September marks National Recovery Month, a national observance held every September to promote and support new evidence-based treatment and recovery practices, the nation’s strong and proud recovery community, and the dedication of service providers and communities who make recovery in all its forms possible.
Last week, I had the pleasure of seeing journalist and author Beth Macy, whose book Dopesick was developed into the acclaimed Hulu miniseries, present at the Mercantile Library here in Cincinnati. Her book, along with several others, was hugely helpful to me as I researched, wrote, and revised Where We Used to Roam. I found the miniseries to be incredibly moving and enraging, and while it’s not an easy watch, I highly recommend it to those who can handle it. I’m eager to read Beth Macy’s follow-up, Raising Lazarus: Hope, Justice, and the Future of America’s Opioid Crisis.
As I listened to her share recovery stories and many of the first-hand connections she made while working on the new book, I found myself remembering a line from the Kirkus review of Where We Used to Roam that, if I’m going to be entirely honest, struck a chord of disappointment when I read it in advance of my book’s publication. Now, I would hardly be alone to want Kirkus to rave about my book, but I felt at the time like the review made it sound like my book was a pamphlet about substance abuse rather than a well-crafted work of fiction. The final lines of the review read: “Though the story ends on a positive note, there is no unrealistically neat happy ending. The author instead offers a brief and engaging introduction to the disease model of addiction and the benefits of medication-assisted treatment.”
While I might have quibbled with the way it was worded, I can now appreciate that the reviewer flagged something that is true about my book. I don’t wish this to be a spoiler alert, so if you haven’t read the book yet and want to, skip down to the bibliography now!
Okay. The truth is that as I continued to research and stay up-to-date on developments in treatment it became very clear to me that MAT, the shorthand for “medication-assisted treatment,” was the gold standard treatment for substance use disorder. As a privileged family, with the ability to research and access the full range of treatments, it only made sense for my protagonist’s family to seek out this treatment for their teenage son after their first efforts with an abstinence-only treatment didn’t succeed. In hindsight, I appreciate the reviewer noting this aspect of Where We Used to Roam for any gatekeepers looking for literature for young readers that reflects the hard truths and latest research about substance use disorder and recovery.
In support of National Recovery Month, I’m sharing a bibliography of recent middle grade titles that deal with substance use and recovery.
Middle Grade Stories about Substance Abuse and Recovery: a reading list
Across the Desert by Dusti Bowling
Bringing Me Back by Beth Vrabel
Genesis Begins Again by Alicia D. Williams
Life in the Balance by Jen Petro-Roy
The Mending Summer by Ali Standish
The Mostly Honest Truth by Jody J. Little
My Fate, According to the Butterfly by Gail Villanueva
Rule of Threes by Marcy Campbell
The Seventh Wish by Kate Messner
A Song Called Home by Sara Zarr
Sunny Side Up by Jennifer Holm
Sure Signs of Crazy by Karen Harrington
Train I Ride by Paul Mosier
The True Story of Lyndie B. Hawkins by Gail Shepherd
Violets Are Blue by Barbara Dee
What About Will by Ellen Hopkins
Where We Used to Roam by Jenn Bishop
The Wild Path by Sarah R. Baughman
The road to recovery can feel lonely, but we’re here to reassure you that you are not alone. In 2020, 40.3 million people aged 12 or older had a substance use disorder. Your path to recovery may look different from many, but #RecoveryIsPossible & help is available. #RecoveryMonth