Showing posts with label mental illness. Show all posts
Showing posts with label mental illness. Show all posts

Monday, February 13, 2017

The Difference Between Romanticized Mental Illness and Romance with Mental Illness | YA Talk



Today I've brought Leah from While Reading and Walking on the blog to talk a bit about mental illness romanticization. Enjoy!

As writers, readers, and reviewers, there is a lot of responsibility on our shoulders when it comes to the representation of mental illness. 

Bad representations of mental illness can do real damage. Teens especially in the midst of anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, and more, can be influenced by what they read in books that they believe are faithful representations of what mental illness looks like—and what healing can look like.

I’ll be talking specifically about the relationship between mental illness and romance in fiction. romanticizing mental illness can mean a lot of things. Here, I’m talking about the common trope where someone has a mental illness and then falls in love. 

I am a novelist and book blogger who has depression and anxiety. There is obviously a range of experiences when it comes to these issues, and there are many more forms of mental illness that I can’t personally speak to. I am a cis white woman who has a privileged life in many respects, and others who do not have those privileges might have a different experience.

The Example

You have a character. Let’s call her Leia. She has anxiety and is susceptible to panic attacks. She often obsesses all day about small things. Her anxiety can arise from real-life issues or from nothing at all. 

She meets a girl. That girl is cute and funny and makes her laugh. What next?

  • The Right Path:
There is a lot of truth to the idea that anxiety and depression are easier to get through when you have someone by your side who will make a conscious effort to support you, listen to you, and understand what you’re going through. 

If every time you have a panic attack, there is someone on the end of the phone who is ready at all times to talk to you and talk you through that attack, then anxiety becomes just that little bit less scary to face. The world gets a little more secure when you have someone you can depend on, who can ground you and remind you that they aren’t going anywhere. That's absolutely okay to reflect in your writing.

  • The Wrong Path:
The problem is that many novels seem to imply that mental illness can be fixed and healed by being in love. That if Leia just finds this girl, her anxiety will melt away and never come back. She’ll never have another panic attack. These YA novels make it sound like love makes everything sunshine and rainbows, and mental illness flees from relationships like opposite ends of a magnet.

But having someone in your life you love doesn’t mean that your mental illness goes away. Saying it does implies that anxiety and depression are not real illnesses. But they are. Mental illness is physical, and chemical, and while it can be triggered by things in the outside world—for example, the death of a loved one or a break-up can lead to depression if you’re susceptible—it’s still a genuine illness. This is the same reason why Leia could be the sunshine optimism of her friend group, have an amazing job, pets, supportive family, and a new beautiful girlfriend and still have panic attacks. 

The Impact

When a person with mental illness reads a novel that implies that their conditions would melt away if only they had someone who loved them, it can have serious implications on their psyche and emotions. 


They can think, 'I have a boyfriend. I'm in love. Am I not in love? Or is something just wrong me?' or they can get into a headset where they believe that chasing love is the only way they'll ever get better. Teaching young people that the right way to heal is to fall in love and then things will get better ignores the real causes of mental illness, and can make people think that things won’t get better after all. 

Like I said: A person who makes you laugh can help to make a day with depression less awful. A person who grounds you can remind you that you have a handle on things in the midst of your panic attack. A person who makes you laugh might be able to get you out of the house on a day when you can’t leave your bed. 

  • But having Leia fall in love and then her panic attacks never return sends the message that loneliness is what causes mental illness. 
  • It implies that you need a savior to get better, and that you have no control over your own healing. 
  • It implies that mental illness is a neatly solved problem if you would just fall in love.

So what do I do? 

Write well.
Call out novels that clearly romanticize mental illness.
Be reasonable, but be vigilant too.

A romance in which the character has mental illness is not “romanticizing mental illness,” but it is a huge problem in the book community where we conflate the classical tale of being lost and completing your life with the addition of another person who balances you (classic love story) with the idea that a mental illness can be 100% healed if you would just find your soulmate.



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Friday, January 20, 2017

Recommendation: Under Rose-Tainted Skies - Louise Gornall: Agoraphobia and Being House-Bound

In UNDER ROSE-TAINTED SKIES, Norah is house-bound because of her agoraphobia and steps out of her comfort zone when she develops a crush on Luke, the cute boy next door.

What intrigued me: I've been looking for more mental illness #ownvoices stories because I've been disappointed with books by authors who don't write from their own experiences lately.



