but her relationship with alcohol has always been a little questionable. Then trouble finds her. Alec is the most popular guy in school, and also the biggest bully—with his sights set firmly on Katie. When Alec turns on the charm, Katie thinks she must have been wrong about him.
Except that she wasn’t. On a rain-soaked, alcohol-drenched night, one impulsive decision leaves Katie indebted to Alec in the worst possible way. This debut novel is a fast-paced and compelling story of addiction, heartbreak, and redemption.
OPINION: 5 STARS
This isn't a good girl/bad boy story… it’s more of, a broken girl trying to be good falling for a guy that is nothing but trouble… usually. I fell in love with Katie from the start, and even when things started getting really messed up, I didn’t ever dislike her. Luedeke does a remarkable job of writing not only Katie’s character, but those around her as well, and set against a relatively simple but definitely intense plot, Smashed is a stunning debut. Twisting some common elements in her own way, and having a very strong realistic note to the situations, Luedeke is a talent writer who I will look for more from.
Katie is kind of a mess, in large part simply due to circumstance. With a father who walked out and never looked back five years before, and a mother who is gone almost all the time, Katie does what she can to make things appear fine on the outside, even when she’s in more pain than she can handle on the inside. A talented field hockey player, Katie has some great things ahead of her, even if getting to them isn't so easy. With two best friends who will do pretty much anything for her, and who try to help her best they can when it comes to taking care of herself and her little brother, she has things pretty good, yet not really good enough. While she doesn’t necessarily voice that specific thought, the proof of it is on the pages, and Luedeke does a truly amazing job of building everything about Katie’s character.
From the start, Alec starts showing up in Katie’s life, drawing her in. With a softness to him that shows when it’s just them, it’s easy for her to ignore his reputation and even the things he’s done to one of her best friends in the past. Though signs of something darker lurk within Alec, the way he listens to her and even the common ground they share go far to bring the two together. Even with Alec, however, alcohol is the driving force in many of her decisions, the ultimate prize she is going after, even if it means being in his company. Even as things continue to spiral out of control, however, and Alec gets more demanding with Katie, she keeps quiet about everything that’s happened, both for self preservation and fear. Completely under his control, her reliance on alcohol grows even stronger, making a self-feeding loop that she can’t seem to get out of.
This book is a very honest portrayed of addiction, with a downward spiral that seems innocent enough, even to readers. Enjoying a party isn't the same as needing to party, even if Katie is desperate to get to said parties. Having a drink to take the edge off at the end of the day isn't the same as being unable to get through the day with a drink. Or is it? With beautiful, emotional writing, and some huge triggering scenes, Luedeke easily navigates these questions and more, making this a powerful book that is impossible to put down. Even with the strong messages it carries, Smashed is far from a preaching novel, nor is it simply a “don’t drink” campaign.
There are several story lines woven together, making this much more than an addiction book. Definitely not a romance, particularly given everything that happens with Alec, there are still stolen kisses to excite readers, at least for awhile. Though one of Katie’s best friends is a guy, he really is just a friend, without any pining on either side, and in that, Smashed also stands apart. Simply an amazing guy who she’s grown up with, Katie and Matt have a very well done and realistic friendship, with a depth to them that tells just how much they’ve been through together. Then there’s Cassie, her other best friend, who is so full of life, yet also has such a well put together life and family, that the underlying jealousy Katie feels causes tension as the book progresses.
With some rough and gutting scenes, and a very heavy emotional atmosphere, Smashed is a showcase in talent from a debut author. Strongly paced, and walking the line between what happens behind closed doors and a public front, there is something highly relatable about this book. Beautifully written, and with a protagonist who has her faults but also is plenty likeable, understandable, and someone to believe in, this one will suck you in and not let go.
Source: ARC received from publisher in exchange for an honest review
Reading level: Ages 14 and up
Hardcover: 336 pages
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Publication Date: August 21, 2012