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Beautiful Boy: A Father's Journey Through His Son's Addiction
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Beautiful Boy: A Father's Journey Through His Son's Addiction

4.0 of 5 stars 4.00  ·  rating details  ·  30,286 ratings  ·  2,910 reviews
What had happened to my beautiful boy? To our family?What did I do wrong? Those are the wrenching questions that haunted every moment of David Sheff ’s journey through his son Nic’s addiction to drugs and tentative steps toward recovery. Before Nic Sheff became addicted to crystal meth, he was a charming boy, joyous and funny, a varsity athlete and honor student adored by ...more
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published February 26th 2008 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (first published February 26th 2007)
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Some Are Sicker Than Others by Andrew SeawardGo Ask Alice by Beatrice SparksEvery Silver Lining Has a Cloud by Scott StevensCrank by Ellen HopkinsA Million Little Pieces by James Frey
Substance Abuse & Addiction
18th out of 470 books — 1,083 voters
Trainspotting by Irvine WelshRequiem for a Dream by Hubert Selby Jr.Junky by William S. BurroughsScar Tissue by Anthony KiedisTweak by Nic Sheff
Addicts
14th out of 161 books — 348 voters


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Community Reviews

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Nancy
Posted at Shelf Inflicted

I never understood the appeal of meth. It’s made in clandestine labs using an array of chemicals that are flammable and hazardous to your health. The drug is highly addictive and has dangerous side-effects. Your teeth fall out, your jaw collapses, you get those ghastly sores and ulcers, your cheeks become hollow, and your eyes are sunken in. And that’s only on the outside. On the inside, your brain looks like Swiss cheese, you become paranoid, irritable and even violent.
...more
Marianne
I checked this book out of the library after hearing David Sheff and his son Nick interviewed on NPR. I found this book annoying and unrevealing (for a memoir) and yet I couldn't put it down. David Sheff discusses his own drug use and alludes to his immaturity/commitment issues as a factor in his divorce from Nick's mother which he blames mostly for his son's drug problems, but he never discusses the root of his issues (or even specifically what they were beyond immaturity) or how they affected ...more
Jen
I liked this book a lot better than Tweak. The father is a great writer, and he did a great job making me feel as if I was going through the experience with him. He also presents a lot of research on crystal meth and its effects on users. I changed my rating from a 5 to a 4 after I read Tweak however. After I read Beautiful Boy, I was really freaked out about the accessibility of drugs, and the father made it seem as if everyone in the world will eventually try drugs at least once in their life ...more
Doneen
This is a book full of numerous examples of how over-idealization of a son by his father can cause as many problems as insufficient attention paid to the child. If you can believe this father, his son was nothing short of the second coming. No wonder the son became a lying, stealing, self-absorbed addict who took multiple rehabs to kick a habit. This is a cautionary tale for parents. Okay, I just re-read what I wrote, and I know it's probably too harsh. But I really believe it's harmful over-ind ...more
Cathyb53
Gut-wrenching! I read this because I saw the author, David Sheff, talking about it on Oprah, and because I have children close in age to his son; although I was fortunate enough to avoid the hell of parenting an addicted kid, I have been there with many of my friends, and with friends of my kids'.

There's nothing new in this story - the "plot", such as it is, is painfully familiar to so many of us baby-boomers as our own children reached the danger years. The strength of this story is in the aut
...more
Madison
May 21, 2008 Madison rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Anyone with an addict in the family.
For people close to an addict: Read this book if you have not yet realized that you are not alone.

Obviously I'm aware that I'm not the only person out there with an addict in the family. However after reading this book, I realize that I'm not alone in feeling completely confused, furious, wronged, neglected, saddened, helpless, judged, torn, and exhausted, (not to mention a million other things) when dealing with my always recovering drug addicted sister.

David Sheff represents the wrath of addic
...more
Suzanne
Finally. I. Am. Done.

I swear this book took me a month to read. Maybe longer. I just could not get into it. I read the companion, Tweak, written by his son, and I thought it would be interesting to hear the other perspective. Blah. What started as an article for The New York Times Magazine, the overwhelming response prompted Sheff to write a whole book. Bad idea. It was obviously stretched beyond it's means, and Sheff often relied on random quotes from movies and songs to fill space. I would rea
...more
Synesthesia (SPIDERS!)
So here is a sad, beautiful book about a father who loves his son so much but he was struggling with drug addiction. And he suffered from the guilt of letting his family down. This is in the father's perspective. If you want to read his son's perspective read Tweak.

