Summary from Goodreads:
"You’re probably wondering how I ended up here. I’m still wondering the same thing."
Olivia, Kelly, Christopher, Jason, and Eva have one thing in common: They’re addicts. Addicts who have hit rock bottom and been stuck together in rehab to face their problems, face sobriety, and face themselves. None of them wants to be there. None of them wants to confront the truths about their pasts. And they certainly don’t want to share their darkest secrets and most desperate fears with a room of strangers. But they’ll all have to deal with themselves—and one another—if they want to learn how to live. Because when you get that high, there’s nowhere to go but down, down, down.
I love Amy Reed. She has the unique and beautiful ability to create likable characters and put them in emotional, heartbreaking situations. This is an author that deals with raw emotion and stark realism, and the end result is something worthwhile.
It took me a little while to get into Clean, and I do admit that I started off a little worried, simply because Reed’s debut, Beautiful, is one of my all-time favorite novels. But then everything just clicked. I got used to the five-way narrative, the excerpts from the patients’ personal essays, their answers to substance abuse surveys, the way Reed never held your hand but simply showed you what these kids were going through.
At that point I couldn’t stop reading. I devoured Clean in less than two hours, and I loved this book for every second of it.
Over time, the five patients started to open up, to themselves, to each other, and to the reader. And that’s where Reed’s perfect characterization comes into play, because I honestly could not help loving every single one of those messed-up, realistically human kids. I was put out on their behalf, and a lot of times their emotions were mine.
Sadly, in comparison to Beautiful, Reed’s prose wasn’t quite as stunning, though it was still extremely good and I loved it a lot. One of the characters, Eva, was a bit of an artistic emo sort, and the sections where she spoke were always gorgeous, if characteristically overdramatic.
Early on in the novel, one of the narrators, Christopher, compares the little group of five kids to the film The Breakfast Club, and that’s actually a fairly good comparison. None of these five people would have met had they not been thrown together, and after they leave rehab, it’s doubtful they’ll meet again. But they were together for a difficult spot in their lives, and they’ll always be grateful for each others’ support.
I’ve read two of Amy Reed’s novels, and both have been fantastic. Clean is a gorgeously realistic, wonderfully structured novel. I’m sure that there have been many approaches to a rehab book, and I’m sure this isn’t entirely original, but the emotion Amy Reed writes with makes this book unforgettable.