17-year-old Audie doesn't view medical trial participation as a temporary means to an end. She's one of the young CVs--Career Volunteers--who work pharmaceutical trials to their advantage. There are nasty side effects, but on the whole Audie's life is surprisingly decent. A nice apartment, great roommates, and a boyfriend (Dylan) who's been through some experimental procedures himself as a cancer survivor. Audie is planning a surprise road trip for Dylan's 18th birthday, taking on more clinical trials to scrape together the cash. But the side effects are wearing hard on her mind and body. Audie can't tell if her friends are starting to behave strangely around her, or if she's suffering paranoid delusions from all the drugs. As Audie's life spirals downward, her grip on reality begins to slip. Rather, her grip on a carefully-constructed fantasy begins to slip, exposing Audie as an extremely unreliable narrator
Audie decides to go all in with the medical testing in order to save money for a trip with her boyfriend, Dylan. Time is running out, because Dylan’s cancer has come back with a vengeance and Audie doesn’t know how much time she has left with him. As she begins to hit more and more drug trials with her friend Charlotte, they both become sicker and sicker.
This is the type of book where you think you’ve got a handle on the plot, and then, ever so slightly, the narrative tilts and you’re left wondering what’s going on. J.C. Carleson’s grasp on her story is so masterful and subtle; that it isn’t until looking back you see all the breadcrumbs she’s left for her readers.
Audie is one of the best unreliable narrators I’ve come across, and the conviction with which she tells her story is admirable. It wasn’t until the very end of the book that I knew what was truly going on and I relished the story’s ability to keep me in suspense for so long.
This book deals with some heavy themes and therefore I would recommend it to mature audiences only. The idea of moral conviction paired with personal gain was a particularly interesting discussion throughout, and one that isn’t resolved by the end of the novel, but not for lack of trying. Young love, domestic abuse, medical abuse, and consent all become highly discussed topics and highlight the complexity and pain that comes from growing up amidst various forms of abuse.
Placebo Junkies is a highly fascinating read with troubled characters, and surprising twists that keep you on the edge of your seat. If you’re looking for a twisted thriller with a unique premise, look no further!
This book is captivating, unique, devastating, heartbreaking, and utterly brilliant. I couldn't put it down. The heroine has such a vivid, interesting voice, and the premise is fascinating. But what really takes this book into 5 star territory are the twists and turns. The heroine becomes an increasingly unreliable narrator, and things stop adding up, and the reader is left grasping for a reality that no longer seems to exist. I couldn't stay ahead of it, and in the end, this book ruined me for other books for days.
Raw, funny, honest, and devastating. I couldn't put it down.
This brilliantly written novel explores many different themes such as morals, medical ethics, mental illnesses, addiction, human subject testing and control. That one word, control, is essentially what Placebo Junkies is about. Audie and her friends make a living by becoming “human guinea pigs” not because of necessity but, rather because they have the control of when they work, how much they make, and how much damage these tests are going to have on their bodies. They don’t care about helping discover new drugs to cure diseases, in fact, Audie and Charlotte conspire together to abuse the system and make the most money possible. I was disgusted reading about how people and especially these characters will do anything for money. It’s because of this reason that it took me so long to read Placebo Junkies. When I was reading there was a point in the story were I thought ” this can’t be real, people can’t actually do this to themselves” but, there are people who participate in human subject testing. This is all very real.
Overall, I did not like Placebo Junkies. I disliked all of the characters, especially Audie. Her only motivation in life was getting money so she could go on vacation with her boyfriend. I don’t like reading about people who don’t respect themselves or others and are driven by greed. The plot twist at the end will shed a little bit more light on Audie and her behavior but, it doesn’t make her a more like-able character. I gave this book three stars was because of the plot. It discusses a very important topic that society often tends to overlook.
After reading Placebo Junkies I will now wonder who had to be a “guinea pig” to put this medicine/drug on the market today? YA needs more books like this, where it changes your perspective and provokes discussion. I think that everyone should read Placebo Junkies.
I wanted to read Placebo Junkies because I am drawn to stories about illness and the idea of putting yourself through medical procedures and taking medicines that can have nasty side effects for cash intrigues me in that morbid way. Also, the boyfriend that's sick that she thinks is worth the big surprise and money grabs my attention. I wondered if doing the clinical trials was also a way to connect with him and just trying to understand what he might be going through with a terminal illness. I knew this would likely be highly emotional and give room for lots of character growth and realization since the trials will effect her and things go to a bad place as a result of the trials.
This is a gritty book, and Audie describes with detail the horrible side effects of the trials she goes through, and we get pieces of her rough life and what has led her to this lifestyle. Most of the people in her life are also in the drug trials and can sympathize, but her boyfriend also has been through hard procedures and medicines. I couldn't decide if I was feeling their relationship- it was different from a lot of couples I've read about for sure, and they have seen unpleasant sides so its not putting on a front. But she couldn't decide as the book gets going if he is getting sicker or if he is moving on, and her uncertainty and not able to get in his head made me feel a lot of these things.
Things got really weird and a twist that I was not expecting. Audie ends up being an unreliable narrator. Characters that I thought I had a hold on completely transformed. It was nice because of the fact that I expected one sort of outcome and this managed to change that up.
We get answers to the why and how, and Audie's motivations and reasoning. The wrap up was complete, and though I was a bit confused at times, it resolved itself.
Source: Random House e-arc via Netgalley
Disclaimer: I received this book as an ARC (advanced review copy). I am not paid for this review, and my opinions in this review are mine, and are not effected by the book being free.
Bottom Line: Twisty, gritty with an unreliable narrator.