Synopses & Reviews
From earliest experimentation to habitual excess to full-blown abuse, twenty-four-year-old Koren Zailckas leads us through her experience of a terrifying trend among young girls, exploring how binge drinking becomes routine, how it becomes "the usual." With the stylistic freshness of a poet and the dramatic gifts of a novelist, Zailckas describes her first sip at fourteen, alcohol poisoning at sixteen, a blacked-out sexual experience at nineteen, total disorientation after waking up in an unfamiliar New York City apartment at twenty-two, when she realized she had to stop, and all the depression, rage, troubled friendships, and sputtering romantic connections in between. Zailckass unflinching candor and exquisite analytical eye gets to the meaning beneath the seeming banality of girls getting drunk. She persuades us that her story is the story of thousands of girls like her who are not alcoholics yet but who use booze as a short cut to courage, a stand-in for good judgment, and a bludgeon for shyness, each of them failing to see how their emotional distress, unarticulated hostility, and depression are entangled with their socially condoned binging.
Like the contemporary masterpieces The Liars Club, Autobiography of a Face, and Jarhead, Smashed is destined to become a classic. A crucial book for any woman who has succumbed to oblivion through booze, or for anyone ready to face the more subtle repercussions of their own chronic over-drinking or of someone they love, Smashed is an eye-opening, wise, and utterly gripping achievement.
"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." Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Zailckas has captured what's unfortunately become a quintessential American girlhood." Mary Karr, author of The Liars' Club and Cherry
"An astonishing revealing debut...riveting, with a powerful message for parents of teenaged girls." Kirkus Reviews
"Like Caroline Knapp's Drinking: A Love Story, this raw, eye-opening memoir will deepen readers' understanding of American culture and perhaps their own lives." Gillian Engberg, Booklist
"[A] mortifyingly credible story of smart young women doing stuporous things." Janet Maslin, The New York Times
"Moving from smashed to whole takes more than narrative talent....Although Koren has described many of the pieces with precision, she has a very short perspective and very slight insight. And all the pieces may not be there anymore." Boston Globe
"Smashed is a valuable piece of work....A small, drunken girl didn't waste the pain of her youth; rather she became an adult who transformed the material into something poetic and powerful." Charlotte Observor
"For parents, the book may well be shocking. For young people, it will be a revelatory, unflinching look at self-destruction." Dallas Morning News
From earliest experimentation to full-blown abuse, 24-year-old Zailckas leads readers through her experience of binge drinking in this vivid, cautionary tale.
Garnering a vast amount of attention from young people and parents, and from book buyers across the country, Smashed became a media sensation and a New York Times bestseller. Eye-opening and utterly gripping, Koren Zailckas’s story is that of thousands of girls like her who are not alcoholics—yet—but who routinely use booze as a shortcut to courage and a stand-in for good judgment.
With one stiff sip of Southern Comfort at the age of fourteen, Zailckas is initiated into the world of drinking. From then on, she will drink faithfully, fanatically. In high school, her experimentation will lead to a stomach pumping. In college, her excess will give way to a pattern of self-poisoning that will grow more destructive each year. At age twenty-two, Zailckas will wake up in an unfamiliar apartment in New York City, elbow her friend who is passed out next to her, and ask, "Where are we?" Smashed is a sober look at how she got there and, after years of blackouts and smashups, what it took for her to realize she had to stop drinking. Smashed is an astonishing literary debut destined to become a classic.
About the Author
Koren Zailckas grew up in the suburbs of Boston. She studied under Mary Karr at Syracuse University, which was featured in a Time cover article about young women and drinking. This is her first book.
Table of Contents
All You Can Drink
You're Pretty When I'm Drunk
Love in the Time of Liquor
Ascent and Decent
The End Has No End