Beneath a Meth Moon: An Elegy
by Jacqueline Woodson
High School Paulsen/Penguin 182 pp.
2/12 978-0-399-25250-1 $16.99
Woodson takes us on the dark journey of addiction, mimicking the slow, hazy spell of drug use with the lull of her poetic prose. Laurel’s happy childhood on the Gulf shore ends abruptly when Hurricane Katrina destroys her city of Pass Christian, Mississippi, taking her mother, grandmother, and house. After two years of refuge with an aunt, Laurel, her father, and her baby brother move north to the small town of Galilee, Iowa. With new friends, cheerleading, and a basketball star boyfriend, a new life seems possible. T-Boom’s affections feel like home to Laurel, and she trusts this good feeling when he offers her first sniff of meth, just to warm her up on a cold night. Laurel loves the way “the moon” fills up her head “with so many different beautiful things” and washes the painful past away. How does a pretty, popular cheerleader become an addict? Just that easy, Woodson shows us. Laurel’s descent is brutally honest: wasted and shivering in the cold rain with burnt and bleeding lips, she craves only more meth to soothe the pain. Laurel narrates her own story in a lilting, Southern cadence. Woodson uses biblical references boldly and effectively, as though proclaiming the magnitude of her characters’ trials. For instance, the water rises to take Laurel’s home and family in Pass Christian, while the sign for their new city reads: “Welcome to Galilee, where life is a walk on water.” Laurel’s recovery will take no less than such a miracle. Linking the large-scale tragedies of Katrina and meth addiction, the novel tells an intimate and compelling story of survival.
From the March/April 2012 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.