Staff Pick: How to Grow an Addict

So, what’s an instaFreebie Staff Pick? Once a week, an instaFreebie staff member will pick out a book on instaFreebie that they enjoyed, and share it with all of you! Our hope is that we inspire you to download a book you may not have otherwise discovered. Today, Maura, our Northeastern University co-op student and blog editor, will be discussing How to Grow an Addict, written by J.A. Wright and free with a sign-up for Book Buzz‘s Review newsletter!


I stepped a bit outside of my comfort zone this week when I picked up How to Grow an Addict, which was described as a “contemporary fiction/family saga.” It was definitely a family saga, and I would even label it as a coming-of-age novel, since the storyline follows the narrator, Randall, from her childhood to her early twenties. The prologue hints at an older Randall’s issues with pills and alcohol, but when the first chapter opens with a seven-year-old reflecting on her impulse to steal “just for the sake of taking things,” it becomes immediately obvious that the book will deliver on the promise of the title. We will follow this addict through every step of her heart-breaking, exasperating, and ultimately uplifting journey.

“I didn’t drink or take pills so I could party all night. I used alcohol and drugs to help me feel okay, to calm me down, to shut off the voice in my head that told me I was nothing.”

My experience reading this novel was definitely improved by the fact that I had no idea what to expect from Randall or any other character. I was introduced to the complex dynamics of her family in the same way she was: abruptly and without a clear explanation. Her voice was an appropriately child-like one, and I grew to trust Randall; even when she lied to others, she was honest with me. She was inherently likable, and though the choices she made were, at times, questionable, I almost never found myself frustrated with Randall. I was angry at her father, her mother, her brother, her aunt, her teachers, her lovers, and the entire series of events that led to her addiction, but never Randall herself. I couldn’t help but root for a protagonist who was so honest about her own shortcomings, who was both selfish and selfless, who was determined to fix everything that was her fault and everything that wasn’t.

Don’t get me wrong; this is not a happy book. It’s raw, it’s emotional, and it’s so honest that it’s painful. But if you’re willing to deal with all of that, it’ll give you a look into the world of addiction that is touching, complex, and intensely human.

In a word: hopeful

Recommended for: people who understand the importance of learning from their mistakes

Have you read How to Grow an Addict? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below, and check out our other Staff Picks!