Beautiful Boy

by David Sheff

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Beautiful Boy Characters

The main characters in Beautiful Boy are David Sheff and Nic Sheff.

  • David Sheff is the author of Beautiful Boy and the memoir recounts, from his perspective, the challenges of loving and parenting someone who is struggling with drug abuse.
  • Nic Sheff is David's son, and his addiction to methamphetamine and difficult journey toward recovery are at the core of his family's story.


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Last Updated November 3, 2023.

David Sheff

David Sheff is the author of Beautiful Boy, a memoir that details his troubled relationship with his son Nic, who is struggling to overcome an addiction to methamphetamine. David has enjoyed professional success as a journalist, but his life is turned upside down by Nic’s battle with drug addiction. David recounts that he, too, experimented with drugs in his youth, and he initially struggles to determine whether Nic's drug use is normal adolescent experimenting or something more problematic. David is an anxious parent by nature, and as Nic's addiction becomes obvious, he agonizes over whether he unintentionally contributed to or exacerbated Nic’s condition. As he learns more about the medical and scientific aspects of drug addiction, David comes to understand that many biological and psychological factors outside his control, and even outside Nic’s control, contribute to one’s susceptibility to addiction, and this knowledge helps David process some of his own deep-seated feelings of guilt. Throughout the book, David struggles to reconcile his deep love and desperate desire to help Nic against the reality that only Nic is in control of his life. David does not shy away from discussing the darkest and most personal parts of his story, detailing his own flaws, hopes, and fears as a parent with raw and often heartbreaking honesty.

Nic Sheff

Nic Sheff is David’s son, and David's memoir revolves around Nic's drug addiction and his journey toward recovery. Nic was a healthy and normal young boy, but he began experimenting with drugs at a young age and was smoking weed by the age of twelve. By the time he graduated from high school, Nic’s casual drug use has worsened, and he became addicted to methamphetamine at age eighteen. Though he briefly enrolled in college, his meth addiction soon forced him to drop out. As his drug addiction worsened, so did Nic’s relationship with his family members, as the effects of the drug made him emotionally numb—not only to their love for him but also to the pain his behavior was causing them. Out of his right mind and in the depths of his addiction, Nic transforms into someone almost unrecognizable to his family: someone who is willing to manipulate, lie, and steal. David's grief and heartbreak is palpable as he explains what it was like to watch Nic sink deeper and deeper into despair and abuse the love of the people who care most about him. Nic, in turn, felt lonely and desperate, lost in a world of madness and pain that exists inside his head. Over the years, Nic experienced periods of sobriety several times, once even for a two-year stretch, but he eventually relapsed each time. At the time of the memoir’s writing, however, Nic appears to finally be on the path to long-term sobriety.


Karen is David’s wife and Nic’s stepmother. Nic has known her since he was very young and sees her as a true mother figure in his life. Karen is also the biological mother of Jasper and Daisy, who were born after her marriage to David. Though Nic’s addiction takes an enormous toll on their family and marriage, Karen still loves and supports him on his journey toward recovery.

Jasper and Daisy

Jasper and Daisy are Nic’s half-siblings, born to his father’s second wife, Karen. Though they are younger than him, Jasper and Daisy have a strong relationship with Nic growing up, and they are very close. Their relationship with Nic deteriorates as his drug addiction worsens, and though their parents try to shelter them from the ugly reality of Nic’s struggles, they are...

(This entire section contains 729 words.)

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still hurt and confused by his behavior. Jasper and Daisy eventually attend counseling with their parents in order to help them all process and come to terms with the impact Nic’s addiction has had on their family.


Vicki is David Sheff’s first wife and Nic’s mother. Vicki and David were married at a young age and divorced when Nic was still a very young child. Throughout Nic’s childhood, Vicki and David shared custody of Nic, whom they both love deeply. David feels guilty about the divorce at times, wondering whether their decision to split up is at all to blame for Nic’s issues with substance abuse later in life.