Cover Image: Roxy

Roxy

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Member Reviews

This book, set as a drama, explores the complexities of addiction. Isaac and Ivy are brother and sister who inadvertently get on the addiction train. One survives, but one does not. In this allegorical tale, Shusterman and Shusterman delve into the depths on how addiction and drugs can hook you and how the slippery slope can become too slippery at times.
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Thank you NetGalley and Simon Schuster Books for this gifted copy of Roxy for an honest review. 
    After reading only a couple of chapters I was completely confused and chose  to stop reading the rest of the book.  I couldn’t figure out who Roxy and Addison were and what part they were playing in the story.   I did enjoy reading about Ivy and Isaac and I was curious about how their storyline was going to develop throughout the book.  
After going back and reading the synopsis of the book I discovered the book was about drugs and overdose which is “ not my cup of tea.”
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This book was a full rollercoaster. I already loved the writing style of both Neal and Jarrod, so finding Roxy this amazing is totally not surprising. But I have to say that this had something extra, something that Dry didn't have. Maybe it was the painful and hard topic, or maybe that the characters somehow were amazingly represented as they were. I was spechless most of the time, but totally happy to have discovered this story.
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Thank you so much @NetGalley and @simonteen for gifting me a copy of Roxy in exchange for an honest review. 

💊 Mini Review ❤️ 💜
I have been a huge fan of @nealshusterman since I started reading again back in 2012. I was so excited that he was coming out with a new book along with his son! 

Roxy is a very unique book with an interesting concept. Roxy is short for Oxycontin. And is one of our main characters… Roxy… the drug… like I said, this book is very unique. We follow Isaac and his sister Ivy. Isaac is a smart kid who would be considered the "good" sibling. He has good grades, high expectations for his career, and is an amazing soccer player. Ivy, on the other hand, can’t get straight. She has bad friends, a horrible boyfriend, and is in constant trouble with her parents. 

Isaac and Ivy aren’t our only POV’s. We also get chapters in Roxy and Addison's (Adderall) perspective. And sprinkled in are a few other drug's lives we get to experience. Unbeknownst to Isaac and Ivy, Roxy and Addison have made a deal. Whoever can bring their plus one to the party first and end up in VIP. 

I really liked Isaac and Ivy and felt for both of them as they struggled through their issues and addictions. I think that both Neal and Jarrod did a great job at carefully and slowly showing us how addiction works and how it can happen to the best of us. I saw some reviews where people did not like how some of these drugs were compared to each other, especially Oxycontin and Adderall. Since Adderall is prescribed for people struggling mentally. Though I can see where they are coming from, I also felt that the author's intent was to show how any drug can be abused no matter what it is intended for. 

If you like interesting books with unique concepts then I recommend this book to you! I gave it ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
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Thanks to NetGalley & Simon & Shuster for the early copy in exchange for an honest review. Unfortunately, I was unable to finish and left it at 20% of the way through.

I usually love Shusterman's work but this one felt too chaotic and all over the place for me to really understand what was going on. He usually weaves complex storylines with multiple characters and have them tie together in the end but I couldn't even understand the characters in the first place. 

The concept of Drug Gods is interesting on its own but feels very iffy, morally, to almost simplify drug addictions in a bizarre way. People have lost their lives to addiction and it just rubs me the wrong way how it's...handled here.
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This allegorical novel by Neal and Jarrod Shusterman is a commentary on the opioid crisis in America. Told from the perspective of Oxycontin (Roxy) and Adderall (Addison), the two characters are in a competition to bring a plus-one to the Party and get them all the way to the VIP room (death). They have chosen a set of siblings - Isaac Ramey for Roxy, and his sister Ivy for Addison.

Isaac is a soccer player, and after spraining an ankle his grandmother gives him one of her pain pills - Roxy. Ivy has a lot of issues, and her parents take her to a psychologist who prescribes Adderall to help her focus. The book focuses on these main characters and their downward spiral into the relationships they share with their respective drugs.

