Book Review: White Lines by Jennifer Banash
“What’s up, kitty cat?” Marla has a big, booming voice, and it bounces off the tiles and reverberates through my head. I walk over with a smile as she reaches to enfold me in her fleshy arms, practically cutting off my circulation with her cleavage.
“Taking a break?”
“You got it,” I say as she releases me. I walk over to the stalls and lock myself inside and sit on the closed toilet lid. Taking a break. Is that what I’m doing? Because I don’t know anymore. As I reach into the plastic bag with my pinky, scooping a bit of white powder under my fingernail and holding it to one nostril, inhaling deeply, my eyes close and I try to ignore the sinking sensation in my stomach that lets me know I’ve gone too far. There was a time, I think, when drugs added to the night more than they took away. When you were happy just to be here, in this crazy, fractured world, dancing all night beneath the lights, sweat breaking on your skin like holy water.
I remember that feeling of bliss, and there’s a twinge in my gut now where it used to reside, especially since I know I’ve been faking it in the past few months. Tears well up in my eyes, and my mouth fills with bitterness as the drug works its way into my system. I repeat the process on the other side, breathing in hard, then rub the excess over my gums. The taste in my mouth is slightly unfamiliar, like dirt, but weirdly soapy at the same time, and as I begin to wonder why, the room beings to quickly slide away from me. There’s something . . . missing in me… I hear myself murmur, the words slow and thickened.
A lush, elongated feeling lengthens my muscles as I fall to the floor, my body useless and limp, my bones hijacked. I reach out for the door, my hands scrabbling at the lock, my body moving forward into empty space, fingers scratching at the metal as the room swirls away in a cyclone of red and black.
Abused by her mother and forgotten by her father, 17 year old Cat has been taking care of herself for a long time. Set in the 1980’s, she lives alone in the East Village, and she plays at attending school but lives for being one of the party throwers at the clubs- controlling the who gets in and out of the club, throwing parties, and the rush of drugs that makes everything that much more. When Jullian transfers into her school, she finally thinks that she might have a way out of the black hole she’s fallen into, but can she escape the lure of partying and drugs, especially when her boss is pulling the strings?
I found White Lines entirely realistic; Banash captured Cat’s voice and actions completely realistically and it echos in what teens feel today. Told with sporadic flashbacks of what abuse Cat suffered at the hands of her mother (mental, emotional, and physical, along the lines of Mommie, Dearest) readers can’t help but be drawn into Cat’s story. Her relationship with Jullian tears your heart, as well as with so-called “friends” Giovanni and Alexi, all of whom have deep problems of their own. Recommend to pair with biographies like Zoo Station or Tweak, or fiction books like Beneath a Meth Moon, the Crank series by Ellen Hopkins, or Smack by Melvin Burgess. 3.5 out of 5 stars. As of July 28, Goodreads has White Lines 3.59 stars.
About Karen Jensen, MLS
Karen Jensen has been a Teen Services Librarian for almost 30 years. She created TLT in 2011 and is the co-editor of The Whole Library Handbook: Teen Services with Heather Booth (ALA Editions, 2014).
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