Book Review



  • Author: Neal Shusterman and Jarrod Shusterman
  • Genre: YA Science Fiction
  • Publication Date: November 9, 2021
  • Publisher: Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers

Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with an ARC of this book. I am offering my honest opinion voluntarily.

CONTENT WARNING: death, drug use

Rating: 4 out of 5.

From the team that brought you the New York Times bestselling Dry comes a riveting new thriller that proves when gods play games, even love is a lie.

The freeway is coming.

It will cut the neighborhood in two. Construction has already started, pushing toward this corridor of condemned houses and cracked concrete with the momentum of the inevitable. Yet there you are, in the fifth house on the left, fighting for your life.

Ramey, I.

The victim of the bet between two manufactured gods: the seductive and lethal Roxy (Oxycontin), who is at the top of her game, and the smart, high-achieving Addison (Adderall), who is tired of being the helpful one, and longs for a more dangerous, less wholesome image. The wager—a contest to see who can bring their mark to “the Party” first—is a race to the bottom of a rave that has raged since the beginning of time. And you are only human, dazzled by the lights and music. Drawn by what the drugs offer—tempted to take that step past helpful to harmful…and the troubled places that lie beyond.

But there are two I. Rameys—Isaac, a soccer player thrown into Roxy’s orbit by a bad fall and a bad doctor and Ivy, his older sister, whose increasing frustration with her untreated ADHD leads her to renew her acquaintance with Addy.

Which one are you?

As someone who has worked in substance use treatment, I was extremely curious about how this book was going to play out. However, I’ve also read some other books by the authors, and was intrigued by how they handled other sensitive issues. I think we can all recognize that prescription drugs are a double-edged sword — they help so many people, but there’s a dark side as well, since they have the potential to be abused.

I think what was most intriguing about the book was that it didn’t just involve Isaac and Ivy and their social circles, but it gave voice to the drugs themselves as characters. It personalizes drugs as both helpful and potentially harmful when they’re abused. And it clarified that their primary purpose *is* to treat conditions — Roxy was designed to treat pain, Addy was designed to treat ADHD. And they do that effectively, although both Isaac and Ivy head down the path of abusing that. It doesn’t happen to everyone that uses these drugs, but it also personalizes how a valid medication can turn into a life-ruining drug when it isn’t used properly. 

It’s hard not to empathize with both Isaac and Ivy, even as they are ruining their lives slowly. We can watch it happen from an outsider’s perspective, although it was harder for me to watch Ivy’s downward spiral, seeing how she was actually struggling with a valid diagnosis and benefiting so much from using the medication … until she wasn’t anymore. Whereas with Isaac, he wasn’t really doing what he was supposed to do from the start. It was easy for me to see what was going to happen down his timeline early on, even though we don’t quite know what happens in the end. We see an event at the beginning of the story, but it isn’t clear who it happens to. 

I found the whole story quite intriguing, and it was a quick but very thought-provoking read. While I also understand that there are complex issues at play regarding substance use and regulations, I think that this was a clever look at the inner workings of the pharmaceutical scene and the innocent people who get caught in the crossfire. Because this isn’t just a story — this is a lived reality for so many people. My only critique is that I would have liked to see an additional character involved who doesn’t wind up abusing prescription medication, just as a foil for the ones who do, since the vast majority of people who are prescribed these drugs don’t wind up abusing them and in the throes of addiction.

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