________________ CM . . . . Volume XXI Number 37. . . .May 29, 2015


Lola Carlyle’s 12-Step Romance.

Danielle Younge-Ullman.
Fort Collins, CO: Entangled Publishing (Distributed in Canada by Raincoast Books), 2015.
353 pp., trade pbk., $11.50.
ISBN 978-1-62266-785-7.

Grades 8-12 / Ages 13-17.

Review by Joan Marshall.

*** /4

Reviewed from Advance Reading Copy.



“Mom, the thing is, I know it’s kind of embarrassing, but I’m not an alcoholic after all.”

“So Monday you were and now you’re not?”

“No, I wasn’t on Monday either. I just…I maybe got confused, exaggerated a bit. But I’m not. If you’d just come get me, I can explain on the way home.”

There is a long sigh on the other end of the phone and then Mom says, “That won’t be possible.”

“What, you don’t believe me?”

”It’s not what I believe,” she says. “I don’t know what to believe. But for the moment, it doesn’t matter.”

“It matters to me.”

“The point is, Lola, I cannot come to get you regardless.”

“Okay, Elise then.”

“Elise can’t come either.”

“Why not?”

“Because, darling, we’re in Tokyo.”

I stand up fast, gripping the phone.

“You’re in…” I glance at Adam, who hasn’t taken his eyes off me. “You’re what?”

“In Tokyo. Do we have a bad connection?”

“No. Yes. I mean, I can’t believe you’d…you just dropped me off in rehab.”

“And I’m supposed to…what? Sit by the phone in Malibu in case you need to call, turn down all work opportunities and so on? You’re in good hands.”


Lola Carlyle, 17, leads a privileged life as the wealthy daughter of Hollywood celebrities. When her best friend Sydney calls from the Sunrise rehab center pressuring her to come join her by letting Lola know that Wade Miller, now a TV star, but formerly Lola’s first crush on her father’s movie set, is also in therapy at Sunrise, Lola jumps at the chance to connect with, and possibly help, Wade. Pretending to be an alcoholic, Lola gains entrance to Sunrise but almost immediately finds out that Sydney has checked herself out and that connecting with Wade may be more of a problem than she had thought. Her roommates, the chatty Talia and the mute Jade, represent just two of the disastrous lives of the addicts she sees around her. Refusing to be afraid, and using her amazing ingenuity and her stunning chutzpa, Lola manages to evade the more boring and uncomfortable parts of rehab for a while as she frustrates Adam, her cute young mentor, with her uncooperative and provoking behaviour. She even manages to connect with the delicious Wade. But then she embarrasses herself at an AA meeting by denying that she is an alcoholic. Adam turns the screws by forcing her into attending therapy, and he witnesses her parents’ physical and emotional absence from her life. Adam provides calm respite from the center though as he takes her for coffee and admits his attraction to her, but reminds himself and Lola that this unprofessional relationship cannot continue. Lola gradually admits that she does indeed love Adam, and the two of them struggle with the impossibility of their mutual attraction. A group outing under Adam’s supervision to Disneyland goes very wrong when Lola leaves the group to tell Wade that she doesn’t want to be with him: Jade and Talia are accosted by sleazy druggies, and Jade comes close to death while Talia escapes sexual assault only because Lola and Wade manage to find her. Dr. Koch, the center’s director, tires to hush up the scandal, but Lola speaks out publically, admitting her part in the event and championing Adam’s innocence at a meeting to which her parents turn up together. Lola leaves the center and can legitimately continue her love relationship with Adam.

     Lola’s self-deprecating wit is hilarious and saves her character from the loathing that ordinary teens might reserve for the hypocrisy of the incredibly wealthy celebrity life. Lola’s problems with her parents will have teens nodding in sympathy as neither Lola’s self-absorbed mother nor her absent father seems to care about her. Readers will admire Lola’s daring, her quick thinking and her determination to help her first crush. As readers slowly realize that Wade has changed into a man Lola does not recognize, an indulged famous young man who is nonetheless scrumptiously handsome, they will agonize with Lola about her options. Lola gradually comes to realize that she puts other less fortunate mortals off with her references to her privileged lifestyle. And she does become much more sympathetic and understanding as the rehab continues. She acknowledges, with pain, how she antagonized her father as she misbehaved and yet hoped for more understanding from him. She struggles with her lying and its results. Lola’s lust for Wade and then Adam, her hot kisses and provocative behaviour will resonate with readers while they, at the same time, absorb Adam’s message about taking time to get to know each other. Secondary characters like Adam, Wade, Talia and Sydney are, themselves, full, well-rounded people with their own issues that need to be resolved. Lola’s parents, her famous father and her flighty mother and her wife, Elise, play the role of the busy celebrity adults who don’t have time for their daughter’s nonsense.

     It would have been easy to ridicule the rehab process, but author Younge-Ullman weaves into Lola’s drama the essence of good counselling and the necessity of compliance with AA in the treatment of addiction. It is one of the great strengths of this book that Lola enters rehab denying to herself her inner pain and leaves rehab with a clearer understanding of her problems. Younge-Ullman’s light touch saves the novel from preaching while it gets the message across.

     Dialogue is very up-to-date, and language is what is to be expected from older teens. Having Lola’s cell phone confiscated upon her arrival at the center saves this novel from endless teenage texting and allows the emphasis to be on the immediacy of in-person relationships.

     The California weather, the nearness of the ocean and the references to fashion and celebrity life clearly set this novel in the desirable present for winter-weary Canadian teens.


Joan Marshall is a Winnipeg, MB, bookseller.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.

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