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Book Analysis: The Beautiful Boy

Updated on June 25, 2017

“Beautiful Boy” is a captivating, fascinating book but also with a somber mood written by David Sheff. The book captures the life of David Sheff, his addictive son Nick, how he deals with his son’s methamphetamine addiction, and how all these affect his normal life. This paper analyses the book, paying particular attention to the themes of addiction, Love, betrayal, shame, isolation and forgiveness.


The book which was published in April 2008 was expounded out of the article “Addictive son” written in 2005 for the New York Times Magazine by David himself. In his book, David covers a significant part of the life of his son Nic and goes on to deal with how he himself struggles to respond to the troubles of his loving son who had started to be a danger to the family. Nic at some point had to steal cash from his younger siblings to purchase drugs and his dad had to install a tight security system so that Nic could not break in. He was also arrested for possession of the drug in front of his younger siblings and this painted a very ugly picture to the youngsters (Greer, 2003).

Throughout the book, Nic tries enrolling to several different rehabs, but he still relapses almost every time he tries so. He had tried one of the longest sobriety stretches-two years- but he still did relapse and went into treatment. Sheff, towards the end of the book notes that his son had been sober for at least a year and he hopes so much that this time it will last and he tries to believe in him. However, the back of his mind is filled with doubts and he knows that a relapse can be expected any time and that it will be extremely hard both for Nic and for the family. David Sheff wonders throughout the memoir about how much blame he carries for his son’s condition and what he could have done so as to prevent that condition. At the end, Sheff accepts the fact that he cannot control his son’s addiction and that he had to let Nic decide by himself what do, he gives him a last chance to figure things out and hopes that all will turn out well.

The plot in this book appears to be a complete replica of “Rachael Getting Married” a thrilling movie produced by Demme Jonathan. In this movie, the main character is depicted as a strong drug addict and encounters almost similar problems passed on by Nic. For instance, she does not go on well with her family members including her parents and siblings who find it unable to control Kym (Demme, 2009). Even the many measures they undertake in solving the drug addict seems to not help either situation, thus presenting a picture of the difficulty in controlling some drug addicts.

Theme of Love and Betrayal

The theme of Love is evident throughout this book especially from David Sheff towards his son Nic. The book tells of how David Sheff and his wife loved Nic and how they gave him a good and comfortable life when he was born. Even before he was born, the parents had arranged a comfortable and nice place for him to live. They gave him all the things that he needed and all the things loving parents provide for their new borns. David loves his son regardless of what he has done and what he could do in the future, and he does everything in his power to help in countering his son’s addiction. He even becomes addicted to his son’s addiction as he states in his book. Sheff blames himself for his son’s addiction even though there is pretty much nothing he could have done to prevent the addiction. This is an act of sincere love. Because he loves his son, he devotes most of his time in trying to find a permanent solution to his son’s addiction problem to apoint that it affects his health.

Betrayal is seen when, Nic steals from his trusting younger siblings Jasper and Daisy in order to afford drugs. The younger siblings trusted their brother, but he broke the trust when he decided to steal from them. Nic betrays his family when he relapses and runs away from rehabs. He did not do this one or twice but several times. The family, especially the father trusts him to be good and concentrate on healing, but he betrays them and relapses again. Throughout the memoir, Nic is seen to betray the people who trust him. Sheff also betrayed Nic when he divorces with his wife, and this affected Nic very much. It is believed that Nics drug abuse problem started with the effects of the divorce. When Nic’s mother decided to divorce her husband, she betrayed Nic and this is what resulted to Nic feeling lonely and isolated and eventually resolving to drugs.

The theme of Guilt/shame and Isolation/loss

To begin with, Nic’s father, Sheff, feels guilty for Nic’s involvement with drugs. He believes he is the cause of his son’s drug addiction and he blames himself all the time for it. He asks himself what part he had played in the addiction problem and what he could do to prevent it from happening in the first place. He even attends several therapy sessions and AL-Anon meetings throughout the book where he is introduced to the three Cs, he didn’t cause it, he cannot control it and he cannot cure it. He however finds it very hard to believe any of these Cs since he strongly believes he played the biggest part in his son’s addiction. Towards the end of the story, he notes that he has come to accept two of those Cs that he cannot cure it and he cannot control it. He comes to the realization that he done everything in his power to help his son and that to fully recover; Nic had to figure things out on his own.

The sense of Isolation is depicted when Nic’s father divorces from his mum and he has to live with his father alone. Nic was used to the good life that his parents had given him since his birth but now he had to part with all that and stay with his father. This made him to feel isolated and lost. At times, Sheff felt lost. He believe he had done everything the experts say regarding how to bring up a child in a good way, but he discovers marijuana in his son’s bag pack and he feels lost. He doesn’t know what else to do because he had done all that he knew to prevent such things from happening. Daisy and Jasper felt isolated when their father had to install security system to prevent their brother from breaking into the house. They were used to being with their elder sibling but now they were left alone.

Forgiveness/ Letting go

All through the memoir, Nic’s father forgives him again and again. When he found marijuana in his bag pack, he accepted the excuse that Nic gave him and forgave him. Sheff bailed his son out of jail every time he got arrested. He forgives him each of these times because he has hope that the condition will change. When Nic relapses in his rehabs, his father still forgives his and tries another rehab. Even when he relapsed from the rehab that he had really tried staying for two years, his father still gave him a last chance to see what becomes of him. Nic’s younger siblings Daisy and Jasper forgave him even after he had stolen their cash to go and purchase drugs.At the end of the account, David Sheff forgives himself when he decides to accept the two Cs. He realizes that he had done everything in his power to help his son and that he did not cause his son’s addiction. As such, he decides to let go and focus on his own life. He notes that his son had to figure things out on himself in order to realize full recovery.


Beautiful boy is a story about drug abuse and addiction and the struggles that go a long with it. The uniqueness of the story owes to the fact that it is told from the perspective of the parent in his dealings with an addict son. The story is beautiful, captivating and at the same time painful. David is not perfect as he had made several mistakes in his past, but he cares for his family dearly including his estranged son. Through the struggles and tribulations of Nic’s addiction, the constant fears and worries ultimately affected his health and he had to seek help and learn how to create some healthy boundaries. This book is a viciously outspoken account which brings proximity to the passionate rollercoaster that comes from loving children who seem to be beyond help. With the several themes brought to light throughout the book, it’s a perfect book for readers of every age and gender.


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