All Cracked Up by Madison Love

all-cracked-up

The premise of this novel sounds like a joke: two friends who´ve tried every diet in the book decide to try taking crack cocaine to lose weight. In fact, it is treated as a joke in the book – the two best buddies, Lily and Samantha, coming up with the idea when they see an old friend of theirs turn up at a party looking slim and glamorous. When they find out she attributes her stunning new body to her crack habit they can´t help but discuss it. Not surprisingly the results of their decision turn out to be not funny at all, but just quite how bleak the story ends up is for the reader to find out.

If I started the book suspicious of how Ms Love was going to tell her story without it being unintentionally humorous, I was quickly put straight. The prologue and introduction places us into Lily and Sam´s world and right from the start it´s all very believable and tragic. The descriptions of the two friends being bullied about their weight rings horribly true and almost immediately afterwards we are given a vision of the friends in rehab after their experiment goes wrong. The story of how they got there is then told in flashback, something I don´t think was necessary, but hey ho.

Once the story really gets going, though, it is honest and well-told. Particularly compelling for me was the portrait of Ron, Sam´s husband, who repeatedly reassures his wife that his weight is not a problem for him: quite the opposite. That Sam continues with her experiments with Lily, especially while Ron is away travelling for work, lends a kind of sweaty-pulse drama to the whole book. Written in cold black and white the plot line might seem obvious, but such is Ms Love´s skill with the characters that you hold your breath when Sam lies to Ron, or when, after hitting the crack all night, she oversleeps and forgets to pick up her kids.

As we know they will, things quickly descend into degradation and misery and even if I had to read from between my fingers, Ms Love did not flinch. As we start passing through the crack houses, led by a pimp who´s got his hands on the drug supply, the writer I was most reminded of was Iceberg Slim! Not sure Ms Love would like that comparison but there´s a brutal honesty about the whole treatment of the story, the dialogue and the characters, which reminded me of Slim´s best, eye-poppingly fearless writing.

Although Ms Love´s story is sharp and vivid, there were aspects of the book that I think could have been improved: that stuttering start, the prologue and the introduction, for example, and some of the grammatical phrasing – but these are niggles. There´s always something.
For a sharp, visceral novel about desperate people who´ll do anything to fit in, include risk everything, this one will keep you up at night and glued to the page.

A cracking read!

All Cracked Up at Good Reads – click here