I’m drawn to gritty YA novels, and Mindy McGinnis’ HEROINE held me in its grip from the first line: “When I wake up, all my friends are dead.”
Mickey Catalan is the catcher for an all-girls, undefeated high school softball team on the cusp of making history. To the outside world, she’s a local celebrity sure to snag a college scholarship. But Mickey is covered in scars: physical scars from competitive sports and well-hidden emotional scars.
Adopted at age three and struggling with her parents’ divorce, Mickey only feels as if she belongs when she’s behind the plate. Away from the softball field or locker room, she’s socially and physically awkward. Big and muscular, she’s the opposite of girlie. She doesn’t smile often; she finds talking to her peers about anything other than softball to be a challenge. Sometimes she feels as if people only see her as Mickey Catalan, star athlete.
After she wrecks her car on the ice, her life is turned upside down. Her best friend and teammate suffers an arm injury, and Mickey’s leg needs to be screwed back into place. Literally. Her pain is unbearable and her prognosis grim, but Mickey is determined to be ready for spring training. Controlling the pain is her ticket back to the field, and one Oxy is enough to convince her she needs more. The pills even give her social confidence.
Mickey keeps telling herself she’s not an addict, that she’ll quit the pills after the season. But then she crosses the line with a more cost-effective solution: heroin. (Yes, heroin is cheaper than Oxy. Hard to believe, but true.)
HEROINE is a timely novel about the realities of the opioid crisis—a book to share with older teenagers. Raw and emotional, the story also reveals the best of humanity. Mickey’s family is complicated, messy, and loving. Both her mother and stepmom are impressive women, and one of Mickey’s friends surprised me in the best way. Above all else, HEROINE is an unforgettable page-turner.