A Cigarette Lit Backwards is the story of Kat, an awkward teen who is deeply into punk music and the entire punk aesthetic. Some of this is practical, it’s cheaper to be fashionable if your fashion aesthetic is sourced in secondhand shops. Some of it is a form of self-defense – rejecting her school, classmates, and society before they can reject her. Wasn’t that the appeal of punk for a lot of people who identified with the anger without paying attention to the politics of punk?

Kat is photographed with a punk singer, is labeled a groupie, and is momentarily popular in her set. But staying popular is hard work, especially in the punk world where good grades are unimportant but breaking the rules is cool. She keeps pushing the boundaries to stay “cool” but something has to give.

I am all over the place in my feelings about A Cigarette Lit Backwards. I loved the first third or so where we get to know Kat and identify with her. I liked Kat even when she was making one bad decision after another. I also like how the book ends up in the air as she is about to make the dumbest decision ever, but she is about to, she hasn’t yet. Whether she will or not, we can decide. I decided she will, so I think this book is about the most depressing book I have read in the entire year. But then, when you think about it, does that say more about me? I’m not usually pessimistic, but about her, I am. So why is that? You have to credit a book for having real depth when it leaves you questioning yourself.

I received an e-galley of A Cigarette Lit Backwards  from the publisher through Edelweiss.