Also featured in asides throughout the book are other drugs - Roxy's cousin Phineas (Morphine), her up-line Hiro (Heroin), Addison's competition, the Coke brothers and good old friend Al (cohol).

Roxy is a dark book told well. There are many books that deal with teenage addiction, but none before this told from the perspective of the drugs themselves. A worthy read, but a troubling one.
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Roxy by Neal and Jarrod Shusterman is one of the most unique books I’ve read this year.  It’s a dark and all too timely read about the opioid crisis that has ravaged so much of rural America.  While the topic itself might not be new, the authors’ approach to it sure is.

Roxy follows teens Isaac and Ivy Ramey, siblings who are both on prescription medication.  Ivy is taking Adderall to help with her ADHD, and Isaac is taking oxycodone for pain after suffering an injury during a fight and then further exacerbating it out on the soccer field.  The story tragically begins with first responders at the scene of an apparent drug overdose.  We learn that the victim is deceased and that it’s I. Ramey. Which I. Ramey though? We then back up and follow each teen through what led to their being prescribed the medications in the first place and then continue forward until we learn which Ramey sibling has died. The authors do a wonderful job of making the readers invested in the lives of both Ivy and Isaac.  They’re both good kids who come from a good family, and what happens is just so sad and preventable.

While this story is a dark and tragic one, it’s also a very creative one in that two of the other main characters are actually the drugs themselves personified. Roxy is oxycodone and Addy is Adderall.  Each of these drugs is given a distinct personality, and they behave as rivals throughout the story as if it’s a competition to see which can get more people hooked. I could see this being potentially offensive for a reader who takes either of these prescription medications, but I think the Shustermans do a fantastic job of handling the topic with sensitivity.  They make it very clear throughout Roxy that both medications have medicinal value and that people use them for legit reasons.  Isaac and Ivy only start heading down the dangerous path to addiction and overdose when they choose to veer from their prescribed dosages.

There were also some interesting interludes throughout the story that featured drugs who used to be in the spotlight the way Oxy and Adderall are these days.  There’s Mary Jane who has now gone legit, and we also see Lucy who is just kind of floating around doing her own thing.

Roxy is a compelling story that definitely kept me turning the pages.  It was a heartbreaking read, knowing that it would end in the death of a young person and I shed tears as soon as I learned which sibling it was, but it’s also a powerful read that left me with so much to think about, particularly with respect to how it’s all too easy for anyone to fall victim to addiction.
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I was a bit reserved about reading this based on some of the reviews. However, this book exceeded those reviews. In my opinion it needs to remain at the forefront that this is a work of fiction. It kept interest in a unique way while addressing an increasingly difficult topic. While I see what people's hesitations are I think the authors did a brilliant job with the flow, plot and use of the characters. Definitely outside of the box and definitely worth the read.
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"Do you have sadness in your heart for the world that can never be & sensible shoes? You’ve got weltschmerz." 

I don't think I've ever positively reviewed a book I haven't finished, but this here's going to be the first. Because I'm the kind of person who can't rewatch the Scott's Tots episode of The Office, and who cringes just thinking about that one scene in On His Way to the Wedding (by Julia Quinn: Spoiler for a Bridgerton book ahead) when Gregory professes his love in front of all of London, and ... it does not go well.  I just sometimes get to a point where reading/watching is going to hurt too much, and I gotta stop.  But I also want people to know about this story.

Because this book is VERY GOOD.  But it's also A LOT.  And I have been attempting to finish it for the past... month? And NetGalley tells me it's out now, and I should let you all know that it's out now, because you should read it, but I kept getting stuck on the whole "you haven't finished it yet" part, and .... procrastination cycle is complete & infinite!

When I tell you this book is

unique
beautifully moving
timely & relevant
super compelling

I am not exaggerating.  It's fast-paced, the writing hasn't been clunky at all, and it's not (so far) heavy-handed about a subject it's REALLY EASY to get heavy-handed about.  The father & son author duo know how to write an engaging and deep book, without making it seem like that's the kind of book they're writing.

