One Pill Makes You Smaller

Set in the bell-bottomed, experimental 1970s, Lisa Dierbeck's debut novel, One Pill Makes You Smaller, features a smart, young protagonist on a long, strange trip. As if she consumed a cake marked "Eat Me," Alice Duncan feels monstrously tall for her age. At 11 years old she stands 5'7" and fully developed, and beautiful too. Alice wants people to notice her collage artwork, but seems only to attract the sort of attention she's too young to know what to do with.

Borrowing from Lewis Carroll's classic, Dierbeck sends Alice on a similarly startling and surreal journey--spooky and compelling and drug-filled like the Jefferson Airplane song based on the same book. Alice's parents are as absent as those in the original story, leaving her under the care of her coke-snorting teenage half-sister, Aunt Esme. The rabbit hole in this case is The Balthus Institute, a dilapidated summer camp in North Carolina where Aunt Esme sends Alice so she can pursue a rock star in Los Angeles. Upon arrival Alice discovers that Balthus is less an art institute than a mental institution, populated by a tiny assemblage of strange and threatening inhabitants. Arrogant twin sisters take the place of Tweedledum and Tweedledee, and the Cheshire Cat appears in the form of grinning J.D., a drug dealer and seducer who leads Alice down a dangerous path. By the end of her harrowing journey, not even a bottle marked "Drink Me" could bring back Alice's lost innocence. A convincing, disturbing read.

One Pill Makes You Smaller

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