Before she arrived at the Spring Meadows rehab center Madeline’s high school classmates referred to her as “Mad Dog” Maddie. She not only had a severe drinking problem but she became angry and violent when she drank. Now she is trying to straighten herself out. Spring Meadows is not glamorous and is hard for Maddie, whose family is well off, to adjust to. Things get better when she meets Stewart on her halfway house’s weekly movie night. He’s slightly older and from another halfway house just down the road. She immediately has a crush on him. Things start to get serious between them once they are out of rehab.
Maddie returns to high school and hides out in the library during lunch. She’s afraid of associating with her old, hard partying friends. At the library she meets Martin, a socially awkward, honors student and develops a friendship with him after a somewhat rocky beginning. She also starts hanging out with Trish, a train wreck of a girl from her halfway house. Since they’ve both been to rehab, Maddie finds that she can relate better to Trish than to most of the people at her high school.
Maddie’s encounters with some of her fellow recovering substance abusers are gut-wrenching. I wanted her to make sensible decisions and not get pulled back into the life of an addict. Even though I rooted for her to stay on the straight and narrow, Recovery Road made it easy to see why sobriety is not as simple as deciding to say no. Particularly challenging for Maddie is making a completely new set of friends late in high school and trying to cope with being very lonely. Blake Nelson’s Recovery Road neither glamorizes nor goes into some kind of fear-seeking hysteria regarding substance abuse. Despite how realistic the book is, or perhaps because of it, Recovery Road still manages not to be boring at all.