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Placebo Junkies

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Going Bovine meets Trainspotting in this gritty portrait of at-risk teens gaming the prescription drug trial system.

Meet Audie: Professional lab rat. Guinea pig. Serial human test subject. For Audie and her friends, “volunteering” for pharmaceutical drug trials means a quick fix and easy cash.
Sure, there’s the occasional nasty side effect, but Audie’s got things under control. If Monday’s pill causes a rash, Tuesday’s ointment usually clears it right up. Wednesday’s injection soothes the sting from Tuesday’s “cure,” and Thursday’s procedure makes her forget all about Wednesday’s headache. By the time Friday rolls around, there’s plenty of cash in hand and perhaps even a slot in a government-funded psilocybin study, because WEEKEND!

But the best fix of all is her boyfriend, Dylan, whose terminal illness just makes them even more compatible. He’s turning eighteen soon, so Audie is saving up to make it an unforgettable birthday. That means more drug trials than ever before, but Dylan is worth it.
No pain, no gain, Audie tells herself as the pills wear away at her body and mind. No pain, no gain, she repeats as her grip on reality starts to slide….

Raw and irreverent, Placebo Junkies will captivate readers until the very end, when author J. C. Carleson leans in for a final twist of the knife.

298 pages, Hardcover

First published October 27, 2015

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About the author

J.C. Carleson

4 books70 followers
J.C. Carleson never intended to be an author. Although she was always a proficient writer of term papers, reports, and other necessary but mundane documents, she didn't consider herself cut out for the creative life.

Nearly a decade as an officer in the CIA's clandestine service changed that.

With her head now brimming with stories of intrigue, scandal, and exotic locales, Carleson was finally ready to give writing a shot. Her fiction and non-fiction works alike tap into her unique experiences, drawing readers into the highly charged, real world of espionage.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 217 reviews
Profile Image for KL (Cat).
177 reviews132 followers
April 3, 2015
Do you want to be mindfucked sideways till Wednesday? Oh boy, because this is the perfect book for you.

A very accurate portrayal of my brain afterwards
(A very accurate portrayal of my brain right now)

Right, it's no great secret that I have a great love for disenchanted youths (see: The Secret History or The Basic Eight) or novels with unreliable narrators à la Lolita. This is a fantastic mesh of the two! The narrator starts of as a heroine in a contemporary world, then slowly spirals down into ?! ?! ?! and eventually !! !! !!


Forget your preconceived notions on YA books; I am very happy to announce that there are:
1) No love triangles
2) No instant love/lust/marriage proposals
3) Respectable and authentic portrayal of highly sensitive topics (warning: death, suicide, drug abuse, insanity (?), addiction, medical ethics, human testing)
4) Mind-stimulating ideas beyond the scope of generic YA plots
Just, alright, the train you've been sitting in turns out to be a roller coaster when you've been least expecting it. And it's going to do some mightily large loops, both plot wise and how it challenges the readers' assumptions beyond the scope of the novel. How does ideological threats from totalitarian authorities sound?

I don't want to add anything more and risk taking away your own journey in reading this; perhaps a more spoiler-y review close to the release date.

Profile Image for C.J..
Author 20 books3,922 followers
November 20, 2015

This book is captivating, unique, devastating, heartbreaking, and utterly brilliant. I couldn't put it down. The heroine has such a vivid, interesting voice, and the premise is fascinating. But what really takes this book into 5 star territory are the twists and turns. I couldn't stay ahead of it, and in the end, this book ruined me for other books for days.
Profile Image for Stefani Sloma.
399 reviews117 followers
Shelved as 'dnf'
December 17, 2015
Yeah, it's been a few days since I read any of this, and I just have no desire to pick it back up. It's not that it's not good, because the concept is interesting, but I don't care about any of the characters. Also, pitching it as like Trainspotting was a bad idea.


Unfortunately, I had to DNF Placebo Junkies. After a few days of not reading it, I had no desire to pick it back up. It’s not that the book isn’t good, because the concept is super interesting, but I didn’t care about any of the characters. I don’t think pitching the book as being similar to Trainspotting was a good idea either – possibly because that’s such a classic or because it just didn’t feel like that book to me. Placebo Junkies was confusing. I do think there will be some people who like this one, but I’m just not one of them. The book felt like it tried too hard in parts, and I didn’t relate to Audie nor any of her other lab rat friends. A lot of what I read also felt really unrealistic.

The bottom line: Not for me at all, but I wouldn’t rule it out if it sounds interesting to you.
Profile Image for Anna.
582 reviews76 followers
December 1, 2016
This would have easily been five stars if it weren't for the ending. I was drawn in so quickly and couldn't put this down. It was so so good.