The problem of not-finishing this book is not a book problem, here, it's a me problem.

Rx Oxy (not subtle)

Cause this book is about substance abuse, which: I admit should have read the description on NetGalley more closely before requesting this, but Neal Shusterman's name was a big pull for me, and I'm going to blame that for me not seeing the little hidden clue that this was going to be about drug abuse in the very compelling, but obvious-once-you're-looking-for-it cover art.

Before the book even starts, the authors warn "For those struggling with addiction, or with an addicted love one, this book will be cathartic, but also very intense."  That is a warning I should've heeded better, I suppose, but I'm not upset that I've read this far: I think this is a valuable, poignant book.  I just know I'm not going to finish it with any sort of timeliness.

So substance abuse is a real thing, and it's obviously in the pop-culture ether as well, right now, as all of the stuff about Oxycontin & the Sackler family & the complete bullshit that was getting a lot of people addicted to a medication they didn't necessarily need or understand the risks of, is getting discussed a lot.  As it should be.  But.

But see, this book is just too much for me, right now.  I am a chronic pain patient who uses all sorts of meds (including opiates) to manage her pain levels.  But I also come from a family with a wide and long history of substance abuse, and I've lost family members to same.  I actively monitor my pain management to a level my past pain management doctors have called "extreme paranoia", but that's how I survive.

You see, I know how it happens.

I've personally witnessed how simple & scary it can be to get hooked on a substance, and with my genes, and family history, I'm not playing around in that playground, I'm taking it seriously from day 1.  It took more than a decade for me to find a pain doctor who understood what I was worried about, and even longer for me to feel like we had a good enough plan to actually risk taking addictive meds. I lived in a lot of pain, for a long time, out of fear.  Reasonable fear, in my estimation, but still: This is a double-sided sword I am all too familiar with.

So to read a book that personifies these substances, gives them power and presence and intent? Is just, more than I can handle right at this minute.

Still, let me explain the basics, so you can really understand how different - in a good way - this book is.

So in Roxy, the substances - all varieties of drugs &  alcohol - are all personified. They're individuals, with a whole (really scary) subculture, & "classes", & wants/needs/goals: They see themselves as Gods, basically. They're out there having fun & making conquests out of people.  And when I say they' have 'classes', it's really just a societal power structure, with the most addictive & damaging drugs on the highest rung, and all their less lethal, but adequately addictive, drug siblings in their downline, like a combination of the world's worst MML, pyramid scheme, & a really twisted Mount Olympus, all rolled up in one - pretty frightening, but not inaccurate - package.

The club is high above everything giving it a spectacular view of the world below - all those city lights.  Any cit - every city - and here, those lights are always twinkiling, because it's always night.  The date might change, but the scene is the same.  The bar never closes.  The DJ never stops spinning one song into another.  This place exists at that golden moment when the bass drops.

Roxy is literally Oxycontin; She's on the highest rung of drugs, in that she can, if she chooses, be sufficiently addictive as to kill her users, but she also kind of just moved up to that level, and she's still sometimes straddling the rung below that, where she just can really f' people up, instead of straight out killing them.  Also on that lower level is Addison, Mr. 'Oh, you've been diagnosed with ADHD; let me teach you the ways of my people!" himself. Addison/Adderall is on that lower rung, but he's sick of feeling like he's 2nd class, sick of seeing his 'brothers' in his upline (cocaine, speed, meth) viewing him as lesser, swooping in to 'steal' his users so that he never gets to move up to the next level.

And so, Roxy & Addison make a not-so-friendly wager - in homage to the great mythology the authors are clearly emulating - to see which of a pair of siblings, these two drugs can fully impact faster.  Which one of them can bring their 'conquest' to the VIP room of their particular underworld club most efficiently.  Roxy makes it to the VIP Lounge all the time, but she doubts that Addison has what it takes to make it all the way to the end, and he can't seem to resist the challenge, once issued.

