Clean is a gritty, eye-opening novel about addiction and all of the horrific things that come with it. Lexi Volkov, a Russian heiress and London socialite is forced into a remote rehab centre named Clarity by her brother Nikolai after almost overdosing on heroin. She is seventeen years old and we follow her struggle to become clean with a group of other young people with their own various problems.
Juno Dawson is not afraid of being realistic with this one. Despite the novel surrounding the lives of some extremely rich teenagers, it does not attempt to glamorise drug use. Instead, it does the opposite and shows explicitly all of the negative aspects of addiction. As the tagline says “it’s a dirty business getting clean”. Dawson’s choice to stick to the truth and not sugarcoat, despite it being a novel for young adults is great, because it acts as a deterrent in an era where hard, and dangerous drugs, are easy to come by.
Despite being a million times richer than most teenagers, Lexi is still not happy and this highlights the idea that money cannot buy happiness and attempts to remove the stigma surrounding rich people with mental illnesses and addictions. We shouldn’t place conditions on getting help for being mentally ill as these illnesses do not discriminate – they can affect anyone at any stage in their life. Dawson effectively establishes that we should not be punishing people emotionally simply because they are lucky financially.
I was thoroughly gripped by Clean and devoured it in two days. Even though I could not relate to Lexi a huge amount, I found her endearing because she tries to help other people before seeking help for herself despite often hurting inside. At numerous times she claims to be a bad person but continually proves otherwise with her actions. For Dawson to be able to mimic the complexity of the human psyche on paper shows off her abilities as a writer.
I’d like to recommend this book as it is both real and important now, and will continue to be important in the future. However, I would consider avoiding if you are particularly sensitive to the topics held within. Subjects such as addiction, anorexia, OCD, psychosis and sexual assault are all mentioned, making it a difficult read, albeit a rewarding one.