But by the end, I had no idea what was real and what wasn't and it bothered me. Did she die? Did she live, full of meds? Who was Charlotte and what happened to her? Too many questions.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Katy Kelly.
2,087 reviews75 followers
October 8, 2015
A perspective and story you've not heard many times - that of the professional 'lab rat', here told to us by Audie, a rather funny but unreliable guinea pig, whose life is one long series of experiments, procedures, pills and tests.

As a professional 'volunteer' Audie makes a living, as do many of her friends, from volunteering for drug trials. She takes us though the back streets of how to apply, which studies offer the most 'compensation', what side effects are like, though all the time we can see the effect it is having on her life and relationships.

It is frightening in its black humour too. Audie quite openly tells us:
"You can even chain your studies together. Did you get burned during the laser hair-removal protocol? They're testing an analgesic cream for that on Six. Are those funny new antidepressant pills giving you night terrors? Why not sign up for the sleep study just down the hall?... it's kind of funny when you get the pieces to come together like this - kind of like a real-life Tetris game."

Audie is someone you can't admire, but you do have real sympathy for. Gradually her back-story comes out (you do wonder how on earth she got herself into this sort of life) and it's a sad one. Yet she doesn't let us feel sorry for her for long, she's always got a good line to deflect:
"When you grow up surrounded by rabbit turds, you don't look at what the Easter Bunny left behind and first think mmmmm, chocolate."

Audie's friends add greatly to the humour that abounds in the book. Her roommate and friend Charlotte gets Audie to agree to a blitz of tests to make a large wad of money to be able to give it all up, setting them both up for some possibly damaging effects, and there's a frankly hilarious scene where Charlotte's drug-wracked body enables her to give a haughty medical student a real lesson in politeness.

Her boyfriend, Dylan, is another side to the medical narrative - he, at 17 roughly the same age as Audie, has cancer, is being treated for that, and disapproves of how Audie making her money. We can see through the two of them the downside of drugs in very different ways - and also the misuse of them.

It's an underworld that fascinates, that actually does exist, though this is fiction. The author finishes with a few words about the necessity of clinical trials and human testing, and I'm glad she turned her book to this account of the trial guinea pig, and what can happen when it is taken to extremes and the system is 'cheated' as Audie manages to do on a regular basis. I hate to think of what she is doing to her body.

It's a disorienting story. More than once you don't know who to trust, what exactly has happened, because the drugs and procedures are interfering with Audie's senses - when she wakes up outside a hospital she doesn't know how she got there, what happened to her. A very scary life.

So while this is an entertaining story, and very darkly funny, it's also a hugely frightening idea.

I thought this was a brilliant read, and though marketed at Young Adults, any adult would find this an intensely worthwhile read. I would even suggest book groups give it a try as the issues on display here would give hours of discussion.

Review of a Netgalley advance copy.
Profile Image for Sierra the Nerdgirl.
498 reviews30 followers
November 24, 2015
This book... what can I say about this book. This book was way much more than I expected. I expected a lighthearted contemporary, but boy oh boy did I get more than that. I got a book that although was filled with those lighthearted moments, was so much more involved and darker than I imagined. When reading the beginning, this book seemed like one where the main character was just trying to get her message our there in a humorous way with a lot of sarcasm. She did that for the most part, but at one point in the book the dynamic and writing shifts to something much more and I really liked that.

The writing in this book had two styles, and I really enjoyed both of those styles. Part of it is this humorous sarcasm that takes jabs at everything in life, yet at the same time tries to find the good in everything. But then you have this entire other dynamic that is twisted and almost depressing, yet really captivating because it has a lot to say.

The plot is unlike anything I have read and is a lot different than I expected. This book made me do a lot of self-reflecting in ways that quite frankly made me uncomfortable, but in a good way. I mean, there are so many times in this book where I was kind of mindf**ked and I had to put the book aside and just think. This book really makes you question reality.

Audie the main character... She is so unique and twisted and has a lot going on in her mind, which just makes her all the more interesting. Every time you think you understand her and have a grip on her mentality, she surprises you.

I'm not going to go into much more detail because that would be spoiling the book and I honestly think this is something you want to go into knowing and expecting nothing so that when the end comes you can kind of sit there in shock and contemplate everything. I will probably however be filming a book review which I will have spoilers near the end, so if you do want to be spoiled, which I think you should avoid, you'll know where to find them.

[Real talk though, you guys should read this book. I think it deserves a lot more attention because it truly has some important messages that I think we can all take away from, especially on mental health. All the writing is pretty damn good.]

*If you are uncomfortable with swearing, this might not be the book for you.

