One of the wonderful things about being a Cybils judge is that I get to read books outside my usual interests, helping me grow as a reader. We All Fall Down: Living with Addiction, a memoir by Nic Sheff, is definitely an example of a book that I would have never picked up on my own if it hadn’t been nominated for a Cybils award in the MG/YA nonfiction category.
So, who exactly is Nic Sheff? I am embarrassed to admit I assumed he was some sort of musician or actor who had gotten involved with drugs. Actually Nic Sheff is famous because he was the subject of a book by his father, Beautiful Boy: A Father’s Journey Through His Son’s Addiction by David Sheff. Nic Sheff had started using drugs at the age of 17 and his father chronicled his downward spiral into addiction. The younger Sheff seems to have inherited his father’s writing ability and wrote his first book Tweak to tell his side of the story. (For more information, see this NY Times article, A Twice-Told Tale of Addiction: By Father, by Son.)
I have to say this second memoir, We All Fall Down, is compelling reading, although I felt a bit like a rubbernecker at a traffic accident. Nic Sheff’s life on drugs was not a pretty sight, and rehab wasn’t any better. It was heartening to read in the final chapters that Nic finally realized his addictions were efforts self-medicate his bipolar disorder. Once he found a psychiatrist who he felt comfortable with and got onto medication, things really seemed to start swinging up.
If foul language offends you, be warned that numerous obscenities are sprinkled throughout the text, as well strong sexual references. This book is definitely for older, mature teens and adults.
Whereas another nominated book, Dog Heroes, seems a bit young for this category, this book seems a bit too mature. There will definitely be young adults who will benefit from reading it, but it doesn’t have the general, broad appeal of some of the other nominees.
Reading level: Ages 15 and up
Hardcover: 368 pages
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers; 1 edition (April 5, 2011)
Tweak: Growing Up on Methamphetamines by Nic Sheff
Beautiful Boy: A Father’s Journey Through His Son’s Addiction by David Sheff