Smooth

Featured
Smooth
Author(s)
Age Range
13+
Release Date
June 16, 2020
ISBN
978-1536204384
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Fifteen-year-old Kevin has acne, and not just any acne. Stinging red welts, painful pustules, and massive whiteheads are ruining his life. In an act of desperation, he asks his dermatologist to prescribe him a drug with a dizzying list of possible side effects — including depression — and an obligatory monthly blood test. But when he meets Alex, a girl in the lab waiting room, blood test day quickly becomes his safe haven — something he sorely needs, since everyone, including his two best friends, is trying his last nerve. But as Kevin’s friendships slip further away and he discovers who Alex is outside of the lab, he realizes he's not sure about anything anymore. Are loneliness and self-doubt the side effects of his new acne meds? Or are they the side effects of being fifteen? Told in a bitingly funny first-person narration, this debut novel crackles with wry and wistful insights about the absurdities of high school, longing and heartbreak, and a body out of control. A surefire hit for teen boys and reluctant readers, Smooth gets under the skin of a tenth-grader who is changing — inside and out.

Editor review

1 review
Side Effects May Vary
(Updated: April 29, 2020)
Overall rating
 
5.0
Plot
 
5.0
Characters
 
5.0
Writing Style
 
5.0
Kevin is starting tenth grade, and has been battling horrible cystic acne. At his doctor's appointment right before the school year starts, he mentions taking Accutane to his doctor. There are a lot of conditions to taking the drug, which has serious side effects, but Kevin's acne is so painful and disfiguring that he is willing to take the chances, and doesn't mind filling out forms and having his blood tested once a month. He doesn't want to tell his good friends Luke and Will about this, since he feels they would just give him a hard time. While the three are supposed to be working on a story telling project for language arts, and start with the idea of doing a horror slasher film. At his first blood test appointment, Kevin meets a girl who is also getting treatment for her own acne, and although he doesn't have the nerve to speak with her, he does get her name and picks up her ear buds when she leaves them behind. He feels like Alex might be a kindred spirit, and is soon obsessed with thoughts of her, and what he might say to her the next time they meet. Kevin has somewhat typical 15 year old boy interests,most of which he tries to hide from his parents, and it'snot a surprise that he has underplayed the seriousness of the Accutane as well. As the school year progresses, he starts to feel that Luke and Will are somewhat jerky, thinks that he might be interested in a girl named Emma, has ups and downs in his relationship with Alex, especially when she transfers to his school, and begins to have mood swings that become very serious, and are no doubt tied to the Accutane. When he is helping his younger sister Kate with some of her middle school problems, he realizes that how he is feeling really is very serious, and takes steps to reach out to people in his life and get himself help.
Good Points
The teen boy voice in this was so painfully realistic that I wonder if this is based on the author's own experiences, especially since this is set in 2007. Kevin is a good kid; at one point, he skips going out with his friends to plan his homework for the quarter. He also is quite frank about the private interests of his age group in quite vivid detail, which is why it would be awkward for me to hand this to students. His slow descent into depression is done well. We see him being irritated with people in his life, and he then spirals deeper and deeper into his own thoughts. These changes in tone take place halfway through the book, so readers who don't make it that far miss the hard hitting reality of this title. Teacher and librarians who adored Niven's All the Bright Places or Green's Turtles All the Way Down need to take a look at this book, and remember that the gross bits about acne, horror movies, masturbation, etc. are what will get the fifteen year old boys to read this book and learn from this book it in a way that they might not enjoy or learn from other YA mental health titles.

This did have a lot of Young Adult content, from many f-bombs to intensely private details. This was hard for me to read, but again, the target demographic will find this riveting. I couldn't put this down, even when I knew I wouldn't be buying it for my library.
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