I would like to thank Penguin Random House for mailing me a copy of this book for review. I really appreciated the opportunity!
Profile Image for Shannon (It Starts At Midnight).
1,144 reviews1,009 followers
October 19, 2015
This review was originally posted on It Starts at Midnight
Audie and her friends are pretty much professional lab rats for the large majority of this story. During the beginning, I was kind of into it. Audie was homeless and desperate for money, and so were her friends, for one reason or another. And this pill testing scheme was pretty lucrative, and I guess it beats working in a crappy office? Though, in the crappy office, you probably don't have side effects from anything except boredom, so yeah.

Anyway, as you'd imagine, things don't go great for people who live this lifestyle. Audie wants to save some money to take her boyfriend on some epic vacation, and she is going to lab-rat the hell out of this facility to get all the money. Because seriously, don't worry about the people who will have to take these pills and are relying on the now cross-contaminated data you're providing, by all means, head to the beach! See, it is all so confusing. One minute no one seems to care about one another at all. They treat each other like basic acquaintances, have lots of drug-induced parties (because obviously they need more drugs), and basically I do not understand the point of their lives.

But I wanted to understand. So I was engaged on that front at least. I wanted to know all the answers to my burning questions. Questions like:

Why isn't this shit regulated?
Where are all the parents/guardians/caseworkers/adults of any kind?
How are any of them still alive?
Is going on vacation worth all the probable dying? How will Audie even make it to vacation?
Why are you all taking more drugs for funsies?! No, stop it!
No seriously, how is this happening!?

Did I get my answers? Yes. Am I still a bit confused? Kind of. Can I say anything else about this book? Nope.

Bottom Line: It's basically too hard to review here, guys. It is confusing and messed up, but I was definitely engaged and wanting to know the answers to everything, so it was hard to put down. And there are answers, which is good!
Profile Image for Mary  BookHounds .
1,301 reviews1,783 followers
December 14, 2015

Audie finds herself out on her own after a horrible start to life and she finds that she can support herself with no questions asked by becoming a test subject for medical procedures and drug testing. In this shady world full of people you wouldn't consider looking at twice, Audie finds a family. Jameson runs the apartment they live in and this place is filled with all sorts of characters. She becomes friends with Charlotte who has a master plan for saving her money and getting out of the life they live. When Charlotte dies, Audie finds her date book and decides that she will take over Charlotte's appointments in order to take her boyfriend, Dylan, on the trip of a lifetime. She needs to do it fast since Dylan has cancer and probably not much longer to live.

Dylan becomes Audie's reason for living and it is a miracle that she survives the drug trials at all. Some are drug trials are harmless, but some send her in a death spiral when she is forced to examine her inner self with psychotropes. As she becomes more intwined in the drug trials, her mind becomes more unhinged. That is when the horrible truth about her life with Jameson and the apartment are revealed. This is some scary stuff that is explored here.

Wow, Carleson sure knows how to spin a tale. The writing is excellent and even though you really want to look away, you can't. As the horror of Audie's life is revealed, you wonder how she ever made it at all. This story sheds light on mental illness, the shady business of big pharma and homelessness. Parents: I think this should spark some interesting discussions. Be aware that there are drug / alcohol use, sexual situations and language. Overall, this is one of my favorite reads this year because it is just so different.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Madelyn Rose.
99 reviews2 followers
May 3, 2016
This book was fine. I didn't really like it, especially in the beginning. The beginning was hard to follow. There was no character connection and the plot had a ton of holes in it. I couldn't really tell why they were getting the testing. In the beginning, I couldn't understand the symptoms that they were having because it was poorly executed. They didn't say it was from the tests.

However, despite the negative beginning, the book picked up a little when Audie was trying to save money for her and her boyfriend Dylan to go away. Let me just say, I thought that Audie was a boy for the LONGEST TIME. The author didn't write the book in a way for me to tell easily the gender of the character. I mean come on, this is BASIC STUFF Please, just make your characters make sense without trying to launch yourself into the plot on page 2.

Anyway, the book was about Audie and her friends being "pro-lab rats" for the majority of the book. They all take a ton of tests to get money to save up to go away. Audie wants to take Dylan to Patagonia because she knew how he dreamed about going there.

This book was just all around boring and it had a ton and a half of issues. This book just wasn't very good and I wouldn't recommend it. But, the cover was still cool! Happy Reading!


