St. Martin's Press / January 28, 2014 / $14.99 print, $3.79 digital
Josie Banks is a girl without a past. After being found unconscious with no memory, she was shuffled in and out of foster homes where she suffered years of abuse. An experience that left her broken, damaged, and clinging to drugs and meaningless hook-ups to numb her pain.
When Josie disappeared years ago, she took a piece of Tristan with her. She’s the girl he thought he lost forever—the one he’s never been able to forget. Now a twist of fate has brought them back together, and he never wants to let her out of his inked arms again. But Tristan is haunted by a dark past of his own. On the run from ruthless criminals that shattered Josie’s world years ago, reentering her life puts them both in danger.
As Josie and Tristan’s lives become tangled once again, they find themselves unwilling and unable to escape the relentless pull that draws them together. But will the past leave their love in ruins—or bind them together for a lifetime?
It's not unusual to find New Adult novels with gritty heroes who struggle with drug addiction, a life of crime, or a history of abuse. Finding equally dark and emotionally damaged heroines is not as common. Josie Banks, the heroine of Season Vining's New Adult novel Beautiful Addictions, is one of the darkest characters I've ever read about.
The story begins with a quote by Mark Twain that reads “Everyone is a moon and has a dark side which he never shows to anybody.” Twenty-two-year-old Josie definitely has a dark side. In the first scene of the story, she's waking up from a one-night stand with a stranger who supplies her with cocaine. She despises him—and herself.
The morning light peeked through the vertical blinds, casting stripes of gold across his body. He smiled and she could feel his desire for her again. To Josie, he was just a guy—a guy with a warm bed, pleasurable hands, and a large supply of coke.
When she was fourteen-years-old, the recently orphaned Josie was placed into witness protection in San Diego. Severe trauma had caused her to experience retrograde dissociative amnesia, and she became a girl without a past and with only a grim future in foster care. After several years of severe abuse, she became homeless and took to the streets. Later, an inheritance from her father allowed her to keep a roof over her head and provided her with the means to acquire a steady supply of drugs. Her main goal in life was emotional numbness.
She floated on whatever high she could get, reluctant to touch down, afraid reality might never let her go again.
She wasn't just addicted to drugs and sex. She was also addicted to art.
Sometimes her pencils, along with fresh paper and a silent room, could deliver the much-needed feeling of ecstasy. The rough scratch of charcoal or the shake and rattle of paint cans calmed her in a way that no therapist ever had.
Amidst all the darkness, Josie's life is full of small kindnesses that are glimpses of love and human connection in her grim world. For example, she uses her inheritance to buy food and gives it to her friend Gavin to distribute to street kids.
“You hungry?” Josie asked, holding out a granola bar.
“Thanks,” Gavin said, ripping open the paper and humming in delight at the taste of chocolate.
“Here's the rest,” Josie said, handing over the four bags filled with food. “You'll give it to the kids down in the plaza?”
“I always do.”
Josie also has a friend in her neighbor Alex, a criminal who cares for her and tries to protect her.
He installed three locks on her door and insisted that she use them. He brought her food a few times a week; otherwise she'd forget to eat. Recognizing her need for companionship and protection, Alex began to take a more platonic interest in Josie. All the other neighbors insisted she was bizarre, but he knew better. She was defensive and hurting and completely alone. Perhaps Josie could be his one good deed.
Finally, there's Josie's social worker Monica Templeton who continues to check on her even though Josie's no longer a ward of the state. Josie resists the friendship, but Monica persists because she considers Josie “the first and last kid she had ever let down.”
But Josie's real salvation—and her most all-consuming addiction—is Tristan Fallbrook. One night, while she's sketching on her fire escape, she spots a kindred spirit in the alleyway, a handsome young man whose darkness and despair matches her own. He's having a meltdown and punching the wall of the building, and Josie envies the way he's able to physically express his anger and despair.
Josie felt bound to him in that moment. They were two souls snared by chance and circumstance. Though they did not feel like strangers.
She wanted more, but she didn't know what. It tugged at her like the undeniable pull of the moon. She couldn't name it, but she craved it like her drugs and her art.
After their chance meeting, she becomes obsessed with him and begins stalking him at the bar where he works.
Routine was not something she was accustomed to, though lately she'd been devoted to him. She always arrived an hour before his shift started and slipped out when he took his last break. She'd convinced herself that her obsession was normal.
Tristan doesn't mind being stalked by her, even though his coworkers find her creepy and call her “Bundy,” after the serial killer. He finds her attractive and compelling and decides to pursue her and learn her secrets. But when he finally sees her in the light, he makes a shocking discovery.
Tristan's brows dipped in confusion as her face morphed into a younger one in his mind, a smiling one. He considered the familiar eyes, measuring them against the dark and guarded ones before him now. Like a forceful blow knocking the breath from his lungs, he connected Josie to the girl who had haunted his memory for the past eight years.
“You look just like a girl I used to know. McKenzi Delaune,” Tristan said. “But that's impossible.”
Tristan thought his best friend McKenzi (a.k.a. Josie) died when she was fourteen, but she's very much alive—in a way. Because of her amnesia and her history of trauma, Josie is nothing like the girl she used to be. But Tristan isn't the boy he used to be either. He's a professional criminal on the run from a bad relationship and an evil drug lord. Despite the darkness that haunts both their lives, Tristan and Josie find themselves drawn to each other—addicted to each other, really.
Beautiful Addictions is a poetic story full of twists and turns. It would be unfair to spoil anymore surprises for the reader, but suffice it to say, Josie's childhood is a mystery that slowly begins to unfold as the story progresses. Together, Tristan and Josie will have to face the darkness of their past in order to keep it from destroying any chance they have at future happiness.
Learn more or pre-order a copy of Beautiful Addictions by Season Vining, available January 28, 2014:
Brittany is a freelance writer, aspiring novelist and small business owner who hopes that heaven will be like a bookstore with an endless supply of free books, free coffee and super comfy chairs.