Cecelia Price killed her brother. At least, that’s what the police and the district attorney are saying. And although Cecelia is now locked up and forced into treatment, she knows the real story is much more complicated.
Cyrus wasn’t always the drug-addled monster he’d become. He was a successful athlete, but when an injury forced him off the soccer field and onto pain medication, his life became a blur of anger, addiction, and violence. All CeCe could do was stand by and watch, until she realized one effective way to take away her brother’s drugs while earning the money she needed for college: selling the pills.
Soon, CeCe becomes part drug dealer, part honor student. But even when all she wants is to make things right, she learns that sometimes the best intentions lead to the worst possible outcome.
Thicker than Water is an unforgettable dark, harrowing look into the disturbing truth of drug addiction and the desperate love of a sister watching her brother deteriorate before her eyes.
YABM: Thicker Than Water explores the far-reaching effects of drug addiction not only on the addict but everyone around them. Was it hard writing the dark and raw truth of drug addiction? What were some elements that were particularly challenging?
Kelly: I think when it comes to the dark and raw stuff, the truth was what was hardest to tell. There’s a line in the book where CeCe thinks about the relief she’d feel if Cyrus just OD’ed and died, then realized that would cause it’s own problems with paying for the burial. I had that thought when my brother was struggling with his addiction and I find it important to admit it now. I know there are other siblings thinking the same thing and feeling wracked with guilt. I want those sisters and brothers of addicts to know they’re not alone.
YABM: What do you want the reader to take away from your CeCe and Cyrus’ story?
Kelly: That addiction has far more victims than one and that it is, like cancer, a crime against humanity that is both involving humans and not entirely the human’s fault. We crucify drug addicts, and all addicts, for their “choices.” Sometimes it isn’t a choice. Especially with opiates.
YABM: Tell me about your inspiration for Thicker Than Water.
Kelly: When my brother was struggling with his Oxy Contin addiction, I found great solace in watching episodes of the A&E series Intervention. I was able to watch other siblings deal with the same issues and problems I was dealing with. At one point, it occurred to me that teens don’t always have a voice in their family when they’re on the periphery of that addiction. I wanted to help give them that voice.
YABM: What would you say are CeCe’s greatest strengths and weaknesses?
Kelly: Like Shakespeare’s Hamlet, CeCe’s greatest weakness is her inability to make a choice. To move forward. She lives inside her own head far more than outside of it and that is a problem when you’re being tried for murder.
Her strength, however, is her ability to transition and grow in the end. This is most evident in her prose and writing, which she starts in jail. She allows art and words to invade her life in a positive way, even though she’d never written for expression before. That’s a brave move in my mind.
YABM: What do you love most about your characters? Do you have a favorite secondary character?
Kelly: I’m a big fan of CeCe’s public defender, Jennifer, actually. Her tenacity and her youth is incredibly admirable. She also slides into a female role model space that CeCe desperately needs.
YABM: If you had to describe your book in the length of a Tweet, what would it say?
Kelly: Death isn’t the worst outcome; the worst outcome is living this life for one more day. WWYD if you had to choose between your brother, the boy, or your brother the addict?
***I received this eARC as a gift in exchange for an honest review via Edelweiss & Harper Teen
Warning: Contains what may be considered triggers for drug abuse/addiction
Thicker Than Water is an emotional minefield. It’s been a while since a book has left me at a loss for words (for a positive reason). Thicker Than Water is beautiful and poignant and written in simple truths that read like profound revelations. A heartbreaking tale of the far-reaching effects of addiction and the emotional and physical wreckage it leaves behind, CeCe and Cyrus’ story brings the hidden side effects of addiction to light.
READ THIS BOOK IF:
- You’re looking for a raw and honest glimpse into addiction from a loved one on the periphery.
- You’re game for sarcasm, tears, and hard truths.
- You know someone struggling with drug abuse.
- CeCe has one of the strongest voices I’ve read in a long, long time. Her brutal honesty, her avoidance tactics, and her guilt translate into this brilliant prose that comes off as mildly philosophical and ingenious. Feelings are put into clear, precise comparisons that make every, even those most complex and convoluted emotions make sense.
- One of the compelling aspects of this book is how often people turn a blind eye. How loved ones can see but refuse to believe or feel so helpless that it’s like the ground is ripped from beneath their feet and all hope slowly slips away. Desperation and heartbreak, in words but much more in feeling.
- The descriptions of addiction are eye-opening. The sighs of relief, the anxiety, the hunger in their eyes, the ease in which addiction escalates and the lies addicts tell themselves. It’s all these in stark and disquieting glory. But it’s not only the false promises addicts make to themselves, it’s the quiet ones that friends and loved ones repeat like a prayer. The yearning to believe in change, in getting better, and hoping that this will pass without intervention is all too real. You can feel the author’s heart in the story and her close connection to its contents.
- Secondary characters had small, but life-altering influence on CeCe, especially those at the center. The moments are brief but they open CeCe up to forgiveness and understanding of herself and help alleviate her guilt. The scene with her roommate putting on makeup felt almost spiritual.
- Romance is not central to the story. It’s there but it’s more of an awakening for CeCe than anything else. It helps her discover parts of herself that she locked away, her fears and insecurities. Tucker and CeCe are cute and fall together naturally.
- The mystery didn’t feel like much of one to me. From the get go, there’s enough hint dropping to guess at what happened. The opening scene is an adrenaline-inducing and totally captivating start that will make you want to read but it mark the story as more crime fiction that in truly is.
- There were many substories worked into the plot that were left unexplored and it was kind of distracting. CeCe’s roommate’s horrible circumstances, Tucker’s emotions, Jason’s fight with addiction, and Cyrus’ story as well were left wanting. There are flashes of Cyrus’ pain and the reasoning behind his path to pills shouted in bursts of anger, however, deeper insight was left at only what CeCe could see on the surface.
Kelly Fiore-Stultz has a BA in English from Salisbury University and an MFA in Poetry from West Virginia University. She received an Individual Artist Award from the Maryland State Arts Council in 2005 and 2009. Kelly’s poetry has appeared in Small Spiral Notebook, Samzidada, Mid Atlantic Review, Connotation Press, and the Grolier Annual Review. Her first young adult novel, Taste Test, was released in August 2013 from Bloomsbury USA, and her second, Just Like the Movies, again from Bloomsbury, was releasted in 2014. Forthcoming novels include Thicker Than Water from HarperTeen in 2015.
3 winners will receive a finished copy of THICKER THAN WATER. US Only.