Niki is the star of her high school softball team and an honors student But her nighttime binges with alcohol escalate and her world collapses into a hazy blur of self-destruction, cutting off even those she loves.
In this story of a 17-year-old gift's alcoholism, Due goes through all the correct motions in detailing the pits, the pendulum swings, and the road back - but somehow the odd narrator-heroine voice here never seems quite convincing. Niki Eichen is a high school junior, a star softball pitcher, a good student and school-newspaper writer. . . and she's on the bottle. Her parents, Carl and Joyce, unwittingly started her off - cocktails and wine for dinner - and Niki begins to go under with extra-familial drinking; then come the blackouts. The only clue to what is really wrong are notes to herself typed while drunk: "I'm so fucking lonely. Somenofy help me. I feeling like killing myself." (sic) And although her grades somehow hold up, Niki's careers on the school paper and the baseball team begin to crumble. There are increasingly violent episodes - rampaging through the coach's apartment, stepping in front of a moving car, and, worst of all, beating up best friend Martha (who is patiently and painfully attempting to deal with Niki's drinking). Finally Niki does go to AA, but as she refuses to accept the label "alcoholic," there's more backsliding. At last Carl and Joyce accept their responsibilities as Mom and Dad, and they will, like Martha, refuse to participate in Niki's self-destructive course. Alone now, Niki learns self-respect, although she still refuses labels, simply acknowledging herself as "a person that wants to stop drinking." The anguished twists and turns of an alcoholic confronting the disease are set forth competently in all their difficulty and subtlety; but most readers will find Niki's narration (full of pop-jock talk) strangely androgynous, unpersuasively adult-sounding, and more off-putting than seems necessary - a serious limitation to an otherwise admirable workup. (Kirkus Reviews)