Heroine, by Edgar Award-winning author Mindy McGinnis, explores the opioid epidemic through the experience of a high school softball player injured in a car crash.
From the publisher:
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.
In Heroine, McGinnis does an amazing job illustrating the ease with which a post-surgical painkiller can turn into an opioid addiction. Mickey is focused on recovering from the car accident and the resulting surgery in time for the start of her senior year of softball. The painkillers help her push more aggressively through physical therapy than she normally would.
But Mickey’s body quickly starts craving the drug, and the choices, and compromises, she makes in order to satisfy that craving could cost her everything.
Heroine shows how opioid abusers, and addicts in general, can start off with the best of intentions. The medicine Mickey uses is prescribed by a doctor. She uses it exactly as prescribed, yet quickly becomes addicted, and when she runs out, she’s forced to find other ways to satisfy the craving.
Who is to blame? Mickey? The surgeon? The pharmaceutical company? It’s a question left unanswered in the book. Recent reporting on pharma studies and internal documents suggests the companies were very aware of how addictive and devastating their drugs could be. That context and the story McGinnis tells make Mickey a very sympathetic figure, despite some of the things she does.
I found Heroine to be a well-crafted page turner with a strong message about the proliferation of prescription opioids.