A matter of controversy. While the book was originally classified as a work of solid nonfiction, it was subsequently revealed that James Frey fictionalized many elements of the story. This revelation triggered a public outcry and ignited a rather unexpected debate on the exact nature of nonfiction writing. There is no general consensus on how to label the book.


James Frey

Point of View 

The entire story is told from James’s point of view and follows his thoughts. All other characters are presented through James’s recollections.


Terse, highly emotional, direct



Setting (time) 

Six weeks in the early 1990s

Setting (place) 

A rehabilitation clinic in Minnesota


James Frey

Major Conflict 

James struggles to overcome drug and alcohol addiction.

Rising Action 

James’s many addictions and the way that he’s been raised all contribute to the way that he deals with the possibility of his rehabilitation. His forbidden relationship with an addict at the clinic is both a symptom and a cause of much of the strife in his life at the clinic.


When Lilly runs away from the facility, James follows her and risks never being allowed to return. He puts his life on the line by entering the crackhouse. In the process of saving Lilly, he feels the pressure of a crack pipe against his body, and he ignores it. He chooses Lilly, and therefore life, over drugs.

Falling Action 

James faces his demons and overcomes his drug addiction. He spends the day of his release from the clinic with his brother Bob at a bar, without having a drink.


Early on, James reveals that he may have wronged a girl. That story unfolds over the course of the book. He also reveals that he did something so horrible that he cannot write it down. That deed is revealed in one of the last chapters.