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In Ecstasy targets teenage drug culture

By: Anna Borowiecki

  |  Posted: Saturday, Feb 05, 2011 06:00 am

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Review

In Ecstasy
By Kate McCaffrey
Annick Press
Softcover: $12.95
Pages 254

Working in a newsroom, you always hear first-hand about the drug busts and hard-core addicts and you shake your head. But what if one of the addicts turned out to be your teenage daughter’s good friend? Life suddenly takes on a new dimension.

Novelist Kate McCaffrey, a Western Australian resident and mother of two daughters, tackles head-on the growing issue of teenage drug use. She’s penned In Ecstasy, a gritty story of a friendship splintered by drugs.

This is McCaffrey’s second juvenile novel and it’s aimed at the 14- to 17-year-old crowd. The two main protagonists are Sophia, a popular, confident high school teenager and her best friend Mia, a more shy, reserved individual.

When offered ecstasy at a party, both girls pop a pill. For Mia, ecstasy offers an artificial confidence. Suddenly her shyness disappears and she becomes vivacious and popular enough to catch the eye of Lewis, a rich hunk at school.

Lewis has lots of money and little parental supervision. His dates with Mia are centred on drugs and soon Mia discovers she can’t function without them.

Sophia meanwhile has pulled herself away from the drug culture, but in doing so is raped by a drug dealer. And the terrifying emotional aftermath is a demon she wrestles with throughout the book.

McCaffrey does more than just explore issues and the consequences of drug addiction. She goes straight into the characters’ heads and shows us why they make certain decisions and their regrets.

In a scene where a drunken Sophia is performing oral sex on a classmate, McCaffrey deftly uses her trademark bluntness. Sophia narrates, “It wasn’t what I’d expected. None of the magazines tell you how hard it is to breathe, how it makes you choke and gag, or how long it takes. My jaw cramped and I wanted to vomit. It’s the best-kept secret, how revolting it is for girls.”

McCaffrey has chosen to narrate the story through both girls’ point of view. Written in diary form, the candid stories alternate chapters. Modelled on film techniques that flip back and forth, the alternating stories heighten tension and keep the pace clicking.

Ultimately In Ecstasy is a tremendous read because it deftly juggles so many important adolescent topics. If anything, this book is a great reminder of how difficult the teen world is to navigate, something adults quickly forget.


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