Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Review: Out of Reach by Carrie Arcos

Out of Reach by Carrie Arcos

Rachel's older brother Micah has become addicted to methamphetamines and run away from home.  She watched silently as his addiction developed, but after receiving an email from an anonymous friend she has decided that she can longer ignore what is happening.  She must face reality and try to find her brother and bring him home.  With that goal in mind, she sets off with his bandmate, Tyler, to search for him.  Along the way, she is forced to confront truths about herself, her relationship with her brother, and the reality that she may be searching for someone so lost, he may not be found.

Books about addiction must inevitably walk the fine line between providing a responsible account of the effects of drug use without coming off like an afterschool special.  While there are several points throughout the novel that it appears Arcos is about to tread into preachy territory, she manages to maintain the balance between informative and overly educational.  As any concerned sister would, Rachel browses the internet for information about meth.  She also attends high school where, inevitably, a conversation about the dangers drugs occurs in the midst of a history class.  Thankfully, Arcos doesn't dwell too long in these scenes, allowing them to stand as fairly normal ways that information about drug use and addiction would occur in a normal teenager's life.  Similarly, when Rachel reflects on her relationship with her cheating ex-boyfriend, she realizes how in failing to stand up for herself and allowing her boyfriend to dictate the terms of the relationship  she lost a part of herself.  Written differently, this story may come off too message-y, but in Arcos' hands, it comes off as sincere and meaningful.  Out of Reach is a well-crafted story about a girl coming to terms with her own bad decisions as she struggles in vain to rescue her brother from his.  It's not the best story about addiction or even the best writing, but there aren't any obvious flaws or missteps.

My biggest complaint about this book is that the cover art does not in any way convey the story.  Rachel is a teen girl, but the novel covers her search for her brother during one long day in Mission Beach, CA  In the summer.  A snow hat, puffer coat and jeans make no sense.  A cover that doesn't connect with the story inside is such a waste.  I hope this is remedied for the paperback edition.

Out of Reach was one of five finalists for this year's National Book Award for Young People's Literature.

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