Thicker Than Water by Kelly Fiore

thicker-than-waterBibliographic Information:

  • Publisher, Date: HarperTeen, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, 2016
  • Edition: First
  • Description: 307 pages; 22cm          
  • Interest Level:  YA
  • Summary: Perfect for fans of Ellen Hopkins—a heartbreaking tale of family tragedy and drug addiction where sometimes the best intentions lead to the worst possible outcomes.

Cecelia Price killed her brother. At least, that’s what the police and the district attorney are saying. Although CeCe is now locked up and forced into treatment, she knows the story is much more complicated. Cyrus wasn’t always a drug-addled monster. He used to be a successful athlete, but when an injury forced Cyrus off the soccer field and onto pain medication, his life became a blur of anger, addiction, and violence.

All CeCe could do was stand by and watch, until she realized an effective way to take away her brother’s drugs while earning the money she needed for college: selling the pills. Only she never expected what happened next.

  • ISBN: 978-0-06-232473-3
  • Subjects:
    • Illegal sale of drugs – Fiction
    • Murder – Fiction
    • Drug abuse/teenage – Fiction
    • Prescription drug abuse – Fiction
    • Family issues – Fiction

Reader’s Annotation: So, what was I supposed to do?  How was I to know that by selling his drugs and solving two problems at one time I would end up here and he would end up dead.

Plot Summary:  CeCe Price was a good student on her way to a promising career in science when her world devolved into something from an afternoon special for teens.  A series of terrible decisions by members of her family following the death of her mother leaves her floundering and leads her to make all the wrong decisions for all the wrong reasons.  Her brother Cyrus turns to prescription drugs after a career ending knee injury while in high school and her father, unable to cope with the mess he’s made of his own life in the wake of his first wife’s death, refuses to see or deal realistically with anything.   CeCe decides she can solve two problems – her brother’s drug use and her father’s financial failings – by selling some of the drugs Cyrus uses.  Eventually though, things go terribly wrong and CeCe finds herself in jail for causing the death of her brother.  But was she really responsible?

Critical Evaluation:  Overall, this was a really excellent look at a very topical problem: the over-prescription of opiates and the abuse of such drugs by teenagers.  CeCe is so typical of many of the kids I see even in middle school, who are good kids struggling to do the right thing and be successful in school with absolutely no support from the adults in their lives.  The author does an excellent job of creating a real person that the reader can empathize with.  The only problem I really had with the story is that I found it difficult to believe that any parent could be as dense and self-deluded as her father was, but sadly, in the face of endless news stories, he was very realistic.  The story moves between CeCe in her present which was after the death of her brother and while she is awaiting trial at a behavioral treatment center, and the past events that got her there.  You can see how desperately she tries to hold things together, and how miserably she fails.  She is, after all, only seventeen years old which is clear from how the writer portrays her, and doing what most seventeen year olds do under stress.  Choosing badly.  This is an excellent examination of a terrible tragedy that is impacting society today, well written and compelling.

Author’s Brief Bio:  Kelly Fiore-Stultz has a BA in English from Salisbury University and an MFA in Poetry from West Virginia University. She received an Individual Artist Award from the Maryland State Arts Council in 2005 and 2009. Kelly’s poetry has appeared in Small Spiral Notebook, Samzidada, Mid Atlantic Review, Connotation Press, and the Grolier Annual Review. Her first young adult novel, Taste Test, was released in August 2013 from Bloomsbury USA, and her second, Just Like the Movies, again from Bloomsbury, was releasted in 2014. Forthcoming novels include Thicker Than Water from HarperTeen in 2015.

Kelly lives and teaches in West Virginia with three children, two dogs, one hedgehog, and a very patient and loving husband.  Retrieved from

Genre Designation: Realistic Fiction

Possible Curriculum Links:

  • Social Studies: Current Events
  • Mental Health Issues

Book Talk Ideas:  What would you do if you had no money and needed it to keep a roof over your head?

Materials Relating to Potential Challenges:


  • School Library Journal; review published on January 1, 2016; positive review

Why this book was selected.  Although I don’t generally read realistic fiction since it is generally depressing, the timeliness of this topic and the importance of the issues made me think it would be a good book for inclusion in my library.



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