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Last Updated on June 26, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 581

Beautiful Boy by David Sheff tells the story of methamphetamine addiction from the perspective of the father of an addicted son. Though he’s not the one suffering from addiction, David’s perspective is crucial to the story, which is not only about how Nic’s drug use impacted his own life but about how his disease impacted his entire family. Beautiful Boy is largely a story of grief, and it reveals the emotional struggle of both the addicted person and his loved ones as they wade through feelings of anger, pain, guilt, and hopelessness. In the throes of addiction, Nic retreats to an inner world and remains disconnected from his loved ones, but David also retreats inside himself at times, unable to cope with his guilt and depression. 

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David's story highlights the fact that addiction can strike any family. Nic had a fairly normal childhood—he was a happy boy who got good grades. His parents divorced when he was young, which is a fairly common experience, as the divorce rate in the United States is around 40–50 percent (according to the American Psychological Association). David’s response to his son’s early drug use is informed by his own experiences as a member of the baby boomer generation, a liberal-thinking generation who grew up in an age when drug use was accepted, and even glamorized, as a part of popular culture. David finds it challenging to determine when his son’s drug use has become dangerous and crossed the line, as his own experience led him to believe that experimentation with drugs is a perfectly normal part of teenage life. Indeed, David himself dabbled with drugs in his youth.

David's guilt, in large part, defines his emotional struggle, as he believes his mistakes and liberal parenting may have contributed to his son's problem. Already a naturally anxious parent, David cannot stop himself from second-guessing his decisions as a parent, including his choice to be honest with Nic about his own past drug use. Throughout the memoir, David also wonders whether his divorce was partially responsible for his son's addiction. These destructive thought patterns touch on one of the recurring themes of this memoir: the placement of...

(The entire section contains 581 words.)

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