During a week-long suspension from school, a teenage transplant to impoverished rural Indiana searches for a job, the whereabouts of his vanished drug-addicted guardian, and meaning in the America of the Trump years in this novel from the author of Sip.
Carr brings a wide range of ideas into the project, from the legacy of white supremacy to the desolation of rural drug addicts, but they are distilled neatly and convincingly into a near-perfect anthem of disaffected youth in a small frozen town ... present day, gun-crazed, Trump-infected Indiana is wrenchingly alive on the page ... Opioid reminds me of a book I would have devoured in high school, read half a dozen times, and told all my friends about.
... hilarious, heartbreaking ... Readers are privileged to be inside Riggle’s head, as this bright, fractious, hurting, lovable boy muses on everything from race and class to drugs and sex ... Carr’s style is delightfully straightforward, and he takes special pleasure in absurdity. The climax of the story is so strange, horrifying and darkly hilarious that you may have to put the book down because you’re laughing so hard ... The story offers no clear answers as to what’s going to happen to Riggle, Peggy and all the other characters. But the reader will wonder for quite some time—and there’s really no higher compliment to give a book.
Riggle’s weeklong odyssey avoids easy moral lessons or melodramatic decisions. His town’s rough landscape provides only small encounters and poignant revelations. He becomes heroic because any teenage choice is tough, so why not try to make the right ones ... Carr’s dialogue [is] realistic and pointed ... Some storylines in Opioid, Indiana do wrap up a bit too conveniently. The money problem resolves through a contrived twist. Several stream-of-consciousness passages will work for a few readers, not all. A few situations veer toward melodrama, probably because inspiration came from Carr’s imagination more than Carr’s true-life classroom recollections. That’s an unfair way to judge fiction—not being nonfiction enough—but it’s a risk when the real world’s an ingredient.