Here’s the thing about all those daily e-book deal emails, every once in a while one comes along that sounds interesting.
That was the case when I saw South on Highland by Liana Maeby. I can’t recall what email I saw it in, but I thought: “This sounds like a good listen. Let’s see how it goes.”
We meet Layla Massey at a Passover seder, where she’s ditched the hunt for the afikoman to raid the medicine cabinet for prescription pharmaceuticals, where she causes a hail of pills in rain down on the floor before hitting her head against a toilet.
That’s rock bottom for Layla, and the book continues to describe her teenage addiction, and her budding career as a screenwriter in Los Angeles. South on Highland is a cautionary tale that details the perils of additions with raw and haunting prose.
I didn’t know anything about South on Highland going in. I didn’t look at any reviews or look up the author. I just dove straight and started listening. My initial response was: “Hmm this sounds a bit like Go Ask Alice.” It wasn’t until I sat down to write this review that I realized that this book is a fictionalized account of Liana Maeby’s own addiction. Then I started to wonder if this was a bit more like Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried.
Layla Massey’s story is that of a Hollywood fairytale. She’s eighteen and writing adaptations of fairy tales with gender-swapped heroes for teen networks while she’s still in college. Her prodigy-like status makes me almost envious but at the same time, I worried about her.
At a certain point, I just had to accept the ridiculously good-luck this messed-up teen had, or otherwise I would have spent the entire six hours saying, “Really? How often does that happen?”
There were some great quotes in the book, priceless moments that made me question if I should laugh, cry, or smack the narrator with a big Monty Python fish!
I found Maeby’s prose beautiful, but I wasn’t sure how I felt about Amy Rubinate’s narration at first. Her voice was static and hollow, and although it did have some emotion, I found it hard to connect with her as she told Layla’s story. Since Layla is very disinterested for most of the book, her presentation actually fit really well.
FINAL RATING: 3 Stars