I added Heroine to my TBR because I thought it would be right up my alley: I love hard-hitting contemporaries, and one about a girl who becomes addicted to Oxy and heroin sure doesn’t sound like an easy read. That said, this book hasn’t received a lot of hype from my Goodreads friends, so I didn’t know what to expect.
Did this novel live up to its fascinating blurb? Keep reading for my honest and spoiler-free thoughts!
When a car crash sidelines Mickey just before softball season, she has to find a way to hold on to her spot as the catcher for a team expected to make a historic tournament run. Behind the plate is the only place she’s ever felt comfortable, and the painkillers she’s been prescribed can help her get there.
The pills do more than take away pain; they make her feel good.
With a new circle of friends—fellow injured athletes, others with just time to kill—Mickey finds peaceful acceptance, and people with whom words come easily, even if it is just the pills loosening her tongue.
But as the pressure to be Mickey Catalan heightens, her need increases, and it becomes less about pain and more about want, something that could send her spiraling out of control.
The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis is on my TBR, but Heroine is the first novel by this author I’ve read so far. As far as I can tell, neither the addiction nor the adoption representation is #OwnVoices. Since I am not a (recovering/recovered) addict or adopted, you can take my review with a grain of salt if you want.
The novel starts with a warning: it contains realistic depictions of opioid use and warns recovered and recovering addicts in particular. If this content could trigger you, please proceed with caution. Because we follow Mickey’s entire journey, there’s quite a lot of drug ideation.
Mickey is a promising softball catcher. She’s a senior in high school when she gets injured in a car accident. In order to deal with the pain and quicken the healing process, she ends up taking more Oxycontin than prescribed. As a result, she lies and steals in order to illegally buy the medication. When she can no longer afford that addiction, she moves onto heroin.
There’s a true opioid crisis in the United States and I felt like Heroine portrayed how a “regular person” might become addicted to pain medication. Mickey doesn’t consider herself a junkie. She needs the pills because she’s in pain, not because she’s bored or wants to party. Her drug dealer is an elderly woman, not some shady character. The way Mickey normalised her behaviour seemed genuine and realistic.
As a European, the importance of school sports in the United States is so strange. Mickey’s future truly depends on how she performs in her softball games. It’s why she felt the need in the first place to take more pain medication, in order to heal faster.
I really cared about Mickey while reading this. Because this is such an epidemic, her story seemed so real. Towards the end of the novel, I almost cried. I was in public, however, so I didn’t.
I would recommend the audiobook, it was good. The writing was great as well, apart from the three characters named Bella. because they were called Bella Left, Bella Center and Bella Right based on their position on the softball field, I couldn’t distinguish one from another.
As I have mentioned before, I don’t think the adoption representation was #OwnVoices. While it was nice to see this represented without it being huge part of the story, some parts made me cringe. Once again, I’m not adopted either, so I could totally be wrong about this, but I felt like Mickey could be very rude to her adoptive mother, despite being raised by her since she was a small child.
Finally, I cannot stress enough that this is an incredibly heavy novel. While my list of content and trigger warnings might contain spoilers, I highly suggest going through them: deadly drug overdose, character deaths, descriptions of physical injuries, self-harm (pinching those injuries), cissexist language (e.g. “women give birth”), withdrawals, mentions of abortion, pain medication addiction, heroin addiction
If you can handle the topics discussed in Heroine, I’d recommend picking it up. While I have to admit I don’t know much about addictions, Mickey’s story seemed very realistic. I cared about her as a character and would like to read more of McGinnis’ work in the future.
Have you read Heroine? Or do you plan on picking it up?
Thank you for reading,