Friday, November 08, 2013


book review

Book: unSweetined: A Memoir
Author: Jodie Sweetin with Jon Warech

The pressures that come with early success and fame sometimes lead child stars down a path of struggles, unhappiness, and self destruction, and their subsequent downfall often grabs the attention of the public and becomes incessant tabloid fodder. Actress Jodie Sweetin is no stranger to this phenomenon.

Those who have seen the popular sitcom Full House (1987 – 1995) will remember Sweetin as Stephanie Tanner, the bubbly middle child of the Tanner family, and her oft-repeated catchphrase “how rude!”. But those who have been paying attention to the gossip columns will know that she has been in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons for the last few years.

A working child actress at the age of five, and part of a long running, internationally syndicated sitcom till she was thirteen, Sweetin appeared to be living her dream and seemed to have a bright future ahead of her. Instead, she found herself stuck in the cycle of addiction, battling drug and alcohol dependence for years. She shares this story in her 2009 tome unSweetined: A Memoir, opening up about her troubled past, addiction and recovery, and coming to terms with her choices.

The young actress talks about her childhood, how she landed the Full House role, her experience of being on the television show, working with her famous co-stars (including Bob Saget, John Stamos, Candace Cameron, and the Olsen twins), and enjoying the perks of being on a hit TV series. But while juggling school and working on Full House at the same time, the busy life of a child actress left her with very little time to be a kid and proved to be overwhelming, leaving her yearning for normalcy and a chance to be like everyone else. The end of the show made her feel not like a job was coming to an end but like her life was ending. Then the fact that she couldn’t land subsequent lead roles left her “completely confused and at a loss for what I was going to do next, where I was going to be, and more important, who I was.”

A glass of wine at Full House co-star Candace Cameron’s wedding in June 1996 started what would eventually become full-on addiction as the teenager ended up using alcohol to mentally check out of reality. Drugs would follow, fuelled further by her desire to escape and be the complete opposite of Stephanie Tanner. Sweetin writes about the bad times she then went through, including rehab visits, relapse and recovery, and near-death experiences, as well as the role her adoption might have played in her eventual addiction. Meanwhile, her personal life was also falling to pieces, with the dissolution of her first marriage, then the disintegration of her second marriage (through which she has a daughter, Zoie) which was ongoing at the time this book was written. (The now-31-year-old is currently going through her third separation/divorce, and also has a daughter, Beatrix, with her now estranged third husband.)

Based on its subject matter, you can guess that unSweetined obviously isn’t a fun, light read. Reading about someone’s life falling apart is heartbreaking, and the actress hopes that the book will help people “have a little understanding and empathy for what people in [her] situation go through”.

The book is, however, not overly detailed. While it sheds light on many of her struggles, at times it feels a little guarded, and by the end it heads into the direction of preemptive damage control. She clearly wants to relay her side of the story as far as her troubles are concerned, but unSweetined was written amidst “financial issues, a pending divorce, a custody battle, and a fight for sobriety,” which is why at some points, especially towards the end, Sweetin does not seem like the most objective, impartial, and reliable voice.

Still, unSweetined is a quick and affecting read, and Jodie Sweetin’s transformation from a happy-go-lucky kid to troubled teen and then her journey on the road to recovery helps readers understand why child stars burn out and just how difficult it is to beat addiction.

- S.A.

Us Magazine, The News - 8th November, 2013 *

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