Source: I borrowed this book from my library.
51 reviews1 follower
May 23, 2018
In this book the narrator has to figure out the difference between her delusions and reality. Very trippy and crazy and dark. Would recommend, but also does not have a wholesome ending and I am disturbed.
Profile Image for Camille Vargas.
76 reviews4 followers
August 7, 2019
"Pick your poison."
Audie is a lab rat. A guinea pig. A human test subject for all the upcoming drugs on the market.
She also writes a sort of a blog to help newbies get into this system. She gives out tips and tricks on how to make the most out of this situation they are in.
It's "easy" money for her and her friends, and with her terminally ill boyfriend's birthday coming up, she's out to rake as much money as she can to surprise him: a holiday on a castle at the end of the world. .
This is an utterly brilliant book. Told in the POV of the main character Audie herself, it gives you the idea that you're in control of what's happening much like Audie herself. You step into this story like you would ride a train thinking it'll be a straight journey from one station to another. Towards the end however you realize it was a roller-coaster you got yourself into and everything's thrown upside down and inside out.
The twist and ending left me 🤯 and looking back, I loved how J.C Carleson actually left trail marks throughout the story in a subtle and beautiful way.
A definite ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ for me
A trigger warning though, this book discusses topics such as: addiction, death, mental and emotional health problems, drug and alcohol abuse, human testing, medical ethics, etc.
Profile Image for Jess.
595 reviews11 followers
April 17, 2015
I can't express how much I enjoyed this book.
Actually, perhaps 'enjoy' isn't the word. It put me in a pretty isolated, claustrophobic place. Living a temporary life of a previously homeless teen pushed to her limits physically and psychologically was a new kind of horror. The intricacies of life as a lab rat was terrifying (although the money for clinical trials is gooood, as a side note).
I ADORED Audie's voice. She was sarcastic and hilarious and cynical in all the right places. Charlotte was another great character, and Jameson, in parts. The narrative provided the best sort of approach to such a sensitive and grave topic. Honestly, Audie's voice was just... perfectly crafted. All character flaws were believable and not off-putting, just realistic. It was also really interesting to get an insight into people who actually attempt to make a living from clinical trials; something I'd never really thought about before.
I'm trying my best not to include spoilers here, but it's difficult. All the mention of 'mindfucks' in other reviews had me desperately trying to guess the twist. It's worth it, though, even if I had guessed before the end. It didn't entirely 'fuck me up', but it was a nice ending. Creepy, almost. I kind of wish it'd shocked me a bit more, though.
Honestly, just go ahead and read this. You won't regret it - Placebo Junkies is an amazing experience.
1 review
December 16, 2019
This book was an interesting read saying it's from a perspective you dont get often as Audie is a "professional Guinea pig" And I didnt really know what I saw getting into when I started reading this, as I got it randomly at 2nd charles,but what ended up happening I did not expect. The turns were really unexpected and in certain parts were very confusing.
I did like the point of view though because it was an interesting aspect to the story as her and her friends take drug test trials for a living, and her group of friends are all interesting characters from the start but as you learn more them it gets weirder and weirder.
However the characters dont really build over the story and I didnt really get as full of an explanation even though that could just be me missing something. Some of the characters I wanted to know more about then what they said as well. Including Audies full history since as the story does go on you figure out reality wasn't the same as what she thought so it's very hard to tell what was real and in her head. That is part of the story but at the same time I would want a way to wrap it all together because when i finished i just sat and tried to figure out who was who when what happened.
It's definitely not for everyone but I enjoyed the read and would recommend young ya readers, like myself to read it. It's a short fun read I read it in a day.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Brandy.
Author 2 books115 followers
January 2, 2016
Audie is more or less a lab rat--she and her friends make their living by participating in medical trials, ranging from relatively benign psychological studies to allowing researchers to remove a chunk of muscle from one's thigh. Most of the trials fall somewhere in between, though, testing drugs for various disorders, whether they have them or not (and they all know how to fake it). Audie's in it for the money, trying to save up enough to take her boyfriend on the trip of a lifetime. There are just those moments of clarity to contend with.

I really enjoyed this. Audie is a remarkably unreliable narrator, due in part to her dubious employment; it would almost be worth going back and re-reading from the beginning to piece her whole story together. This book is being described as Going Bovine meets Trainspotting; I'd also toss in I Am the Cheese and maybe a dash of Fight Club. The book is weird, but in all the best ways. There are some plot holes, but that's the nature of the story--Audie is full of plot holes, so they don't feel like narrative loose ends so much as blind spots in the narrator's telling.

Upper high school to "new adult" audience.
Profile Image for Cheryl.
5,133 reviews187 followers
September 13, 2015
I was so excited to read this book. After reading it, I am glad I did check it out but I am a little disappointed with it at the same time. In fact, I waivered between giving this book a three star or a four star rating. I finally decided on a four star. The reason for my hesitation on the rating is because while I found the story itself very intriguing and very realistic. Almost too scary how far people are willing to go for the price of money. It is like participating in these clinical trials is an addiction like drugs and alcohol. So I get why people would want to participate in these trials. Also if there were not people willing to try them than drug companies and other medical companies would not have their human drug testing trials before the final product is released in the markets.

