Recovery Road and its gorgeous cover snagged my attention. I am now officially on a mission to make up for lost time and read all his books, because Recovery Road was incredible.
Madeline, formerly known as "Mad Dog Maddie," has begun her junior year of high school in rehab. She's been through the initial 28 days of detox and has moved into a halfway house, but is still plagued by the need for substances and the anger issues that got her put away. There are only two other people close to Madeline's age at Spring Meadows: Trish, who is desperate for love, and Stewart, who is beautiful and troubled. Madeline and Stewart cling to each other like they are drowning, but when they are back in the real world, their love is not as easy as they hoped.
From the start, we are told that we shouldn't like Madeline; no one else does because her addictions and propensity for fighting have alienated everyone around her. Despite this, she quickly grows on the reader who spend the book hoping she won't backslide and wanting her to get her life together. Madeline has so many things working against her, including her self-image and the opinions of everyone who knew her before. When she discovers that she enjoys academics, we want her to go to college and be more than her circumstances would suggest.
Nelson does not scrimp on the details of what life is like for a teenager returning to school after rehab. The descriptions of drug use and sex (including an attempted rape) make this book appropriate for older readers. Not everyone gets a happy ending, but that's realistic, and something that will make teenagers love the book. It feels true, and it deserves to be read.