I’ll be the first one to admit I don’t know that much about meth, other than Breaking Bad and that episode of Dr. Phil with the former ANTM contestant. Also, I’ve never even seen Breaking Bad…I know. Listen, you guys, these Murder She Wrote reruns aren’t gonna watch themselves. I just don’t have the time for another show! So basically I just nod knowingly and say, “Oh, sure, like Breaking Bad,” whenever someone starts talking about meth. And that’s exactly what I said when I read the description of Out of Reach by Carrie Arcos, which features a character who’s a meth addict.
As it turns out, Out of Reach isn’t about drug use at all. It’s about the people who are affected by someone else’s drug use—the family members and friends, the people left behind. When Rachel’s drug addict brother disappears, no one has any idea where he could be. That is, until Rachel gets an email from an anonymous stranger who says Micah’s in Ocean Beach. The book turns into a rescue mission/adventure/sexual tension-y road trip when Rachel invites Micah’s dark and mysterious friend Tyler to help her bring Micah back. But, as you might suspect, finding someone isn’t as easy as Rachel hopes it will be—especially since Micah doesn’t seem to want to be found. As Rachel comes to dead ends and frustrating near-misses, she deals with the guilt she feels over Micah. Should she have told her parents he was using when she first found out? Should she have tried harder to get him to stop? And why did she wait two weeks after getting that email to try to find him?
Out of Reach deals with the heartbreaking feeling of losing someone and not being able to do anything about it. Rachel is powerless to stop Micah as he slips away in front of her—first metaphorically, with drugs, and then literally, when he leaves. Some of the saddest moments of the book are when Rachel and Tyler are sharing memories of Micah, and she realizes they’re talking about him like he’s already dead.
Most of us have lost someone at some point. Whether it’s a significant other, a family member, or a friend, sometimes people just leave us. And you can send them texts or Facebook messages or call them or go look for them in Ocean City and sometimes it won’t get you any closer to them. Because it’s like the line on the cover says—how do you find someone who doesn’t want to be found? In general, people have to want you to find them. Sometimes they’ll come back on their own. And sometimes, they won’t.
I won’t tell you whether or not Rachel finds Micah or what happens on her trip or what goes on between her and Tyler because, seriously, you should read the book! But I will tell you that Out of Reach is great. If you have any friends or relatives with drug problems, or just people in your life you can’t get through to for other reasons, I hope you’ll check it out. It deals with loss and lack of closure in a realistic, non-sappy way. The book intersperses Rachel’s search with the memories she has of Micah, back when he was her brother and not an addict. It’s upsetting, of course, to see how someone can change from a child into a full-blown meth addict. But those good memories don’t go away or matter any less just because they’ve been covered up by bad ones.
-Okay, so I know this book wasn’t about romance. I get that. But I can’t help being who I am (which is someone who gravitates towards the romantic plotline in any book/movie)! I wanted more Tyler. He was great! I mean, “Accompanies you on a secret trip to find your meth addict brother in Ocean Beach and even buys you an ice cream cone,” is one of the best qualities for a potential boyfriend to have. Especially that last part, but it might just be my ice cream addiction talking. Okay, it definitely is.
-As I mentioned before, I don’t know much about meth, or any drug, for that matter. But what Out of Reach reminded me was that meth is seriously bad business. I mean, duh, but it’s easy to forget that when you’re not around it. At one point, Rachel looks up before-and-after photos of people on meth and watches them go from regular people to sad, gaunt, toothless, scabby ghosts. It’s heartbreaking to imagine someone you love going through that awful transformation.
–Out of Reach was recently selected as a National Book Award Finalist. So you don’t have to take my word for it, Levar Burton style. Except instead of listening to a small child talk about a picture book, you should listen to the opinion of the National Book Award people. I’m sorry, was that too inside Reading Rainbow for you?
You can check out Carrie’s website here. Thanks to Kerry Sparks at Levine Greenberg for sending me a copy of Out of Reach!
As always, I love to hear your suggestions for the books you’d like to see in Young Adult Education. Leave a comment, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or find me on Twitter @KerryAnn.
Image via Carrie Arcos