My issue is that I did not become emotionally attached to Audie or any of the other test subjects. Even when things starting happening to the people in the story, I was sad for a moment but it passed as soon as I was done with that page. Plus, I appreciate that the author tried to fit a romance into the story, I thought it did not work or lend anything to the story as a whole.
Profile Image for Brenda Zalegowski.
Author 3 books25 followers
December 1, 2015
I had to push myself to finish this book because the story wasn't doing anything for me (the premise sounded so promising!) and the main character was not only unreliable but also unlikable. I saw another review that said "Do you want to be mindf*cked sideways" and I thought YES! I love books like that. The problem with this one is that the story was boring and completely unbelievable and the characters so unlikable that I was ready to give up before I could even get to the mind f*ck part. When I finally did get there I wasn't even amazed or shocked or anything other than, oh that's it? I still didn't like Audie. I still didn't care what happened to her. I just didn't enjoy this book.

It was well written, I'll say that much. I didn't hate the writing and I would try another book by this author but I wouldn't recommend this book. My actual rating is 2.5 stars but I prefer to round up when giving half stars.
Profile Image for Carrie.
400 reviews2 followers
February 26, 2015
I wasn't sure what was real, what was a drug induced delusion, and what was a mental break while reading Placebo Junkies. The blurred reality coupled with chapters alternating between the plot and the main character's blog added another layer of disruption. It reminded me of the movie Fight Club. I appreciated the work that the author put into researching the topic and think that it would be a great piece of non-fiction. I didn't love Placebo Junkies, however, but think a lot of teens will like the quick pace and gritty characters.
2 reviews1 follower
July 28, 2015
Like just about everyone else on here, I read this in one day, one gulp and then sat there, catatonic, bracing myself to re-enter the real world.

The writing is brilliant. And yes, this is a dark story, but there were still moments where I laughed so hard I scared the dog.

Anyone who needs trigger warnings is probably not going to like this book, but if you enjoy a gritty, twisted story—and again, superb writing—this is for you.
Profile Image for Heather Jōb.
35 reviews7 followers
May 30, 2015
This book left me feeling disoriented and anxious, with a huge knot in my stomach for the rest of the day- and I mean that in the best way. It's raw and brilliant and gritty, with a powerful voice unlike anything you've read before.
Profile Image for Jac.
439 reviews
December 13, 2015
I haven't read The Fault In Our Stars, but this is the cycnical dark insane version of what I imagine that book to be like.
Profile Image for Christine Reads.
311 reviews22 followers
May 9, 2019

Title: Placebo Junkies
Author: J. C. Carleson
Pages: 292
Genre: New Adult, Psychological
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

This novel is a whirlwind of psychological warfare. I reread the ending and still don't understand what happened. To begin, our girl Audie is a lab rat in it for the money. Subjecting herself to study after study trying to get that extra cash. This is commonly done by those in the scientific field in order to help their peers. But, our girl Audie takes a dive over the deep end and takes on way too much.

Oh No's
The surprise twist ending is amazing but I am still confused. Our girl Audie is living a double life, one that is not real at all. Pretty much this whole story was a different setting than actuality. And that is all I can really day without spoiling it and because I still don't fully understand it.

Loved the premise of this book. I picked this up for the plot of the story. As a psychology major, this is a familiar concept to me. The ending of this story really tied it together as well. I definitely recommend giving this book a try if this subject interests you.

With this book being such a short novel, I was able to finish it in under a day. Once again, I really enjoy this book and it's confusing ending.

My similar recommendations for this would be Letting Ana Go and Girl, Interrupted.

Favorite Quote
"Scratch always has a rash. He's allergic to damn near everything. You so much as eat something for lunch that ever sat next to a tree nut and he'll sprout hives if you breathe on him three hours later."

Pg. 45

│Goodreads│Instagram│Previous Post│

Profile Image for Emmie.
89 reviews28 followers
August 13, 2017
My full review will come soon but this book definitely was not my favorite read of the year. I tried really hard to like it but the confusion at the beginning really threw me off. I had no idea who I was following due to the first person POV. This book is one you will either LOVE or you'll HATE. I am sadly someone who did not enjoy it but don't let that stop you from picking it up!
Profile Image for Susan.
357 reviews32 followers
June 29, 2018
Wow. I just finished reading this novel and I am blown away right now. Nothing is what is seems.
14 reviews
March 2, 2019


This book is so unique and has so many twists, it was a (pardon my french) a mindfuck to read. I don't think my brain will ever be the same.