Compelling story and lovely protagonist


UNDER ROSE-TAINTED SKIES is a very quiet story of a girl with OCD, agoraphobia, anxiety, and depression. It's definitely unlike anything I've ever read before, because it absolutely does focus on Norah's struggle with her illnesses while telling a compelling story that you'll surely grow very fond of. From her daily struggles and little things she needs to check periodically to her crippling fear of other things and her reaction when confronted with them, UNDER ROSE-TAINTED SKIES shows the full spectrum of Norah's illnesses and tells the story in an honest and compelling way.

It absolutely shows that Gornall knows what she's talking about. I've never read anything like this. Protagonist Norah is so lovely and adorable that can only get invested in her story even if you don't share her mental illnesses. Gornall doesn't shy away from anything and describes Norah's life in such a brutally honest matter that it's awe-inspiring.

Mental illness without romanticization

The thing I love most about UNDER ROSE-TAINTED SKIES is how unapologetic and honest it is. It's not a love story, not a fun contemporary, not a coming-of-age story, it's just a novel about a girl with mental illnesses and her daily life, with a side of a little romance. If you're looking for a typical YA romance story, this is the wrong pick. UNDER ROSE-TAINTED SKIES feels a little literary and different, just completely unique and very much delightfully so. 
The side romance actually is what I was scared about the most because I feared this might venture into romanticization as so so so many other novels about mental illnesses do. The protagonist falls in love and suddenly they're cured. 

That's absolutely not what UNDER ROSE-TAINTED SKIES does. It does quite the opposite of romanticization actually by having the love interest Luke seek to understand Norah's illnesses and not trying to change a single thing about her. They're such an adorable couple and it's so refreshing to read a love story involving a sick character who doesn't change a single thing about themselves to be with their partner. 



Rating:

★★★★

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

This is the kind of story I'm hoping many people with illnesses will pick up. It's so heart-warming to see a story like that and I can just whole-heartedly recommend UNDER ROSE-TAINTED SKIES to everyone who's either living with similar mental illnesses and/or seeks to read and understand what life for people with these illnesses might look like. UNDER ROSE-TAINTED skies is bold, daring, and beautiful. Give it a shot.


Note: Trigger warning for self-harm


Additional Info

Published: Jan 3rd 2017
Pages: 320
Publisher: Clarion Books
Genre: YA / Contemporary
ISBN: 9780544736511

Synopsis:
"Norah has agoraphobia and OCD. When groceries are left on the porch, she can’t step out to get them. Struggling to snag the bags with a stick, she meets Luke. He’s sweet and funny, and he just caught her fishing for groceries. Because of course he did.

Norah can’t leave the house, but can she let someone in? As their friendship grows deeper, Norah realizes Luke deserves a normal girl. One who can lie on the front lawn and look up at the stars. One who isn’t so screwed up.
 "(Source: Goodreads)


What's your favorite read featuring a mentally-ill character?

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Thursday, December 29, 2016

[Review] One Moment - Kristina McBride: Memory Loss, Death, and Secrets

In ONE MOMENT, Maggie's boyfriend Joey dies in an accident and she has memory loss after it happens.

What intrigued me: I was in the mood for a nice thriller.

Unique concept

ONE MOMENT is a very unique contemporary with thriller elements. The premise is simple, yet the writing and the voice really make this stand out. It's very fast-paced even though very little happens and you keep rereading about the accident and flashbacks with Joey and Maggie as you uncover the story. Everything centers around Joey's death and the secrets everyone may or may not be keeping.

Especially the voice really is the strong suit of ONE MOMENT. As you read you will suffer with Maggie and her memory loss is pictured realistically and easy to understand for the reader. It absolutely does not feel like a gimmick but like a well-researched addition to the story that I thoroughly enjoyed.

Difficult structure and flat characters

Because the story is so heavily focused on the characters' internal dialogue and flashbacks, it's a hard read. I did like the concept but ultimately I think that ONE MOMENT would have benefited from more action, more side plots, possibly even from making Maggie a side character and telling the story from another character's perspective. Like this, ONE MOMENT really feels a little messy and unstructured which really did impact my reading experience negatively.

In general I had the most problems with the characters. The are six friends that the story centers and I just kept confusing their names. Too many people are running around in every single scene and it's just terribly difficult to keep up. In addition to that, the side characters have no personalities, especially Maggie's female friends Shannon and Tana absolutely just seem like decoration. 

I feel like ONE MOMENT has a lot of potential to be an even more excellent story if the narrative was a little more cleaned up and polished and the characters had been worked on a little more.


