Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Book Review: "All Fall Down" by Jennifer Weiner

"All Fall Down" by Jennifer Weiner
First published in 2014
381 pages
My rating: 2.5 out of 5
(image source)

Jennifer Weiner strays off the beaten path of chick-lit with her latest novel, "All Fall Down," which deals with addiction to painkillers -- and which I did not enjoy, mostly because the main character was a total whiny bitch.

I applaud Weiner for tackling a serious issue -- and drug addiction IS a serious issue, and the takeaway from "All Fall Down" is that addiction can happen to people you'd never expect, even a mom who seems perfectly together and looks like she's got it all -- but this book was brutal. I don't know if I've ever detested a main character the way I did Allison. Even during her inevitable redemption at the close of the novel, I struggled to root for her.

Allison lives in a big house in the Philadelphia suburbs, writes five days a week for a popular women's blog and cares for her temperamental 6-year-old daughter. Her marriage is rocky and her father has Alzheimer's and the mean comments people leave on her blog posts hurt her feelings. She has some Vicodin left over from a herniated disc and she takes one to relax here and there. Shockingly quickly, one Vicodin every so often turns into more than two dozen OxyContin a day; soon, Allison's life is falling apart as her need for pills becomes top priority.

Everyone has problems, and I'm sure we we can all think of people whose daily lives are exponentially more of a struggle than Allison's... but they manage to get through the day without crunching up double-digits of OxyContin. So why on earth should we feel sorry for Allison? I could not relate to Allison's decisions, and because she was so gratingly whiny and full of excuses and convinced that she was the only one competent enough to manage everything, I wasn't able to muster any empathy or compassion for the hole she dug herself into.

On top of the annoying woe-is-me attitude Weiner gave our main character, I didn't love her writing style here -- too many long, windy paragraphs about childhood memories or that time we went fishing on our honeymoon. And I felt Weiner overused pop culture references -- "Game of Thrones," Whole Foods, Pinterest, the novel "Wonder," Lululemon yoga pants, etc., etc., on and on.

I generally enjoy Weiner's novels, but "All Fall Down" was a miss for me. Still, there's a chance that someone will avoid prescription pill addiction -- or get a wake-up call about their pill problem -- because they read this book, and it's hard to argue with that.

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