The main thing to realize when it comes to drug addiction is that it can affect anyone from any background. You don't have to be someone living in a bowery or in a crack house to be an addict. Someone can come from a rich family, or a
...more
Kerri
Jun 27, 2008 Kerri rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Anyone who's known an addict; anyone who knows someone who has an addict in their life
Recommended to Kerri by: D bought it, but hasn't read it
Shelves: non-fiction
3.5 stars. Hmmm... so close to to four stars. A tough read, an easy read. A father's account of his son's addiction to meth (among other things), but there's so much in here that's familiar to anyone who's known someone addicted to anything. The same things that make me consider this book "just okay" (the repetition of themes, the over-dramaticism, the self-absorption) are the same things that make it so realistic and relatable to anyone who's had with an addict in their lives. He does a good jo ...more
Joe Moley
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Karen
May 01, 2008 Karen rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Friends and family of addicts, current and recovered
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Terry
I was more interested in reading his son's account of the same events, but now that I've read this, I don't think I'm up for it! Actually I honestly don't know what he (the son) would say--after a point, addiction is kind of repetitive, isn't it?--although I'd like to know if he explores the effect his parents' divorce had on him, since I've recently read another book about how traumatic divorce is for children and they're not as "resilient" and "adaptable" as divorced parents would like to thin ...more
Leila
The beginning of the book was mildly annoying with the more than picture perfect everything. There is a divorcee, but even it is glossed over as if it is just what happens. This portion of the book definitely gave the impression that the author either didn’t want to be completely honest about himself and his life or he was oblivious to the problems he had.

That being said, once you get past the first couple of chapters the book is captivating. The author did an amazing job of telling the story r
...more
Mark
What I learned from this book? Well, the rehab/relapse cycle is, uhhh, cyclical, which means that *you probably shouldn't write an interminable chronological account of it*. I've seldom been quite so thrilled for a book to be finished, not least of all because this author is one of the most hideously self-obsessed and self-congratulatory people I've ever had the displeasure to spend way too much virtual time with. Nothing that the addicted son, nor either of his other two children, nor he himsel ...more
Fran V
Beautiful Boy is one of the most beautiful yet painful books I have ever read. David Sheff is a professional writer, who bares much of his soul as he writes about the utter shock of discovering his son’s serious drug use and utter addiction, the agonizing guilt he feels, the torturing “what ifs” he ponders, his frustration, his helplessness, his anger, mixed in a seesaw of emotions with the love and pride he has for his son, and the fear…the horrible ever=present fear that the next phone call wi ...more
Mandi
This book for me is between 3 and 4 stars. I did like it but not as much as I hoped I guess. I thought the authors style of writing was too rigid I guess- or just too "perfect" and for me that made it lose some of the personal/emotional element that was necessary for the book. Also - the book was just all in all very repetitive - story of his life - in rehab out of rehab in rehab out of rehab - blah blah. :) It definitely had some good points in it though that were thought-provoking on addiction ...more
Crystal
I'm currently on chapter 13, page 152. I wanted to share a few things that stuck out to me.
Page 98 & 99
"A specialist on child development tells me that children’s brains are at the most malleable---that is, the greatest change takes place---before they are two years old and then again when they are teenagers. ‘The worst time for a person to be tampering with their brains is when they are teenagers;’ she says ‘drugs radically alter the way teenagers’ brains develop.’ As she explains it, exper
...more
Bobbie
This is a rollercoaster ride of a book. And from page one, you know you're in the hands of a gifted writer. Beautiful Boy gives the father's perspective on a son's downward spiral into drug addiction. For those of us who grew up in a time and place when the the school rebels smoked a few cigarettes in the bathroom, this book is a wake-up call. Crystal meth, Nic Sheff's preferred drug, is a nightmarish concoction that seriously depletes the brain neurotransmitter dopamine and can leave users depr ...more
Jenny
Recommended by one of my favorite book critics!
What a horrifying story, having to watch your child deal with a meth addiction. Every time I opened it, it was like being stabbed in the heart multiple times because as a mother you feel so much sympathy for any parent who has to go through something like that. It was interesting how the author talks about how not only was his son addicted to meth, but that he himself became "addicted" to his son's addiction, to where it was all-consuming and encom
...more
Linda
Jul 18, 2008 Linda rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone trying to amke sense of drug addiction and relationships
Recommended to Linda by: review
Shelves: non-fiction
I was reluctant to read this book after reading reviews. I was worried it would be too painful, having had first hand experience with the subject matter and still suffering from post-traumatic stress from the ordeal. But it was actually a sense of relief realizing that horrible situations come up often in families. Morbid thought process, isn't it? It gave me a better understanding of the dynamics between parents and kids dealing with severe drug addiction. It eased wounds that are still raw, an ...more
Lori
I grew up around meth users, so I was particularly interested to see the trend from the outside: A famous-in-his-own-world dad chronicling the tragedy of his son's addiction.

It's safe to say their lifestyle was a tad different from the one I knew. But it was no less horrifying.

