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by Valerie Sherrard

On the heels of 2009’s Watcher, New Brunswick author Valerie Sherrard offers another sharp-edged novel for teens, this time with a story that exposes the emotional tricks of an addict and the tight bond between addiction and abusive behaviour.

Lexie Malton has a problem no one knows about: her ex-boyfriend, Devlin, is a junkie living on the streets in East Vancouver, and Lexie is convinced she’s the one who got him hooked. Weighed down by a guilty conscience, she continues to meet Devlin in secret, giving in to his constant demands for money and unwittingly enabling him. Lexie briefly manages to break free of Devlin’s manipulation, until he enters rehab and she starts having visions of them making a fresh start together. Life with an addict is rarely simple, however: the new beginning she hopes for takes a dark turn, and she finds herself at the centre of a new and frightening world.

Lexie’s voice is consistent and authentic;  she’s equal parts guilty, anxious, and naive. Sherrard doesn’t shy away from the details and realities of drug abuse and withdrawal, and provides good explanations of drug terminology. Although Devlin’s dialogue is similarly authentic, his character is treated superficially, and if the book suffers anywhere, it’s in this lack of depth and back story. It’s one thing to show how an addict behaves, but Sherrard could have made greater impact by depicting Devlin’s slide into junkiehood.

The fast-paced ending might be a bit much for the book’s page count – there is an awful lot of story crammed into 150 pages – but this is unlikely to be a drawback for Sherrard’s intended audience. Quick and dirty, Accomplice works well as a point of entry into grittier social-realist stories.