You've got the chapters that are told from the substances' points of view, and wow: are they a little triggering, since their whole outlook is to get their user to need them, in order to survive, above all else.  To crave them, and to be comforted by them, and to just. keep. using. them. no matter what else is happening in the users' lives.  To become their sole thought, their only want, their ultimate need.

And then you have the human characters' chapters, where we meet these two siblings, both teenagers, both dealing with a whole lot of shit, and trying to figure out their complicated lives, and both having pragmatic & practical reasons to  - at least initially - begin a relationship with Roxy or Addison. They're kids with issues, sure, but they're also siblings who love each other & their parents, and their grandmother who lives with them.  They've got friends, and lives, and ... in the background, at least at first, these drugs.

And ... as you can imagine, those chapters are also very intense.

For people whose families have faced addiction issues, particularly.

They see themselves as gods, but in the end, they are just like me.  Nothing but chemicals.  In complex combinations, perhaps, but still no more than tinctures, distillations, and petty pharma.  Chemicals designed by nature, or by man, to tweak your chemicals.

If they live, it is only because you gave them life.  As well as the license to end yours.  And if they act in roles beyond their purpose, it is only because you placed them upon the stage to perform.

And that is why I am stuck at 44%, because I can seeeeeee these two trainwrecks barreling down the tracks to disaster-ville, and I can't stop it. Nothing I do, as I turn these pages on these really well written teenagers, who genuinely love each other, and who have legitimate issues that require these  medications, is going to protect them from what's coming.  Because I'm simultaneously reading their stories from the substances' POV, and witnessing all their coaxing and calming and 'reasoning' and cajoling, and I know their ultimate goal is to claim these kids.  To get them to a point of no-return. And I had to stop reading before somebody wound up there.

I don't know how to keep reading this - very good! and too real! and wow that's triggering! - book, but I still want you all to know that it's out there, and that it's startlingly realistic & original, and if you can handle all these situations without having to take a break**, then I highly (oh god that's not meant as a pun, I promise) recommend this book.


*Title quote from here, a Mental Floss article written by Arika Okrent, that I find myself quoting all too often.

**Thanks to #NetGalley for my copy of Roxy, which I promise to eventually to finish.
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Thank you to netgalley for providing an e-galley for review. Neal and Jarrod Shusterman's "Roxy" is a personification of many of the street drugs out there, but mainly oxycontin and adderall. Brother and sister, Issac and Ivy get hooked on two different drugs and the book traces their downfall with interludes by Roxy and Addison and their various relatives. This book shows the ways that these drugs take over a life. The book itself was addicting, I couldn't put it down.
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This isn't the Shustermans at their best. I think the prolific sections narrated by the drugs took away from the book, rather than add to it. I think it would have been more enjoyable with only a couple sections from the drugs' POV. I did like how it opened with the major event, but you don't know who it is involving for sure until the end. The book goes back and forth between siblings, so sometimes you think it was the brother at the beginning, and sometimes you think it is the sister.
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This book is such a clever take on drug abuse. Having the characters be the drugs was such a unique way to present the story, and the authors still kept it serious while entertaining at the same time. That’s no easy feat with a topic like that. This isn’t a happy story. There is death, as well as significant drug abuse. I highly recommend this to anyone, teen or adult.
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This book.. concerns me. It's well-written and I think it had the potential to be a really powerful story about addiction and how thin the boundary is between use and abuse. HOWEVER, I think the way in which it as gone about is really unthoughtful, and frankly incorrect. This book personifies the drugs, and places them in this sort of omnipotent position where their goal, as gods, is to interact with their charges/users and guide them toward better lives, or in a lot of times this metaphorical 'VIP room,' symbolizing death. Now this isn't necessarily a bad idea in principle, but the drugs that are concerned here and details of their depictions are just frankly dangerous. 

