A beautifully written and deeply moving account of an adolescence shaped by alcohol.
Koren Zailckas grew up in the suburbs of Boston and whilst at Syracuse University was the subject of a Time magazine article about women and binge-drinking. She now lives in New York City.
This isn't just one girl's story of sneaking drinks in junior high, creeping out for night-long keg parties in high school and binge-drinking weeknights and weekends through college-it's also a valuable cautionary tale. At 24 (her present age), Zailckas gave up drinking after a decade of getting drunk, having blackouts and experiencing brushes with comas, date rape and suicide. She weaves disturbing statistics (from Harvard School of Public Heath studies and elsewhere) into her memoir: most girls will have their first drink by age 12, and will have the experience of being drunk by 14; teenage girls drink as much as their male peers, but their bodies process it badly (they get drunk faster, stay drunk longer and are more likely to die of alcohol poisoning); and date rape and booze go hand-in-hand. Zailckas had alcohol poisoning at 16 after a night of downing shots at a party with friends, but having her stomach pumped in the emergency room and enduring a month of being grounded didn't check her desire to drink. Fraternity keg parties led to drunken sexual encounters not-quite-remembered; drinking began to replace intimacy. Alcohol defined Zailckas's adolescence and college years to such an extent that, as she tells it, she lacks the tools to be an adult: she's unsure how to maintain relationships and unclear about sex without an alcohol buzz. Zailckas is unsparingly insightful and acutely aware of what drinking can and does do to girls. She explains that while kids are taught that drugs are always dangerous, alcohol is perceived as an acceptable rite of passage. Her book is deeply moving, written in poetic, nuanced prose that never obscures the dangerous truths she seeks to reveal. Agent, Erin Hosier. (Feb. 7) Forecast: Zailckas should reach a varied readership: she's a student of Mary Karr's (The Liar's Club), which will garner a literary audience, and has also received praise from those who work in the substance abuse field. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
"Beautifully written, oddly affecting..." -- India Knight The Sunday Times "One of the most original and brutally honest memoirs I've read in a long while. Koren is a writer's writer - and she wipes the floor with any of her contemporaries. Smashed is definitely my find of the year" -- Helen Walsh, author of Brass "It is a testament to Zailckas's hard, fast, clever writing that Smashed grips from beginning to end" The Guardian "An original and moving book that perhaps starts to explain why we seem to have a generation of bing-drinking teenage girls" The Observer "Well and fiercely written" -- Hilery Mantel The Sunday Telegraph
Zailckas, 24, charts her relationship with alcohol from first taste at 14 to eventual abstinence at 23. Her cast of supporting drinkers reveals that her alcohol abuse-"highlights" of which include alcohol poisoning at 16 and a blackout with possible loss of virginity in college-is not uncommon. These women drink as a method of socializing and as a seeming means to deal with rage, self-doubt, and depression. Alcohol was the author's preferred conduit of bonding with other women, yet it prevented her from forming meaningful relationships. While Zailckas's writing lacks the humor of Augusten Burroughs's Dry, her rather poetic prose works to reveal a problem that goes beyond the personal. However, her own story remains the strongest and most moving aspect of the book, despite tiresome rants against the alcohol industry's glamorization of drinking and the government's and colleges' lame campaigns against problem drinking. Overall, a powerful memoir; recommended for large collections and especially high school and college libraries.-Amanda Glasbrenner, New York Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.