Skip to main content Skip to search Skip to search

Young Adult Fiction Drugs, Alcohol, Substance Abuse


by (author) Lisa J. Lawrence

Orca Book Publishers
Initial publish date
Mar 2016
Drugs, Alcohol, Substance Abuse, General (see also headings under Social Themes), Bullying
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Mar 2016
    List Price
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Mar 2016
    List Price

Add it to your shelf

Where to buy it

Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels

  • Age: 12
  • Grade: 8 to 12
  • Reading age: 12


Just when Isabelle thinks her life can’t get any worse, something happens to her at school that makes her wonder how she can continue to look after her younger siblings, Evan and Maisie, work at the local mini-mart and deal with her alcoholic mother. It’s more than any sixteen-year-old should have to bear, but Isabelle can’t think of a way out that won’t hurt her brother and sister.
When Isabelle punches a girl at school, only one teacher sees past Isabelle’s aggressive behavior. Challenged to participate in a group writing project, Isabelle tentatively connects with a boy named Will and discovers an interest in (and talent for) the only kind of drama she can control—the kind that happens on the page.

About the author

Lisa J. Lawrence grew up in small towns in British Columbia and Alberta. She could often be found in the library during summer vacations or hammering away at an old typewriter. She graduated from the University of Alberta with a BA in Romance Languages, an MA in Italian Studies and a BED in Secondary Education. Since then she has taught preschool, post-secondary Italian, and Spanish as a second language. She enjoys the visual and performing arts, the Rocky Mountains and haunting the local library. Lisa lives in Edmonton, Alberta, with her husband and three children.

Lisa J. Lawrence's profile page


  • Short-listed, White Pine
  • Short-listed, Georges Bugnet Award for Fiction
  • Long-listed, Alberta Reader's Choice Award
  • Short-listed, Snow Willow Award
  • Commended, CCBC Best Books for Kids & Teens
  • Long-listed, Kirkus Prize

Editorial Reviews

★ "Lawrence infuses Isabelle's voice with passion even at her most hopeless, presenting a convincing portrait of the consequences of an addiction that destroys lives beyond those of the addicts. She places Isabelle in a prison from which there appears to be no escape but also gives her some supporters who, even if they cannot intervene, can help Isabelle find her strength, presenting a story that remains intense and absorbing throughout. Hard realism with a heart."

Kirkus Reviews, starred review

"Lawrence tackles the difficult issues of abuse, alcoholism, neglect, and the cycle of violence in ways that are often raw and complex...Well-rounded and believable characters...The book maintains a careful balance between being realistic about family violence and addiction, without dwelling on descriptions of physical abuse...Sure to be popular among teen readers."

Resource Links

"I highly recommend this debut and am highly anticipating Lisa's next release, whatever it may be. I've never read any books quite like Rodent, so all I can say is this: I recommend it for those who love strong protagonists and for those who are familiar with—or just wanting to understand—what living with an alcoholic/addict is like."

The Stars Who Gaze Back blog

"[A] story of resilience...compelling and optimistic."


"Rodent breathes life into an untraditional family structure...An important story, one that brings new light to a pervasive problem buried in our society."

VOYA Magazine

"Vivid, smart, and real as a punch in the eye, Rodent is for everyone with a difficult life, or anyone who wants to know exactly what that feels like. Lisa Lawrence goes deep inside to look at Isabelle and her damaged family with real understanding, in a story that is serious, funny and razor-sharp."

Marina Endicott, author

Other titles by Lisa J. Lawrence

Related lists