There was so many raw emotions in this book and not your typical young reader's read.

Everyone is a little crazy, and sometimes we need to embrace that crazy. So screw 2+2=4. I want my 2+2=5 ending, and boy, did this book give it to me.
Profile Image for Kelly Gunderman.
Author 3 books76 followers
December 9, 2015
Check out this and other reviews on my young adult book blog, Here's to Happy Endings!

How do I even write this review? Where do I start? This entire book was just…in a world of its own, and the huge twist just threw me for a loop on the confusing-and-way-out-there coaster.

Not saying that’s a bad thing.

bActually, J. C. Carleson had a wonderful idea for this book, and it was executed perfectly.

Let’s start off by talking about Audie for a little bit. She’s seventeen, and she’s a professional guinea pig – she lets medical professionals test new drugs on her, and in return, she gets monetary compensation. Since she was living on the streets, essentially, before she got a fake I.D. and joined up with the program (and got a nice little apartment with some of her fellow guinea pigs), this seems like the perfect plan for her. She can save up plenty of money, take her boyfriend, Dylan, on a nice trip to a place he wants to go, and the two of them could live happily ever after, right? Well, Audie is trying to hurry, because Dylan is actually a cancer patient that she met during drug trials – he was there waiting to undergo testing on a drug to see if it would help with his cancer. While Audie dropped out of high school, Dylan still attends when he’s well enough.

I like Dylan. He seems like such a perfect boyfriend. His character is well written, and he’s pretty much flawless, according to Audie:

“This is how well Dylan knows me: he shows up with a stack of books instead of a bouquet of flowers.”

I mean, come on now. That sounds like the perfect guy, right? That speaks true love, right there…my husband knows to buy me books instead of flowers, too!

Their relationship is adorable…the kind that makes you all warm and fuzzy inside. Even though Audie is allowing them to test random drugs on her, and even though Dylan has been suffering from cancer for a long time and isn’t sure if he’ll have a lot of time left, the two of them love each other, and it’s beautiful.

“We loved the worst of each other, so we get the best of each other.”

So, since Audie gets the notion that Dylan is getting sick again, she decides that she needs to save up money even faster in order to take Dylan on his fantasy vacation. So she joins up with her friend and roommate, Charlotte, who also lets them test medications on her in return for money. Charlotte’s plan is to sign up for any test she possibly can – even if she isn’t supposed to be testing multiple things at once. She figures she needs the money and the need the research subject, so she might as well get what she can out of it.

Charlotte is such a fun character. She’s rebellious and exciting, and she seems like great friend material. She doesn’t have a family, either, so she and Audie make a good team.

So while trying to score a spot as a research subject for as many different tests as possible, Audie and Charlotte plan on making as much money as they can. Eventually, the large amounts of testing catches up with them – especially Charlotte. The side effects that the group of kids who are test subjects develop are quite scary (and kind of graphic in description…especially the guy they call Scratch…use your imagination on that one). Without throwing any spoilers out there, let me just say that the rest of this book threw me for a loop. Things started getting absolutely confusing, especially toward the last quarter of the book. I had to reread certain parts just to make sure I had gotten it right, and I was STILL stunned by the ending. You’ll never see it coming – I certainly didn’t. It surprised me, and I loved it (even though the confusion kind of frustrated me for a bit, I got over it pretty quickly).

I read this whole book in one day, and I can’t say I’m surprised. I got wrapped up in this original story, and the amusing cast of characters who make up the book were fun to read about and get attached to. While there are some confusing spots, like I said, it all wraps up pretty neatly at the end, so it isn’t like it just stops making sense completely. It really makes you stop and think…how far would you go to do something special for the person you love?

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Beckie.
311 reviews60 followers
November 24, 2015
My review can also be found on my blog, Bittersweet Enchantment

I have one word for this book: Mind Trip.
Okay, so that's two words but you get the point. I guess I could have said, "whatintheheckdidijustreadomgwasthatconfusing". Hmm...that sounds about right. *nods*

I just finished the book last night and I am still trying to process what I just read. Placebo Junkies is one of those books where 50% of the book seems normal enough and then BAM right in the middle you're thrown a twist that makes you question everything you have read thus far. Part of me liked that I was thrown into a loop and another part was left confused more than anything.

The story is about a girl named, Audie. Audie makes a living as "Guinea pig" for big medical companies. She takes pills, gives blood, tries new medical products and even allows some majorly scary stuff to happen to her body. Why? Because of the cold hard cash; compensation for being a human medical experiment. Audie is saving up for something very special, a trip for dying boyfriend. Dylan has cancer and Audie wants to give him something he will never forget, a vacation to a place he has only dreamt of. This means doing more volunteering than ever. Which also mean more side effects, more pain, and much more stress. At least she has a friend or two who knows what she's going through. Charlotte is her roommate and friend. She also is a Guinea pig for all the same companies that Audie works at. Both girls know what it's like to be a human pin cushion. Audie will do whatever it takes to make more money and fast. What doesn't kill you makes you stronger, right?

