Matheson's promising debut, a gritty novel from Tin House Books' New Voice Series, tells the bleak story of a wayward L.A. junkie named Max. Virtually disowned by her dysfunctional parents, out of a job, sickeningly underweight, months behind on rent and unable to kick her debilitating heroin habit, Max flits from day to depressing day in a constant state of decrepitude. When she's not shooting up, she's snorting coke, and when she's not doing that she's thinking about her next fix. Despite her spiraling decline and a number of near-death experiences, nothing really changes for Max throughout her story.
Her dealers (Grandpops, her crusty, repulsive landlord; and Carlotta, a beastly legless woman) and fellow junkies (Wolf and a roller-skating waif named Tutu) share Max's single-minded pursuit of getting high. Though initially mesmerizing, the drug-centric plot begins to ware a little thin; the crux of the book can be found in Max's unchanging attitude toward her life: "The goal is not to think-about anything. She winds up places, and that's fine." Nonetheless, Matheson's sharp, highly detailed prose thrusts readers in the driver's seat of an out-of-control life.