3 stars · fiction · young adult

Placebo Junkies by J. C. Carleson

Placebo Junkies

author : j.c. carleson

pages : [hardcover] 304

favorite character : dylan

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.

review :

 Placebo Junkies was nothing like I thought it would be, in some good ways and some bad.

J.C. Carleson can definitely write. I’ll be checking out more by this author to see if there’s another book that might appeal to me a little more. With this novel, the premise is what really made me pick it up, because it’s so unusual. People who make their living testing dangerous, unknown drugs? Audie is involved in so many trials that she often can’t even remember what the drugs she’s taking (or lies about taking) are supposed to be doing for her. It isn’t like she’s really sick and needs help with something; she just needs the money. It’s business, simple and clean.

Throughout the novel, things are pretty dark. Audie is very open about her experiences, the ups and downs she has with the side effects of her medication, and it seems like everyone who was supposed to care for her in the world has abandoned her. Things are bleak for the others in her apartment, too. A bunch of people in the testing business all live in the same apartment and seem to understand her like no one else will ever be able to. Her boyfriend, Dylan, who’s now cancer-free and not part of the drug trials, doesn’t seem to relate to her testing fixation.

And then things took a turn that I wasn’t expecting and didn’t know if I would enjoy. Around halfway through the novel, something changes that will make you want to go back and reread the entire book from the start again through this new perspective. I’m not sure if I would have enjoyed Placebo Junkiesmore without this twist (which I would never spoil for you) but it just didn’t work for me. It wasn’t as satisfying and intriguing as the perceived idea and original characters had been.

I think this is one that most people would need to read for themselves to see if they’d enjoy this type of novel. It’s the kind that appears to be one thing and ends up something else entirely. Both sides of it were well-written and I did like the ending, apart from it being a little ambiguous. Audie wasn’t exactly relatable, and I didn’t so much sympathize her as want to understand her, but I couldn’t tear my eyes away from her story.

I’d recommend this book to people interested in a gritty look at the world of clinical drug trials, a great plot twist you’ll never expect, and complicated characters.

3/5 stars

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