This is when things go downhill. Something happens to Audie that changes everything and forces her to pick up more medical studies than ever. She is also forced to deal with some horribly bad news, in which she begins to question the motives of the doctors behind these trials. Something is definitely off... or maybe something is not quite right with Audie herself?

The final twist will leave readers confused, floored or like me mind tripped!

While Placebo Junkies was unlike anything I have ever read before I have a love-hate relationship with the book. On one hand, the story was unique and interesting but clearly lacked focus on the main plot. It was all over the place at times, giving me details that felt unnecessary and boring. I was 40% into reading and questioning where the story was going. To be honest, I did not like any of the characters besides Dylan. They feel flat for me and just too bazaar. As for Audie, I felt genuinely sorry for her. Her life has been so difficult and you really get see the real Audie at the end of the book. I actually really enjoyed the premise of the book, but I feel it the delivery could have been better.

Don't get me wrong, even though I did find some things I didn't so much like in the book there are some parts I did really enjoy. I love how dedicated Audie was to buy Dylan this amazing gift. I could plainly feel how much she loves Dylan and worries about his health. All that she went through to make him happy was so heartfelt. Even when the final twist comes and the reader finds out the truth about many things you still can't help but feel at awe. The ending was one I did not see coming. It's one of those, "Wait, What?" moments that will leave you questioning everything you've read thus far. I also think the author did some great research when it came to all the medical parts. Kudos, J.C. Carleson. It really helped with the "real" factor during the trials/experiments.

I give Placebo Junkies a solid 3 STARS! While confusing at times and a bit lackluster throughout it still really ended up being a unique and thrilling read. I recommend the book to anyone who likes a good head-trip wants a story that makes you think.
Profile Image for Crystal.
449 reviews91 followers
December 2, 2015
This book made me feel like I was on one of the trial drugs Audie was taking. It was crazy and just not at all what I was expecting, but it you it kinda worked.

I will say first that the synopsis is a little misleading. I totally get why, but I'm sort of shocked that this book is being promoted as a drug trial volunteer taking things too far for her terminally ill boyfriend. What this book is actually about is so much more intense, so much darker, and so complex. I think that's why it worked for me, I really fell into the story halfway through when things started to change for Audie and I just couldn't put the book down. I'm drawn to all things dark and really things don't get much darker than this. The little glimpses we get throughout the story from a certain persons point of view were just bone chilling and I found myself hoping after each chapter that there would be more.

I think the story itself was an interesting one. I can't say I have ever read one like this before which automatically puts it in a fun category, but what really stood out for me was the whole drug trial money making scheme. I never really thought about all this and after reading Audie's journey I am left wanting to know more about this trial thing. Do people really do this for a living?? I think in the next few days I will more than likely look into this subject more because I am so intrigued. When I book makes me want to do research I know I have found a unique read and it's awesome!

The one thing that did bother me a tad was that by the end of the story I felt like there was a certain agenda trying to be thrown at me. It wasn't too heavy handed but I felt it there in the shadows. The author gives us a side note at the end saying this wasn't her intention, but I still felt it nevertheless. I think that should have been left out. We get to see how terrible these drug trials are for most people without the added few scenes at the end and that was enough for me. I mean we have all heard the commercials listing millions of horrific symptoms so I didn't really need to hear the campaign against pharmaceutical companies. I think the message was loud and clear from the get go and so I wish the author would have focused more on wrapping up this dark tale.

All in all I actually really liked this one. It took me for a dark and strange loop, but it totally worked in the context of the story. I felt for Audie and her predicament and I have to say I love how she went out in a blaze of glory. No that is not a spoiler I promise, if you read this you will get it I promise.

Placebo Junkies is for contemporary fans but also for the readers like me that need a side of dark and creepy with their contemporaries. It will grab you I promise and make you wonder what Audie will do next!
Profile Image for WTF Are You Reading?.
1,302 reviews89 followers
September 13, 2015
Reading Placebo Junkies is a lot like staring at one of those Magic Eyes pictures that they used to sell at the mall. Trying with all that is in you, to see the hidden image that you know is there. All the while, not sure what the hell it is that you are spending so much of your time trying to see in the first place.

Audie, has what seems like a pretty normal life; from the outset.

Granted, there is no mention of parental units, of any sort.
Her friends and acquaintances do seem a rather motley bunch.
Their means of financial support does seem a bit...um...dubious.

