Synopsis: Penelope Wryter’s life has been a mess ever since her sister committed suicide a year ago. Now Pen’s hooked on Fix, an illegal drug that makes her feel, think, and see differently. The hallucinations are intense, but there’s one vision that keeps Pen coming back for more–Nate. He’s the only person who cares about her. Too bad he’s just a side effect of the drug. Pen knows she’s going nowhere fast. She’s desperate to change. But when she tries to say goodbye to Nate, he professes his love for her making her more confused than ever. Then, when a girl from school goes missing during a bad Fix trip, Pen realizes she may be in a lot more danger than she ever imagined. Unless Pen straightens up and faces reality quick, she might be the next missing girl on the list.
Content Warnings: Character deaths, depression, domestic abuse, drug use, slut-shaming, suicide mention
Considering I started right before the holidays, I finished this book really quickly! Every time I had to get up to switch laundry or take a break to help the family, I found it difficult to put this book down. Cronkhite throws you into Penelope Wryter’s world with just enough information to strap you in for the ride then doesn’t touch the breaks once you’re going.
Drug use and the presence of mental illness is a difficult topic to discuss, and many forms of media mess it up, which ultimately sets the conversation back. Because of that, I worried as I was going into this book (as I would with any similar book). However, Cronkhite uses Penelope’s character well to show how difficult it is to “just stop using drugs and you’ll have a better life!” Once hooked on the drug, that’s all Pen thinks about. Of course, it doesn’t help that she doesn’t have much of a home life or close friends or anyone that makes her feel loved for most of the story. But that all plays into her struggle with drug abuse and depression.
One recurring problem I had with the book, however, was that Pen slut-shamed her mother a few times throughout the book. Her mother is dating a man named Ken whom Penelope doesn’t like, and she mentions a few times how inappropriate it is for a woman of her mother’s age to dress and act the way she does. And to that, I say, “Calm down, Penelope, Jesus Crust!”
Although the story seems to more or less take place in our world, there is still a great deal of world-building that I appreciated. Cronkhite has created a fictional drug, called Fix or Phixeedifore, which many of the main characters take throughout the story, and she implemented it into the culture of Penelope’s world very well. There is a scene in which Pen’s health class talks about the rising presence of the drug and the dangers of taking it, and when Pen tries to quit using it, she starts research on it. These scenes make it into a real and natural part of the story.
Another note on the world-building: Since Penelope is high or otherwise suffering side effects of Fix through most of the story, she is an unreliable narrator. Being a mystery novel, the reader is never quite sure what is actually happening in Penelope’s world. Why is Nate showing up to Penelope when she isn’t actively taking Fix? Who can Pen trust to tell her the truth? How can we know Pen’s telling the truth or even knows it herself? The questions continue to build along with the suspense, and that’s why I had such trouble putting this down!
Final Thought: I honestly wish I’d started this book sooner. If you’re into mystery/thriller young adult stories and novels that have real conversations about mental health, here is the book for you!