PLACEBO JUNKIES: A Book Review

This book is…. interesting.

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So at my local library, they have a display near the front of the YA section with a bunch of random YA novels. This is where I found Placebo Junkies by JC Carleson. I had never heard of it before, but it sounded interesting. The summary includes a reference to Trainspotting and I am drawn to that movie, so I figured that this book would be right up my alley.

It was, uh, interesting.

The plot is definitely unique. I didn’t even know that people genuinely make careers out of being human “guinea pigs” (or do they? was that something made up for the purpose of plot? I will have to research this). It was strangely wonderful to read about the abuse these people put their bodies and minds through for nothing more than some quick money. I mean, sure, volunteering for an experiment or two sounds cool, but these people do dozens, some of them at the same time. It sounds extremely dangerous, but in that thrilling, badass way. The premise is definitely captivating.

But something about the characters feels… off. It’s almost like watching them through two layers of glass and it’s starting to fog up. For a first person narrative, I never once felt close to Audie. In fact, I never even liked her. I almost feel like I don’t even know her. Now, it’s possible that the plot explains the reasons behind this. These people are under a lot of drugs, and Audie’s childhood was certainly traumatic and scarring. Then, there’s the “plot twist” which would further explain this distance. But I don’t really think that’s an excuse. I read to connect, and I felt no connection to any of the characters. It was kind of a bummer.

Then there was the plot twist. I won’t spoil it, but let me just say that I did not see it coming at all. Maybe I just hadn’t picked up the clues because, frankly, the novel is kind of boring at times. I would zone out and my eyes would glaze over the words. Or maybe I did notice the clues, but I dismissed them because this world is so unfamiliar to me: anything I thought strange, I just brushed aside because I didn’t understand the culture of “professional guinea pigs.” Or maybe I didn’t see the twist coming because it was completely unnecessary. The twist makes sense, and it does add a nice what the fuck? moment, but the book already had me asking that question nearly every other chapter. The story was already interesting, and I feel like the novel would have felt a lot more satisfying without the turn of events. Sometimes, simplicity is best.

So the novel is interesting. It’s an interesting culture, and an interesting life, filled with unknowable characters. It’s certainly different from anything I’ve ever read. I know I keep dropping the word “interesting,” but that’s all I can think of to describe it.

Interesting is not synonymous with good.

2.5 pills out of 5.

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