BENEATH A METH MOON: An Elegy
By Jacqueline Woodson
YA contemporary realistic
Nancy Paulsen Books (Penguin Young Readers Group)
Laurel has been through a lot in her 15 years. She, her father and her younger brother lost her mother and grandmother when they wouldn't leave Pass Christian when Hurricane Katrina came. They've moved to a small Midwest town after living with her aunt for two years in Jackson.
To say she misses her mother and grandmother, M'Lady, is understatement. Their loss is a deep pain that is with her always. It's not enough that she dearly loves her baby brother, who was three months old when they left Pass Christian, and that he deeply loves her. It's not enough that she adores and respects her father, a good, quiet, God-loving man. It's not enough that she has found a good friend, Kaylee, who is the reader to her writer (and Woodson's recounting of their dialogue in this regard is a gorgeous homage to the joys of reading and writing).
It's when the cute boy on the basketball team, the one with a tattoo of gumbo, kisses her and offers her meth, that she thinks she has found something that is enough. Meth dulls the pain of loss, makes her giddy and makes her want more. And more. And more.
Woodson tells Laurel's story by weaving back and forth in time without preaching, but by showing what Laurel is thinking and feeling throughout her descent into drug addiction and living on the street, through attempts at rehab and believing she can handle it. Laurel is fortunate that even on the street, she meets a wonderful person. Moses is a teenager who is paid by grieving parents to paint portraits of their meth angels, the teens they lost to meth, on buildings.
For both Laurel's story and Woodson's strong, lyrical, heart-deep writing, Beneath a Meth Moon is a very good book for teens to discover. The publisher recommends for ages 12 and up; it's going into my middle school library next to Woodson's other books.
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