But...this is YA after all. The place where slippery slopes double as sidewalks, and Alice's rabbit hole has its own doorbell and address.

Add to that the fact that "med prey for pay" is the dirty, not so "secret" secret that helps the drug companies sleep at night. While making the millions of us popping their "little rainbow-colored happy pills" just think we do. At least until those nasty little "adverse side effects" that they warned you about...kinda...sorta...but not really! You know in the accompanying "literature" that you threw away as soon as you got the damn pills...kick in.
So in the interest of interest, because humans are by nature a nosey bunch. You follow the well spoken, well intentioned, and well...sane, Audie, as she and best friend/cohort Charlotte, make their way from one study to the next. All in the name of the all mighty dollar. Side effect may and do vary! There is even a boyfriend to be found here. One 'knight in shinning new remission', Dylan. Who alternates between Audie's reason to...(insert verb here) and her greatest source of worry.

Well, things go on this way for a great portion of the book. Then there is some mention of a medical guardianship, we lose Charlotte (take that to mean whatever you want), everything is turned on its ear...and.

Nothing that you have spent the last however long that you spent reading the book, (In the interest of your sanity, I hope that you can speed read) is what you thought!
(Insert many expletives here, here, and...here!)

What this book is.
Hard to read...check!
Like nothing you have EVER read...Check!
Hard to put down...Check!

Damn good reading!...Check, check, and check!

"How deep is your rabbit hole Alice? Fall down mine and see!"
Profile Image for Barbara.
13.1k reviews271 followers
October 20, 2015
Ever since a friend of mine described his experiences in some of the experimental studies to determine the effects of various products on humans, I've been both repelled and intrigued at the thought that this is how some individuals make a living. While I can understand the lucrative nature of such efforts, I also shudder at the risks these test subjects take, and I find myself wondering about medical ethics. So intrigued have I been by this medical underworld that exists just on the edge of respectability that I have toyed with the thought of writing an investigative piece. Although this story is fiction, the author has done just that while focusing on a once-homeless teen who is trying to earn cash for a trip to edge of the world with her boyfriend, Dylan. Audie has had a hard life, and now she makes a living getting paid for being a lab rat--participating in various pharmaceutical drug trials. The author describes the world that Audie inhabits as though she herself has lived in it, and there is much to like about Audie. But there is also much to dislike about Audie, and readers will find it difficult to know who to trust or even how much of Audie's own story is true, especially when they realize that what they thought about her is not so. Thus, like me, they will find themselves wondering how much of this story has been the figments of Audie's imagination or her damaged brain or how much has been induced by medication. This is one of those books that necessitates multiple readings to make sense of what just happened. The confusion is exacerbated by the fact that there are several shifts in the way the story is told, vacillating between first-person point of view narration to blog posts, tips for navigating the system, and conversations between doctor and patient. Despite some of that confusion, I found it intriguing, and enjoyed it thoroughly. By the time I reached the conclusion, I was emotionally wrung out and felt as though I needed to take a shower from this brief encounter with desperate men and women on both sides of the medical profession--patients and doctors. The book raises many questions that readers will want to continue to ponder long after they leave Audie, Charlotte, and Jameson behind. Who, really, can we trust?
Profile Image for Ifa Inziati.
Author 3 books51 followers
March 31, 2015
No (more) pain, no (more) gain. Until what all Audie gain is only pain.

I planned to read this for the Book Week event at school, but then once I started it I couldn't stop that I finished it in only a day. And after I closed the book, mixed feelings started to flood my head.

First, I really, really like how the unreliable narrator was crafted. I may even say it's nearly flawless. Audie's storytelling was addictive, smart, sometimes witty, most of time harsh (reality is, dude), raw, and close. That what made me keep going, like I always do if I find a story so flowing and fluid yet so strong.

Second, the unusual and tend-to-be provocative theme is in fact a new knowledge for me, and I love everything refreshing (among those sweet books with triangle love, perhaps?). Now I know how the experiment works, since I also wondered about it sometimes, that if a product comes with 'clinically proven' then who was the testee? Are they really okay? And how about who got the failed ones? This is reality we face, but we don't really realize.

Third, even though the characters and plot are nothing grand, it was executed well. Audie with her blurry past, Charlotte with her fuck-you-all attitude, Jameson the mother hen, and Dylan. After all, the book offers the 'twist' explicitly on the blurb, so I did expect one.

Turned out that I didn't really get the 'mind: blown' moment. But then, it didn't lessen the book's awesomeness.

Oh, and last: beautiful cover design. Really admire it.

If you like (and can put up with) the true picture of broken life for a novel, let's sail with Audie's story. I can make sure you'll drown.
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