Though criticized for bringing "nothing new" to the addiction genre, I liked viewing the story from the dad's perspective. He never quite got all that was going on, and yes, he put himself front and center in his son's dra
...more
Linda Sexauer
This was a great book! Sheff has gone through a horrible time with his son's addiction. But this book is much more than a tell-all. It is deeply searching, both inwardly and outwardly. It is about the grieving process, about love, about commitment, about allowing yourself to be in pain to arrive at a better place. This book has a lot to offer. And for me, as a mother of four, it is a wake-up call to be diligent and passionate about keeping my kids educated about and away from drugs as much as I ...more
Donna
I'm struggling with this review. I am making an exception and breaking one of my own rules. In autobiographies/memoirs, I don't like judgmental reviews when someone opens up and lets the world in by telling their story to all who will read it. But this book was so irritating to me.

It felt like the author was looking for complete absolution, when there was none needed. There didn't seem to be any 'self' honesty, but he had no problems pointing out the faults or ill advice of others. He blamed eve
...more
Diane
After the disappointing flak that came about with the exaggerated memoire by the author of A Million Little Pieces, I wasn't sure whether to read this book or not. "Pieces" ruined memoires for me for awhile. I began to suspect every autobiographical book I picked up. But this bok looked different. It is written by the father of a teenage boy addicted to crystal meth. It is heartwrenching and at the same time so difficult to comprehend what this father and the rest of the family endured as a resu ...more
Carly
A devastating reminder that no matter how hard we try, we can't always protect our kids from harm. I can't help but wonder if my own beautiful boy could end up like Nic Sheff, even if we do everything "right" as parents. This book has officially ruined my week.
Currie
I enjoyed this book. It was a glimpse into what a parent goes through with an addict and what "worked" for him. I found David trying too hard to be "hip and cool" throughout the book and it takes away from the honesty and integrity of what he was writing. It almost came off as trying too hard to be cool instead of trying to tell his story of a desperate father. I found this book more informative b/c of his personal experience. I asked myself the question 'was he in denial of what was going on wi ...more
Cathay
It was difficult to listen while driving (thank goodness for sunglasses), but this was not the woeful and horrific story I thought it would be. David Sheff is an amazing journalist and through his writing, it becomes apparent how Nic's struggles are David's. Through David's exploration of questions all parents ask, such as "How do we keep our child safe, happy and healthy?" I experienced a myriad of emotions while journeying with him through a variety of cycles, phases, and repeated trials and e ...more
Paula
A heart wrenching true story of a father dealing with his son's drug additions. An expansion of an article originally published in the New York Times Magazine, David Sheff, a journalist living in Northern California, tells the story of his son's addictions to meth along with other substances, and the many attempts at recovery. The book deals with family issues and provides insights into the world of rehab centers. It is an honest account of the journey of an addict, told from the perspective of ...more
John Powell
I'm really glad I read this book.

It was emotionally draining to read in detail the anguish of a father's heart ripped to pieces by his son's addiction to meth. But I appreciated several things that outweighed the pain.

1) The writing was very good. I was engaged and drawn forward throughout the book.

2) He did a good job weaving in a lot of information about drug addiction and rehab as we read the story. Mostly I didn't even notice. But the times I did notice that he was passing on important infor
...more
Valerie
The author has such a gift to describe the anguish a parent feels when their child is suffering. Even if the reader hasn't dealt with drug addiction, we can relate to what it means to be powerless to help your child because all of us are at some time in their lives. The book, although is deals with a heavy subject, is not dark, and the writing is excellent. A very thought provoking book for parents.
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DAVID SHEFF is the author of the #1 New York Times-bestselling memoir Beautiful Boy. Sheff's other books include Game Over, China Dawn, and All We Are Saying. His many articles and interviews have appeared in the New York Times, Rolling Stone, Playboy, Wired, Fortune, and elsewhere. His ongoing research and reporting on the science of addiction earned him a place on Time Magazine's list of the Wor ...more
More about David Sheff...
Game Over, Press Start to Continue: How Nintendo Conquered the World Clean: Overcoming Addiction and Ending America's Greatest Tragedy All We Are Saying: The Last Major Interview with John Lennon and Yoko Ono Playboy Interview with John Lennon and Yoko Ono China Dawn: Culture and Conflict in China's Business Revolution

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“In his suicide note, Kurt Cobain wrote, "It's better to burn out than to fade away." He was quoting a Neil Young song about Johnny Rotten of the Sex Pistols. When I was twenty-four, I interviewed John Lennon. I asked him about this sentiment, one that pervades rock and roll. He took strong, outraged exception to it. "It's better to fade away like an old soldier than to burn out, " he said. "I worship people who survive. I'll take the living and the healthy.” 172 likes
“An alcoholic will steal your wallet and lie to you. A drug addict will steal your wallet and then help you look for it.” 68 likes
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