Monday, July 14, 2014

Review of Zoo Station


This is a translation from Christiane F. Wir Kinder von Bahnhof Zoo. It's a German novel about a young child getting addicted to heroin. The novel is mainly written from the perspective of Christiane herself as she tells us how she became addicted and what she felt during. At some points in the novel there's an intermezzo where we can read a police report or the feelings of Christiane's mother who found out about her daughter's problem in the nick of time.

Christiane comes from a troubled family where money problems and physical violence almost are too cliché to be true. She escapes her troubles by trying to fit in with the crowd at her new home, Berlin. She soon figures out the harder you yell and the least fear you show, the better your reputation gets and she soon adapts. She's a young twelve year old as she smokes her first pot and soon evolves to pills like Valium, Excedrin and the like, combining uppers and downers to match the way she wants to feel. She as first impressed with the relaxed air the kids that are using have and she wants to be like them. At first the entire group is dead set against using heroin, or 'horse' as its slang word is, but very quickly one by one the kids are seduced into trying it once, first by snorting heroin and later on injecting the drug. Christiane is first scared of using and she actually stays free of drugs for over 2 months when she's on holiday in the countryside, but when she comes back she starts using it almost immediately almost as if she needs to catch up.
Parallel between her drug abuse is a romantic relation she has with another heroin addict, Detlef. They become a thing and they see themselves as rare because Detlef prostitutes himself to sell heroin for them both. This does change very quickly and Christiane herself starts prostituting herself at the age of 13. She holds of the actually having sex until she is well over 14, but in the end she does give in just to be able to have money for another shot.

During the novel she tries to kick the habit, being too naive. She almost keeps thinking that she can stay off the drugs when she's putting a needle to her skin.
As the novel winds down she's almost desperate for her golden shot because she becomes aware that the world that awaits her without heroin isn't as good as she is imagining and the world with heroin is killing her. Her one attempt at suicide fails and then her mother decided to ship her off to the countryside to get her away from the dangerous drugs scene.

All this is heartbreaking in its own. It's no wonder that I've read this novel almost in one go, but to think that's a true tale. The girl truly lived and is still living as far as I know. This gives you a little bit of comfort knowing that Christiane will be alright in the end, but the struggle she had to go through is tough to endure.
This is a tale that every beginning adolescent should have to read. The pull of drugs will be a lot less if they can see what it can lead to.

The book itself is written well, I never got the feeling that anything got dramatized for the sake of selling the book. In the end you almost get a feeling of try, fail, repeat as she goes through her different attempts at quitting heroin. The only thing that truly worked in the end was isolating her of her friends, who kept pulling her down. The title of the book refers to the place where she and her friends hung out while they we're addicted. They went there to score heroin, but also to pick up clients and get the money for it.

The sentence that kept me thinking most of all was the following.
Having the wrong ideals is better than having no ideals at all. 
Christiane says this while they are talking about Nazi germany. She doesn't entirely believe it herself, but she can see the solace of having something to live for, even if it's wrong.

I'm giving this novel 9 out of 10.

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