The day Koren turned fourteen she tasted alcohol for the first time. At fifteen she was piecing together forgotten fragments of drink, men and misplaced clothes. At sixteen she was being carried through hospital doors unconscious. And so it began...
Brought up by loving parents in a stable middle-class home, Koren was a sweet and altogether normal child. Yet from her mid-teens until her early twenties, she thought nothing of regularly drinking herself into a state of amnesia. Alcohol became her safeguard and prop, providing her with a self-confidence she couldn't otherwise feel. And whilst drinking to excess was perfectly acceptable, even actively encouraged, amongst her friends, it quickly reached a destructive monotony that bordered on dependency. It took a number of terrifying incidents - from stumbling home alone covered in vomit to waking up naked in bed unsure of whether she had lost her virginity - before Koren could finally say to herself enough was enough and seek help for her problem.
Smashed is the shocking but all-too-recognisable story of a young woman coming of age within a society that finds it easier to turn a blind eye to binge-drinking than address the problem head on. Beautifully written and brutally honest, compelling without preaching, this is a book that demands to be read.
This isn't just one girl's story of sneaking drinks in junior high, creeping out for night-long keg parties in high school and binge-drinking weeknights and weekends through college it's also a valuable cautionary tale. At 24 (her present age), Zailckas gave up drinking after a decade of getting drunk, having blackouts and experiencing brushes with comas, date rape and suicide. She weaves disturbing statistics (from Harvard School of Public Heath studies and elsewhere) into her memoir: most girls will have their first drink by age 12, and will have the experience of being drunk by 14; teenage girls drink as much as their male peers, but their bodies process it badly (they get drunk faster, stay drunk longer and are more likely to die of alcohol poisoning); and date rape and booze go hand-in-hand. Zailckas had alcohol poisoning at 16 after a night of downing shots at a party with friends, but having her stomach pumped in the emergency room and enduring a month of being grounded didn't check her desire to drink. Fraternity keg parties led to drunken sexual encounters not-quite-remembered; drinking began to replace intimacy. Alcohol defined Zailckas's adolescence and college years to such an extent that, as she tells it, she lacks the tools to be an adult: she's unsure how to maintain relationships and unclear about sex without an alcohol buzz. Zailckas is unsparingly insightful and acutely aware of what drinking can and does do to girls. She explains that while kids are taught that drugs are always dangerous, alcohol is perceived as an acceptable rite of passage. Her book is deeply moving, written in poetic, nuanced prose that never obscures the dangerous truths she seeks to reveal. , which will garner a literary audience, and has also received praise from those who work in the substance abuse field.