Reviews tagging 'Drug use'

Gem & Dixie by Sara Zarr

2 reviews

queer_bookwyrm's review against another edition

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emotional hopeful reflective sad medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? No
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes


 4 ⭐ CW: absent/neglectful parents, parentification of child, food insecurity, anxiety, substance use

"But... What does it take to be in danger? What does that even mean? Are things not bad enough? Should things be worse before before...before I can make them better?"

Gem and Dixie by Sara Zarr is a contemporary YA novel set in Seattle. I got this from my monthly Introverts Retreat Box. This is why I like subscription boxes, because I get books I never would have picked up on my own.

We follow Gem and her younger sister, Dixie as they navigate an absent father who makes promises to change, but never does, and a neglectful mother who has substance use issues and refuses to get a regular job so her kids can actually have food. There are days Gem doesn't eat, but Dixie always finds a way.

The sisters couldn't be more different: Gem is older and has been parentified and takes care of her sister. She feels responsible for everyone and ends minimizing her own problems. She also doesn't really have any friends or anyone on her side except for the school psychologist. Dixie is more popular and more of a free spirit, and always has guys at school buying her lunch.

Then one day their father shows up and stashes almost $30,000 in cash in the girls' room. Gem takes this opportunity to runaway with her sister for a couple of nights. During their runaway, they each discover something about each of themselves, and Gem finally makes a decision for her own wellbeing.

I loved this book. It was so heart breaking and relatable. I relate to Gem in a big way. I was the older sibling who took care of everything and everyone. My parents were emotionally neglectful and abusive and expected me to take care of everything including supporting them instead of the other way around.

I loved that this book didn't end with Gem going home and just dealing with the same shit. She did something to help herself and it makes me wish I had had the same strength growing up. Like Gem, I learned to downplay my problems by comparing myself to other people's, because they weren't "as bad." I think this is also a commentary on how much we fail kids are aren't being physically abused, because the system isn't set up to prevent harm, only to respond to harm. I hate that as a domestic violence educator I have to tell kids that there is nothing I can do to help them unless their parents hit them. It always breaks my heart.

This was a short, but heartfelt read, and I encourage you to pick it up and put yourself in Gem's shoes. 

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chelseawrites21's review

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dark emotional sad tense fast-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? No
  • Loveable characters? No
  • Diverse cast of characters? No
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes


"Our dad buying us food shouldn’t have been a special treat, it shouldn’t feel like Christmas or a trip to Disneyland; we should have had it all along. There should have been child support, there should have been someone making sure we had what we needed at school. There should have been regular bedtimes and no one working nights, leaving us home all alone. We should have been getting advice—better advice than “Don’t ever go to Texas.” 
This book is not what I expected. 

This a book of lows with no highs to balance it out. 

Dixie was annoying in how she got an attitude at Gem for things that was not even her fault. I mostly ignored her during the book and was glad when their Mom called her out that one time. 
But Gem was the worst. She'd snap at Dixie and even other people for no reason or bc she was jealous of what they had. Given her situation, I get the jealous part but she didn't always have a reason. And she was also so negative, even when she was getting what she wanted, she couldn't be happy for a second. I couldn't stand her. 

In one scene, Gem goes up to Dixie in the school cafeteria in front of her friends and asks for a letter that their Dad sent them. Dixie say not right now. So of course Gem gets mad and throws away the food she was complaining about not having and sticks the middle finger up to a boy that did nothing to her. 

Overall she was just very unpleasant to read about. 

The sisterhood. Where? They were always snipping at it each other. Gem is constantly thinking about her she has to take care of Dixie but even sometimes she has moments where she doesn't trust her. I thought it get better once they run out by themselves and maybe learn about each other, Gem manipulated her into coming and everything was the same. 

This book get props for have a realistic potryal of what it like to live in poverty and how neglectful parents can affect you generationally. While the writing wasn't stellar it was pretty decent and this book was a pretty fast read. But in the end, I just did not like this one all that much 

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