Available now from Putnam Juvenile (Penguin)
Read my reviews of THE ELITE, IN TOO DEEP, and SIMPLY IRRESISTIBLE
Read my interview with Jennifer and her guest blogs
I haven't read a novel this fierce since Stephanie Kuehnert burst onto the scene with I WANNA BE YOUR JOEY RAMONE. WHITE LINES will be a revelation to anyone familiar with Jennifer Banash from The Elite series. The rich kids remain, but all soap opera antics are banished. WHITE LINES is raw, a real bleeding wound of a story.
Cat lives by herself on the Lower East Side even though she's only seventeen years old. She could no longer live with her abusive mother - the State agrees - but her father lives with a younger woman who doesn't like her. So he pays for her to have an apartment. Few teenagers, given free reign of their lives, would make the best decisions. Especially not in 1980s New York. Especially not when working the door to a club to make a little extra money. Especially not when the drug dealers are willing to offer a rock of cocaine to get in. Especially not when the music and the dancing and the personalities and the drugs are so much better than being alone in an apartment, remembering.
There are people who care about Cat. There's her friend Sara, who first convinced her to get a fake ID and go to a club and didn't follow her deeper. There's Giovanni, fabulous and Puerto Rican, who dresses Cat like a doll and forgets his own problems with her. There's Julian, the new kid in school, someone she could see herself with if she can stop herself from giving him the cold shoulder. There's Alexa, the coolest girl in school, who sees something in Cat - although it might just be a way to get herself closer to the top. But they're all flawed people and some of them are druggies too. Her interactions with them show what a beautiful person Cat is. She has trouble reaching out, real panic, but she doesn't give into that internal voice every time. She struggles against it and makes connections, risking the pain.
Drug addiction isn't pretty. Some people are functional addicts. Cat manages to hold down a job and manages to go to school enough not to get kicked out (even if it is a school for "special" kids). She's sort of in the best case scenario, but there are dangers lurking around the edges of her life. I was so afraid of the turns WHITE LINES could take, of the awful things that could happen to Cat. WHITE LINES is gritty in the best way. It doesn't heap humiliation or degradation upon its heroine to show the evils of her way of life. Her life is risky, and sometimes unpleasant, but not gratuitously so.
And, well, drug addiction tends to bring out the worst in people and it would be a shame to lose the best parts of Cat. There's so much potential in Cat. She's got a big voice, one that absorbs you in her life. She can be witty and clever when she's functional.
"Oh my God," I drawl, staring at Giovanni's face in the mirror. I begin to smile in spite of my annoyance. "I'm only seventeen! How old could I possibly look?" - ARC, 36WHITE LINES was an intense read. It'll suck you into the 1980's New York club scene and make you feel like you're living it even if, like me, you weren't born until it was over. I kept my fingers crossed that somehow, someway there would be a happy ending. Somehow, someway. And the ending of WHITE LINES was a relief, a release of all the tension of the novel, healing. Cat had a tough past, lives a rough present, but she's still got a future. And a future is the essence of Young Adult.