Roxy (Oxytocin) and Addie (Aderall) are in a competition to bring one of these two twins to this VIP room, aka kill them. Both drugs have their own characterization, Roxy as this sort of seductive pain drug and Addie as this hesitant drug that is sometimes helpful but is gaining a more dangerous edge. The implication here is that the point of drugs like oxytocin or Adderall is ultimately to be addictive and to harm the user. While this has the potential to be true, I feel like this is wrong to imply, as drugs like these, whether they be for focus, for function, for pain, or any other MEDICAL reason, are initially prescribed for assistance, and they also have the potential to provide this help. This book only further stigmatizes these drugs in a lot of ways; and placing drugs of different types on this same sort of moral platform is only further stigmatizing the way in which the reader would view these. As someone who's used both, it feels inappropriate to compare them in terms of use, motivation for use, and effect. The scenes where the drugs interact with their charges and it's almost played off as a seduction or a manipulative conversation, it just feels ridiculously wrong.
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This book wasn't for me, clearly. I am all for a social commentary, but this book made that so overt that it was painful. 

Siblings Isaac and Ivy both have to deal with their share of teenage issues -- Isaac is the academic, sporty kid and Ivy is known as the party girl. As both of them turn to drug use to help solve their respective problems, they both fall prey to the addictive nature of them.  

However, in this book, the drugs are personified and made into characters by their street names. I was aware of nearly every one of those names, which made the personification fall flat for me. To me they read as caricatures and not as characters. And to make the villain a prescription-drug-person feels inauthentic when it comes to their motivations. Instead of having any complex reason for Roxy (OxyContin) to ensnare her marks, there is literally no motivation beyond bringing them to the VIP lounge of "The Party" (ODing from what I could understand). To be fair, that would definitely be the motivation of an inanimate object, but as characters, it needed more for me. 

Long story short -- there are so many other ways this could have been written and capture the same warning -- don't do drugs kids, including those that you can find in your parents' medicine cabinet or those that have been prescribed to you.
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Everyone has heard of Roxy and Addison, even if you didn’t know that was their name.  Roxy, AKA Oxycontin, is good at her job.  She catches people while they are down and keeps them in her grip.  Addison, AKA Adderall, is a smart overachiever who would like to update her image from a helpful friend to a dangerous one.  Roxy and Addison make a bet.  They each believe they can bring a person to “the Party” first without the person switching to a new player.  Who are the marks?  Ivy and Isaac Rameys.  Will these siblings be able to fight the pull of these experts?  With their lives on the line, what choices will they make?

Roxy is a stand-alone novel that is hard to pigeonhole into one genre.  The premise of the story is set in the real world, yet Roxy, Addison and the other vices explored are not really interacting with humans in this way.  The Shusterman’s have taken a very real and devastating topic and brought it to an audience that needs to understand what is happening in people’s lives.  I have close family members that have been addicted to various substances and know the cycle is hard to break.  With the personification of these chemical compounds, readers may be able to empathize with those who are suffering from addiction.  Once this book got its grip on me, I couldn’t put it down!
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I may be in he minority of people who have suffered some of the same ailments as the characters, but I found it fascinating to read this gritty and intriguing book.  Does every experience need to mirror my own?  Of course not.  I don't read for that.  I read to learn what are the experiences and what is in the minds of others.
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This is such a clever take on drug abuse- anthropomorphisation of the drugs was such a unique way to present the story, and the authors did a tremendous job keeping it appropriately serious. I have a ton of thoughts on this book, and will try to break them down. It isn't even a wholly likes-versus-dislikes list either, it's more of a "here's some thoughts about various topics in this book".

The Characters (humans):

Ivy and Isaac are quite different, and I will say that I knew which I. Ramey was being discussed from the start. I have no idea why; in fact I think I just read it wrong and thought I saw one name. Regardless. I think I wanted a bit more in terms of their development, but I also understand why that would have been near impossible (or, lead to a six hundred page book). They were so different, but they still both ended up having particular issues with drug use. Ivy had been on and off Adderall for quite some time, and when we meet her, she's currently off of Adderall, and kind of floundering, making some bad decisions, etc. Isaac, on the other hand, is destined for great things, but an injury puts him in the clutches of Oxycontin. I cannot say much more about the trajectory of their respective stories, because they're kind of the whole point of the story. But I definitely felt a ton of empathy for each of them, because neither road is easy.

