Clean by Juno Dawson ARC Review

Release date – 5th April 2018

Rating – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Well, Lexi’s rehab makes my NHS inpatient experience look a bit naff, really. A mansion on a deserted island? Swimming pools? Balconies? I’m telling ya, when I was at my worst, I would have been all over those features – and not for the relaxation or the views.

Safety risks aside, Juno Dawson actually did a really good job of capturing the life of an inpatient on a mental health ward. There were a few things that were slightly off – like Kendall, the girl with anorexia, not being in a wheelchair despite being critically underweight, and also the lack of night staff on the ward; because if I started running up and down the corridor in the middle of the night like Kendall did at one point, I would have been restrained. I definitely wouldn’t have gotten away with nobody noticing.

A lot of people think that psychiatric hospitals must be awful, and they are. But they’re not all bad. The patients are often some of the kindest, most supportive people you could meet, and the staff come to be a safety crutch for you. You have favourite nurses and HCAs, and you look forward to it when they’re on shift (and when they’re on your enhanced observations? It’s wild. You talk and you do jigsaws and play cards; I mean, when they’re literally stood there watching you shower and sit on the toilet, you form a bond with them, you know?) Juno did a really good job of showing how, being in such a bubble doesn’t have to be a bad thing. When you’re in that situation, you make the most of it, and that’s what Lexi and the rest of the patients do. They rely and support one another, even after discharge.

I also loved the way discharge was feared, because so many people think it’s just black and white and that discharge must be incredibly happy – and it is, but it’s also fucking terrifying. I was in hospital for just under two years, so having to be out and keep myself safe and well and not being able to rely on the staff for support? Terrifying. You go from being in a bubble, closed off from the temptations and dangers of real life, to right out in the thick of it, all the while trying to pick your life back up because everyone and everything else has changed.

Clean is a difficult book to read; it’s gritty and it’s crude and it doesn’t shy away from the lows that come with addictions and mental illness. There were times, mainly when talking about Kendall and her anorexia, where I struggled to continue reading, because my struggles are still raw, but the nature of the subject is in itself a difficult one to read about, even if you didn’t have past experiences.

Lexi is also a difficult character to sympathise with. At first, I put it down to her addiction; she says awful things to people when she doesn’t get her way, which is totally normal, but she didn’t really get any better until the very end of the book. She was spoiled and crude and so judgemental. There were times where she made me think she wasn’t too bad, and then she would go on to make some nasty or judgemental comment and I would go back to hating her.

Also, I can’t really take a seventeen year old who calls their parents “mummy and daddy” seriously. But that’s probably just me.

Apart from Lexi (and all the name dropping; it sort of jarred me a bit), the only other thing that didn’t really work for me was the romance. I just…didn’t really care about it. It sort of reminded me of Big Brother; you know when people go into the BB house and then a few days down the line they say they’re in love? That’s the sort of vibe I got from Lexi and Brady.

Clean is raw and thought provoking. It shows the real steps of recovery; the good, the bad, and the ugly. It shows inpatient relationships in a realistic light, which I adored, and it doesn’t shame therapy. I would definitely recommend this book.

*thank you to the publisher for giving me the chance to read this book*

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