Isaac and Ivy Ramey are American brother and sister, late teenagers. Isaac has the ambition to enter aeronautical engineering and aircraft design. He is also a gifted soccer player. Ivy is a troubled soul who may have set out on the wrong path. Her ambition is simply to graduate from high school and to escape from the problems that currently vex her. Not least of Ivy’s problems is that her boyfriend, Craig, is addicted to and deals in legal and illegal drugs. The novel poses the question which of the siblings is more likely to achieve his or her ambition.
This novel deploys a narrative technique which is unusual and overwhelmingly effective. The varied voices in which the story is recounted belong not only to the different characters who appear in the pages of the book but also to the various drugs abused by those characters. Phineas for example is morphine. Roxy and Nalo are the voices of other drugs. The portrait of addiction presented by Shusterman and Shusterman shrinks from no relevant detail, however painful. The voices of the drugs draw the reader much further into this world than human voices alone could manage. The only serious flaw in this otherwise outstanding novel is that the introduction of the hallucinatory voices at the start is somewhat mishandled, leaving the reader uncertain about what is happening. Some readers might be led to abandon the book at this early stage, thereby depriving themselves of a precious lesson about contemporary life and its pitfalls. Parents and teachers should pay serious attention to the age recommendation for this book.