Their parents are fairly absent, which didn't quite work for me. It felt like a pretty heavy case of Parent-in-YA Syndrome™, which as you may recall, is when parents go AWOL basically because their existence doesn't lend itself to the plot. But part of it does showcase that hey, maybe kids need present parents, which I am here for.

The Characters (drugs):

This is interesting. I have read reviews that claim irresponsibility in personifying drugs, and I get that to an extent. But I also find it a genius idea (as I find most of Neal Shusterman's, and now his son's, ideas). The thing is, drugs have functions, and in some cases, those functions are good! While I'll delve into that more in a bit, obviously Adderall has been immensely helpful to many people. And even Oxycontin has its appropriate uses, of course. And to me, that is what the authors are trying to get at here: medication is not inherently bad. But at the end of the day, if you are addicted, it will stop at nothing to keep you hooked. Obviously this is an oversimplified version of what is happening in this book, but you get the idea.

Roxy (who is Oxycontin) is quite likable at times, and you get the feeling that Addison (Adderall) is genuinely not a bad dude. Which is the thing- Adderall is helpful to so many people. And yeah, it can also be abused. Ditto the situation for Roxy. Interestingly enough, they are quite well-developed in their own rights, and I was quite interested to see how their stories would end as well.

The Drug Use Plot:

So, I think this is the part that some people struggled with. I have seen some rather harsh reviews concerning the inclusion of Adderall, that perhaps it is deterring people with ADHD from taking necessary medical treatment, or even stigmatizing the use. And look, as someone who's not used the medication personally, I certainly cannot say. But from my (admittedly limited) perspective, I didn't infer that.

I felt like the authors did a good job of showing that medicinal use of these substances was incredibly valid. And that when Isaac began taking the Oxycontin, it was under appropriate medical prescription. But the truth is, even the best intended use of drugs can go astray, and that is exactly what is being illustrated here. Isaac was basically the last person you'd think would develop a problem- which is what happens with a great many people. Much like Mindy McGinnis's Heroine, Roxy is able to showcase the very human side of drug addiction. It removes the stereotypes, and as such, decreases stigma.

This isn't a cheerful story. Please be aware going in that there is death, as well as (obviously) significant drug use. And because of this, a lot of unhealthy behaviors as a whole. Look, I didn't like this book. Who likes a book about the harsh realities of drug addition? But I am absolutely glad to have read it. 

Bottom Line: Beyond clever, definitely heartbreaking, yet very important.
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Before I go into a review, I want to emphasize the need to read the synopsis before reading this book. It will be triggering for a lot of people and is not a feel good, happy ending book. Proceed with caution!

Now that that’s out of the way, this book is brilliant! Addiction is different for every person as are the reasons for the addictions. Having the drugs be “human” brought a new perspective to how they act. The interlude drugs and how they interacted with the main character was well done. 

I felt the authors did a good job in showing that the main drugs were beneficial and, only when the users abused them, did they become troublesome. It shows the complexity of the relationship between drugs, users, and others pulled into the narrative.

This will be a controversial book, for sure, but I think it brings to the forefront a real issue in our country and with our youth. Each reader will have a reaction to this book based on personal experience and hopefully will generate thoughtful discussions around the issues.

Thank you NetGalley and the publisher for an advanced copy!
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I enjoyed this title but not as much as Shusterman's other books. The opoid crisis subject is important. While Roxy dealt with it well, it just didn't hit it out of the park like Dry did - for me, anyway.
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I really enjoyed this strange and heartbreaking book.  The different points of view was an interesting way to tell the story and the twists at the end were very unexpected.
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