The local tragedy inspires a youth novel about opiate addiction

Against the backdrop of America’s opioid epidemic, Southold author Geoffrey Wells’ latest book, Never Less, is about how children are affected by adult problems.

Mr Wells will be reading from his new novel at the Cutchogue New Suffolk Free Library at 6pm on Monday 30th January. His reading will be followed by a discussion on the topic, led by harm reduction specialists Justine Briscoe of Seafield Comprehensive Inpatient/Outpatient Addiction Treatment and Dr. Carol Carter of the Sunshine Prevention Center for Youth and Families.

“I face this issue head on. I don’t throw punches,” Mr. Wells said of the book by him, which was released in October.

Mr. Wells’ inspiration for his storyline came in August 2021, when eight East End residents, including Shelter Islander Swainson Brown, overdosed on fentanyl-spiked cocaine in less than a week.

Six of those overdoses were fatal. The synthetic opioid, which is 50 times more potent than heroin, is a cheap but deadly substitute used by drug dealers to cut costs and has fueled the lethality of the opioid crisis in recent years.

“Never Less” tells the story of Mindy and Pablo, North Fork middle school students from very different backgrounds, both with problems at home. Mindy’s family is rich and her father is addicted to painkillers. Pablo, from an immigrant family, is covered by deferred action for the arrivals of minors, but his father is constantly threatened with deportation.

The friends come across an old mill in Mattituck Inlet, which has become the site of suspicious activity. With the help of an elderly mentor, Mindy and Pablo investigate the mill’s seedy past and present. When a plan to “rip the safety net away from drug addicts by adding recovery pills with fentanyl” is discovered, the pair set out to stop it.

“I’ve wondered what a child must think when a parent or other adult overdoses,” the author said in an interview last week. “I wanted the reader to see that, from a child’s perspective, this situation is very scary, especially if they don’t understand it.”

The story of Mr. Wells’ friendship is meant to spark conversations among young teenagers. The goal is to provide middle school students who may be impacted by the difficult topic with the language they need to talk about these issues and help them understand that they are not alone.

“I wrote the novel to empower them,” she said. “I don’t want to pander or patronize 12-year-olds. They want to know about these taboo topics, and I’ve been working with researchers to make sure I’m telling the story the right way to this age group.

The event is free and open to all, but advance registration is required on the library website. Everyone who enters will have the chance to win a signed copy of “Never Less” or the grand prize: a framed print of the book cover along with a signed copy. Community service hours are also offered for those attending the library program.

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