Beauty Queen

Linda Glovach, Author HarperCollins Publishers $16.99 (176p) ISBN 978-0-06-205161-5

Reading this diary of a heroine addict is like watching someone fall into an abyss: knowing a crash is inevitable, but wondering how soon and how hard rock bottom will be. The narrator, 19-year-old Samantha Strasbourg, seems doomed from the beginning, living with an alcoholic mother and her mother's abusive boyfriend, and working a dead-end job at a fast-food restaurant. When Sam moves into her own apartment, she appears to be taking a positive step; however, new-found independence breeds a different set of problems, like raising enough money for rent. Sam starts dancing in a topless bar to raise more cash--and starts using heroin to release her inhibitions on stage. Her downward spiral gains momentum as the drug begins to take over her life. Although ""skin popping"" makes Sam feel like she is in ""heaven,"" her existence grows increasingly hellish as her health deteriorates and her sense of judgment rapidly declines. Glovach pulls no punches describing the seductive power of heroin (""I felt this great peace, at last, a warmth and I knew that everything was going to be okay"") as well as identifying its destructive effects (""I'm always just waiting for the next high and now I use it to do every little thing, and every little thing becomes harder to do""). Unlike the cumulative portrait of the drug's devastation through the layering of perspectives that is found in Smack! (Children's Forecasts, Apr. 27), Glovach's guileless first-person narrative has the effect of sucking readers into the tiny world inside Sam's head, where choices are few, and good and evil are indiscernible. The novel (too intense for younger teens) offers a shocking, thoroughly credible glimpse of addiction, which forces readers to draw their own conclusions about Sam's tragic life. Ages 12-up. (Sept.) FYI: Glovach is a co-author of Go Ask Alice.