Rating:

★★☆☆

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

ONE MOMENT really is a unique book with an interesting premise. You have to be in the mood for it though, while I did like it overall, I was hoping to get a little more into it and really get sucked into the pages. If you like reading about characters with memory loss and enjoy thriller elements, this will surely be a great read for you.



Additional Info

Published: January 3rd 2017
Pages: 288
Publisher: Sky Pony Press
Genre: YA / Thriller
ISBN: 9781510714557

Synopsis:
"This was supposed to be the best summer of Maggie’s life. Now it’s the one she’d do anything to forget.

Maggie Reynolds remembers hanging out at the gorge with her closest friends after a blowout party the night before. She remembers climbing the trail hand in hand with her perfect boyfriend, Joey. She remembers that last kiss, soft, lingering, and meant to reassure her. So why can't she remember what happened in the moment before they were supposed to dive? Why was she left cowering at the top of the cliff, while Joey floated in the water below—dead?

As Maggie's memories return in snatches, nothing seems to make sense. Why was Joey acting so strangely at the party? Where did he go after taking her home? And if Joey was keeping these secrets, what else was he hiding?"(Source: Goodreads)



Do you like books about memory loss?

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Sunday, December 11, 2016

[Review] Timekeeper (#1) - Tara Sim: Steampunk and Time-Controlling Clocks | #ReadIndie

In TIMEKEEPER, time is controlled by clock towers in an alternate Victorian Era. When the clock towers start getting bombed, mechanic Danny grows curious.

What intrigued me: I heard about a bisexual character in this and immediately needed to get my hands on a copy.

Incredibly Original

TIMEKEEPER impressed me instantly with the rich world building. The second you open this book, you're sucked into the story, a Victorian-Era-inspired Steampunk world controlled by clocks. It sounds strange but works so well and is so delightfully refreshing and new. I've never read anything like this before.

As a Steampunk skeptic I was hesitant about picking this up, but Sim managed to convert me fully. TIMEKEEPER is absolutely not only a novel for fans of the genre, but also for people who'd like to try something different.

Lack of Urgency

The world building is the biggest strength but also the biggest weakness of TIMEKEEPER. A good chunk of the novel is spent feeding background information and letting protagonist Danny walk around to get a good look at everything that it has to offer. This leads to the premise quite quickly growing a little bit wonky. 
The idea with the clock towers getting attacked isn't necessarily the focus of it all and it did bother me because I felt like the story was deriving from its intended path a lot, in order to give the characters more screen time or to info dump. It just feels like urgency of the story just isn't addressed enough and that there isn't any real danger, else the characters would probably proceed more quickly or in the least with more caution.

The lack of urgency is probably due to the story's other plot line, mechanic Danny following in love with a physical manifestation of a clock tower he's repairing. It sounds strange and reads a little strange, too, it reminded me a little of those people who fall in love with inanimate objects. The concept is interesting, but I just didn't grow fond of it at all. Which is probably also due to the quite flat love interest whose only attribute is that he is incredibly lovely and adorable.



Rating:

★★★½

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

TIMEKEEPER is a cute little story for steampunk-enthusiasts and those who like their romance fluffy and superficial. It stuns with fantastically diverse characters in leading roles (PTSD, bisexual, gay, POC) and a very innovative world.

What's #ReadIndie?



Additional Info

Published: November 1st 2016
Pages: 368
Publisher: Sky Pony Press
Genre: YA / Historical
ISBN: 9781510706187

Synopsis:
"Two o’clock was missing. 

In an alternate Victorian world controlled by clock towers, a damaged clock can fracture time—and a destroyed one can stop it completely.

It’s a truth that seventeen-year-old clock mechanic Danny Hart knows all too well; his father has been trapped in a Stopped town east of London for three years. Though Danny is a prodigy who can repair not only clockwork, but the very fabric of time, his fixation with staging a rescue is quickly becoming a concern to his superiors.

And so they assign him to Enfield, a town where the tower seems to be forever plagued with problems. Danny’s new apprentice both annoys and intrigues him, and though the boy is eager to work, he maintains a secretive distance. Danny soon discovers why: he is the tower’s clock spirit, a mythical being that oversees Enfield’s time. Though the boys are drawn together by their loneliness, Danny knows falling in love with a clock spirit is forbidden, and means risking everything he’s fought to achieve.

But when a series of bombings at nearby towers threaten to Stop more cities, Danny must race to prevent Enfield from becoming the next target or he’ll not only lose his father, but the boy he loves, forever."(Source: Goodreads)


Do you like steampunk?

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Sunday, November 13, 2016

[Review] