Being Smashed Past Youth Into Adulthood

Koren Zailckas. Smashed. London, England: Penguin Books, 2005.

“I wrote life off as heavy cargo, and accepted it could only be mastered by masterful men. I was a coward. I grasped on to alcohol, which was the first available escape.”

The young adult memoir Smashed by Koren Zailckas has a theme of depression, alcohol addiction, and it’s place in growing up into a young woman. Zailckas’ memoir of her adolescence through college life depicts the struggles she went through as an introverted person that turned the wrong way for direction. Zailckas drank partially due to needing to feel included as well as wanting to “remove herself from her shell.”

As she describes her drinking she goes through situations of black outs, getting her stomach pumped, and slipping deep into depression. This story of her life can be used to teach about alcohol addiction and how it individually affects a person and all the people around them. Zailckas talks about her need to feel accepted by her peers and wanting the affection of the boys, but she feels she cannot achieve that without alcohol.

Two issues can arise from the memoir by Zailckas. First comes with it's title of a young adult story. While Zailckas drinking begins as a young person at the age of fourteen, the drinking continues far into adulthood. The language and content of the memoir does not fit that of a common young adult. The language can be seen as hard to follow for many young adults and the content is unrelatable to many of those same people. Secondly even for the few young adults that can follow the memoir, the subject of binge drinking seems to be glorified. While Zailckas describes herself as addicted to alcohol but not an alcoholic the similiarities can be confused by many readers giving an "okay" or support for those who are living the same lifestyle.

“It is contorting me into some different me into some different girl, a new person who I can sometimes see in pictures, behind my glassed eyes and in the down-turned corners of my mouth. This is new girl is sad and secretive and volatile. She is me, and I am in trouble.”

Recommendations for Teachers
This novel has sensitive subject matter, specifically the alcohol use, but there is also some drug use. Smashed may be best read by seniors in the public school setting, and teachers could also plan to read the novel around prom time. This is the time where schools focus efforts to prevent drunk driving, and bringing in a novel where students can relate may drive home the lessons. Because of the subject matter, this book may also be better read in literature circles or as an independent reading, but then brought back into the classroom for a group discussion.

Teachers could hold class discussions about what-if scenarios regarding party situations with peers or other drinking situations such as with parents or siblings. Students could also discuss issues, concerns and expectations about the future in relation to drinking, specifically about college. Students may find themselves curious or wanting to experiment in college especially if they have never drank before.

Teachers could also involve doing several writing pieces about how to be smart about drinking, designating a sober driver, watching out for friends, and speculation in why teens drink.

Finally, teachers could discuss other aspects and consequences of alcohol use and abuse. Topics could include what happens when teens drink excessively, or discuss binge drinking, date rape, alcohol use, as well as discuss scientific data about female alcohol use in relation to cancer.

Resources for teachers
This website offers lesson plans to use when discussing alcohol use with teens in the school setting.

Books about Teen Drinking
Buzzed, Cynthia Kuhn
Are You Dying For a Drink?: Teenagers and Alcohol Abuse, Laurel Graeber
Twisted, Laurie Halse Anderson

About Koren Zailckas

Koren Zailckas was born in 1980 in Saudi Arabia. Much of her life is chronicled in her book, Smashed, as it is her memoir written at the age of 23. She grew up in Bolton, Massachusetts and attended Nashoba Regional High School. She worked as a journalist and contributed to several popular magazines. Her book, Smashed, tells the story of her adolescence which was defined by her alcoholism, starting at age 14.

Zailckas' early years were marked by rebellion and distance. She found any excuse to withdraw from her family and spend more time with friends, who encouraged her alcohol abuse. Her drinking experiences started before she entered high school, and she had her first blackout experience which landed her in the hospital when she was only 16. Her adolescence was littered with more blackouts and injuries, as well as near fatal situations, including date rape.

In interviews about the book, Zailckas claims she did not write the book as a form of therapy but rather a form of awareness, as girls are starting to abuse alcohol younger and younger. As it is her first book, she admits she is an amateur at the writing game but has enjoyed the success of the book. She has sold the movie rights to the book and hopes to see it turned into a movie.

Multimedia (Video or Audio)
Just like in the novel Smashed by Koren Zailckas it appears alcohol companies are making an attempt to appeal to women. Whether that be because women are easier to persuade or because of another reason it up to the community to decide. "Damaskaya Vodka" or in English "ladies vodka" comes in a bottle that looks much like a perfume bottle. This news clip shows what the company and a few specialists thoughts on the matter are.

As a source of encouraging students not to drink there is a movie circulating YouTube labeled "Alcohol Is Not a Social Norm." As stated in the information about the video, the clip is meant to show students that not everyone drinks. The video gives many reasons to why students do not drink and what they think some consequences are to drinking.

This is an HBO Family special about underage drinking and drunk driving. The video highlights teens who drank while their parents were sleeping and how their choice to drive afterward has affected their lives.

Young adults cannot even turn on their radios without hearing a song promoting alcohol use. Here is a list of multiple genres and songs:
I Love This Bar - Toby Keith
Ten Rounds of Jose Cuervo - Tracy Byrd
Alcohol - Brad Paisley
All Jacked Up - Gretchen Wilson
Gin and Juice - Snoop Dogg
Demon Alcohol - Ozzy Osbourne
99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall - Common Road Trip Song
Red Red Wine - UB40
The Pina Colada Song - Escape
One Borboun, One Scotch, One Beer - George Thorogood
And many many more.

Additional Resources:

--Saralynn Bush, Kendra Hilton, Jennifer Krygier, Krashawn McElveen
Other Wikireviews by these creators:
Drowning Anna by Sue Mayfield