Three screws in her hip.
Two months until spring training.
One answer to all her problems.
Mickey Catalan is no stranger to the opioid epidemic in her small town. There are obituaries of classmates who “died suddenly” and stories of overdoses in gas station bathrooms—but none of that is her. No, Mickey is a star softball catcher with hopes of college recruitment until a car accident shatters that plan, along with her hip.
Now Mickey is hurting. Yet a little white pill can make it better. After all, it is doctor prescribed. But when the prescription runs out, Mickey turns to an elderly woman who pushes hot meatloaf and a baggie full of oxy across the kitchen counter. It’s there Mickey finds a place where she can find words more easily than she ever has before. But as the pressure to be Mickey Catalan heightens, her desire for pills becomes less about pain and more about want, something that could send her spiraling out of control.
Mindy McGinnis is one of the most versatile and consistently amazing writers I know of.
All of her books are stunning and range from a little dark to SUPER DARK, all while being some of the best teen literature I’ve ever read.
Somehow, she effortlessly gets to the root of something with a narrative style that fits the story, and her latest novel, Heroine, was no exception to this streak of consistently great books.
Honestly? Heroine is the darkest, scariest book Mindy’s written that I’ve read. What makes it so scary is that it’s so real–it’s happening to regular people in our modern world, and that makes it 100x more of a gut-punch than any fantasy novel.
Heroine is dark. It’s gruesome. It’s really really really scary.
And it’s real.
Heroine starts out with Mickey Catalan–regular teen in a small town, hoping to get a scholarship for softball, which is a huge part of her life.
And then she gets in a car crash and is prescribed Oxy.
And then she wants more.
And then and then and then and then.
The way McGinnis sets this up is what ultimately makes this so relatable–and therefore more emotional–for the reader. It’s just Mickey, softball player. She knows about the opioid epidemic in her town, but that’s not her.
And slowly, very slowly throughout the book, we see Mickey become addicted. To Oxy, and then heroin. It happens so naturally, so subtly, over a series of justifications, that you can’t help but look back and go “Wow. I never would have known.”
In the end, Mickey’s best friend Carolina who was in the crash with her asks “Why you and not me?” And there’s no good answer to that, and Mickey doesn’t have one either.
This is what makes this book so frightening (but wholly necessary). It brings the reader–who might ~know~ about this, but don’t empathize–so much closer to what addiction is like and how it happens.
I fully admit that I live a very sheltered life and although I ~know~ about addiction and drugs through education, I’ve never been exposed to it. And Mickey wasn’t either. That’s what scared out of my pants by this book. There’s no formula to how addiction works, and suddenly everything became more personal.
Although Heroine‘s goal isn’t to teach–it brought the topic so much closer to the reader. It made them understand Mickey’s shoes and how it can happen.
That is what I believe is this book’s greatest triumph. And it’s a damn good story, too.
I do have to add that the reason I took off a star is in part because I have to be able to differentiate McGinnis’ work (if I five star all of them, you’ll never know which I like best?) and also because a few of the hints McGinnis dropped along the way read a little too obvious to me. (A minor qualm, really.)
I’d put this tied in second place with Given to the Sea, with first being The Female of the Species and third being A Madness So Discreet.
Ultimately, I cannot attest to the accuracy of Heroine, although people I know who have been personally affected by addiction and have talked about how great this was, so I like to think McGinnis did a good job of portraying it.
(Also, I really love what Erin Fitzsimmons did with the cover and Heroine/Heroin/Her!)
So overall, this was great. Which I totally expected. I just never expected how hard this book would hit me.
Thank you so much to Harper Collins and Edelweiss for providing me with a digital review copy in exchange for an honest review!