Juno Dawson has to be one of the most forward-thinking authors of YA fiction in the industry right now. Her works are often gritty and raw, looking into the darkest areas of Young Adult life and putting them on display. After all, it’s no secret that teenagers are experiencing such things and so it’s great to see the book industry finally talking about them.
Clean is a fragmented and disjointed novel that follows heiress and socialite, Lexi Volcov. When Lexi almost overdoses, her brother acts upon the threat he’s used time and time again: “You need help.”
It’s time Lexi went to rehab.
It’s time Lexi broke away from the poisonous people and substances in her life.
It’s time Lexi faced her past.
In a nut shell, Clean is a novel with a bite, or rather the sting of a needle. It is the definition of a no-fucks-given and no-holes-barred narrative and if anyone, ever, looks down their nose at the world of YA fiction and says that it is limited to what it can deal with, then hurl Clean right at their face. Hard. Hurl it hard. Not many novels and protagonists can drop the C-bomb, but Lexi can, and you’ll smile wickedly as she does so.
Despite its erratic nature – I mean c’mon, Lexi is going through some serious withdrawel – Clean is beautifully written. The first page sucks you in, demands your attention and will not let you go for the remainder of the novel. I read Clean in a single day, it’s that gripping and I’ve spent a long time thinking about it since. The novel really does stick with you and the only things I wish there was more of, within the story, were more of Guy (the OCD sufferer) and more of Lexi’s love for writing – I really hoped that Dr Goldstein would have suggested she do some writing exercises as a form of therapy and counselling.
One of the strongest elements of Clean would have to be the fully-formed and 3D nature of its characters. They leap of the page with their troubles, their views, and they read with such reality that it’s hard to believe these people aren’t real. My personal favourite would have to be Kendall – I honestly loved Juno Dawson’s portrayal of a post-transition character. As a gay male really welcoming LGBTQ+ novels that are moving on from Coming Out, (such as Adam Silvera’s History is All You Left Me) it was great to see a trans story that was about so much more than just the transition. The fact that Kendall is trans is merely just that, a fact; It’s a part of her as a character, and it’s not up for discussion or debate. Oftentimes you’ll forget that Kendall is trans which is PERFECT – that’s how it should be. Kendall is so much more than just trans, she is a human being dealing with her own demon of anorexia that has nothing to do with who she is as a person. (INSERT: A thousand YASSS’ right here).
On that note, it’s worth pointing out that Clean does deal with some pretty tricky subject matter – mental illness and types of addiction in numerous forms – but don’t let that put you off. Ultimately you should read at your own digression because the book does come with a ‘for readers of 14+’ warning, but do be assured that Juno Dawson has written about these subject matters in a real and believable way. You cannot help but feel every shiver and every scream, but you’ll also feel the underlining sense of hope that’s thread throughout the entirety of the narrative.
Hope that there is somewhere after rock bottom. Somewhere better.
I would love to hear you thoughts and opinions on Clean if you’ve read it. Feel free to comment below and, as always, stay tuned for more book reviews!
If you like the sound of Clean and you’d like to read it, then you can buy it here for just £5.75 (At the time of writing). If possible, do try to buy your books from independent bookshops, but heck, I know what it’s like to be poor and Amazon is just so easy…