Book Title:
Placebo Junkies
Book Author:
J. C. Carleson
Publishing Date:
October 27th, 2015
Knopf Books for Young Readers
Date Read:
November 27th, 2015


Going Bovine meets Trainspotting in this gritty portrait of at-risk teens gaming the prescription drug trial system.

Meet Audie: Professional lab rat. Guinea pig. Serial human test subject. For Audie and her friends, “volunteering” for pharmaceutical drug trials means a quick fix and easy cash. Sure, there’s the occasional nasty side effect, but Audie’s got things under control. If Monday’s pill causes a rash, Tuesday’s ointment usually clears it right up. Wednesday’s injection soothes the sting from Tuesday’s “cure,” and Thursday’s procedure makes her forget all about Wednesday’s headache. By the time Friday rolls around, there’s plenty of cash in hand and perhaps even a slot in a government-funded psilocybin study, because WEEKEND!

But the best fix of all is her boyfriend, Dylan, whose terminal illness just makes them even more compatible. He’s turning eighteen soon, so Audie is saving up to make it an unforgettable birthday. That means more drug trials than ever before, but Dylan is worth it. No pain, no gain, Audie tells herself as the pills wear away at her body and mind. No pain, no gain, she repeats as her grip on reality starts to slide…

Raw and irreverent, Placebo Junkies will captivate readers until the very end, when author J. C. Carleson leans in for a final twist of the knife.

My Review

How do I even write this review?  Where do I start?  This entire book was just…in a world of its own, and the huge twist just threw me for a loop on the confusing-and-way-out-there coaster.

Not saying that’s a bad thing.

Actually, J. C. Carleson had a wonderful idea for this book, and it was executed perfectly.

Let’s start off by talking about Audie for a little bit.  She’s seventeen, and she’s a professional guinea pig – she lets medical professionals test new drugs on her, and in return, she gets monetary compensation.  Since she was living on the streets, essentially, before she got a fake I.D. and joined up with the program (and got a nice little apartment with some of her fellow guinea pigs), this seems like the perfect plan for her.  She can save up plenty of money, take her boyfriend, Dylan, on a nice trip to a place he wants to go, and the two of them could live happily ever after, right?  Well, Audie is trying to hurry, because Dylan is actually a cancer patient that she met during drug trials – he was there waiting to undergo testing on a drug to see if it would help with his cancer.  While Audie dropped out of high school, Dylan still attends when he’s well enough.

I like Dylan.  He seems like such a perfect boyfriend.  His character is well written, and he’s pretty much flawless, according to Audie:

“This is how well Dylan knows me: he shows up with a stack of books instead of a bouquet of flowers.”

I mean, come on now.  That sounds like the perfect guy, right?  That speaks true love, right there…my husband knows to buy me books instead of flowers, too!

Their relationship is adorable…the kind that makes you all warm and fuzzy inside.  Even though Audie is allowing them to test random drugs on her, and even though Dylan has been suffering from cancer for a long time and isn’t sure if he’ll have a lot of time left, the two of them love each other, and it’s beautiful.

“We loved the worst of each other, so we get the best of each other.”

So, since Audie gets the notion that Dylan is getting sick again, she decides that she needs to save up money even faster in order to take Dylan on his fantasy vacation.  So she joins up with her friend and roommate, Charlotte, who also lets them test medications on her in return for money.  Charlotte’s plan is to sign up for any test she possibly can – even if she isn’t supposed to be testing multiple things at once.  She figures she needs the money and the need the research subject, so she might as well get what she can out of it.

Charlotte is such a fun character.  She’s rebellious and exciting, and she seems like great friend material.  She doesn’t have a family, either, so she and Audie make a good team.

So while trying to score a spot as a research subject for as many different tests as possible, Audie and Charlotte plan on making as much money as they can.  Eventually, the large amounts of testing catches up with them – especially Charlotte.  The side effects that the group of kids who are test subjects develop are quite scary (and kind of graphic in description…especially the guy they call Scratch…use your imagination on that one).  Without throwing any spoilers out there, let me just say that the rest of this book threw me for a loop.  Things started getting absolutely confusing, especially toward the last quarter of the book.  I had to reread certain parts just to make sure I had gotten it right, and I was STILL stunned by the ending.  You’ll never see it coming – I certainly didn’t.  It surprised me, and I loved it (even though the confusion kind of frustrated me for a bit, I got over it pretty quickly).

I read this whole book in one day, and I can’t say I’m surprised.  I got wrapped up in this original story, and the amusing cast of characters who make up the book were fun to read about and get attached to.  While there are some confusing spots, like I said, it all wraps up pretty neatly at the end, so it isn’t like it just stops making sense completely.  It really makes you stop and think…how far would you go to do something special for the person you love?  

Note: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

4 stars
Tagged , |
This entry was posted in Reviews, Romance, Young Adult and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Placebo Junkies by J.C. Carleson

  1. Deanna says:

    Wow. I bet this one was very interesting! I can see how it would really make you think!

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge