Placebo Junkies tries to be a Trainspotting for a new generation, but I’m calling it a fail

Placebo Junkies tries to be a Trainspotting for a new generation, but I’m calling it a fail

Placebo Junkies is edgy, dark, and completely without redeeming qualities.  I’ve read other reviews left by people who loved this book and they all felt it was an important expression of pain in the lives of these young characters.  I respectfully disagree, and I have to wonder if they finished the book because that isn’t what this story is about in the end.  I gave this book two stars.


Goodreads Summary

Going Bovine meets Trainspotting in this gritty portrait of at-risk teens gaming the prescription drug trial system.

Meet Audie: Professional lab rat. Guinea pig. Serial human test subject. For Audie and her friends, “volunteering” for pharmaceutical drug trials means a quick fix and easy cash.

Sure, there’s the occasional nasty side effect, but Audie’s got things under control. If Monday’s pill causes a rash, Tuesday’s ointment usually clears it right up. Wednesday’s injection soothes the sting from Tuesday’s “cure,” and Thursday’s procedure makes her forget all about Wednesday’s headache. By the time Friday rolls around, there’s plenty of cash in hand and perhaps even a slot in a government-funded psilocybin study, because WEEKEND!

But the best fix of all is her boyfriend, Dylan, whose terminal illness just makes them even more compatible. He’s turning eighteen soon, so Audie is saving up to make it an unforgettable birthday. That means more drug trials than ever before, but Dylan is worth it.

No pain, no gain, Audie tells herself as the pills wear away at her body and mind. No pain, no gain, she repeats as her grip on reality starts to slide….

Raw and irreverent, Placebo Junkies will captivate readers until the very end, when author J. C. Carleson leans in for a final twist of the knife.

My Thoughts

In the tradition of other horrifying things I’ve been compelled to stick with until the bitter end, Placebo Junkies was an extremely visceral and disturbing look behind the curtain of experimental medicine.  There was a twist worthy of the second season of American Horror in there as well, and I can’t decide if it made the story more or less upsetting.  I wasn’t really sure what the message was and there wasn’t really a clear direction for concerned readers to address the horrors of the corrupt and unethical practices described.  It is certainly on par with Trainspotting and Requim for a Dream for being relentlessly gritty and depressing, and I have no doubt that it will be the insider ticket to outsider hip just as they were a couple of decades ago.  Unfortunately, I have outgrown the desire to be the edgiest, so I didn’t enjoy this read.  I can’t begin to imagine who I could recommend this to, since it didn’t even really amount to a cautionary tale in the end.  The language, situations, and general level of depressing lead me to say this isn’t appropriate for high school students.  The characters are teens, but the situations are entirely adult.

I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honesty review.


About queenbook

When the final bell rings, I stash those messy piles of essays and analysis assignments in a desk drawer and I head home to a pile of good books. My kids and dog eat too many chicken nuggets and the house could be neater, but as long as I get my daily read, I guess we are doing all right. When I was twelve and fifteen and eighteen and twenty, I believed I needed to get out there and do those things I had just been reading about, which ended in disaster, tears, a tattoo that scares me every time I catch a glimpse of it in the mirror, and the realization that some of us are meant for action, and some of us are meant to critique the pace of action in a book. I read primarily YA fiction as I have a rather hulking classroom library and a hundred high school readers to engage daily. Nothing makes me happier than coming to school and finding an impatient teenager waiting by my door to turn in a book and get another one just like it. I adore a good zombie, a medieval princess, or girl assassin (I would like them all in one book if you are a writer looking for some inspiration). I add historical mystery to my wish list a year in advance, and you should get out of my way when the next Outlander book comes out. I have an embarrassing fondness for rock star books, but only if they don’t get too trashy and embarrass me. My favorite book of all time is The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery. My book boyfriends include Gilbert Blythe, Alonzo Wilder, and Jamie Fraser. They are mine and you can’t have them.

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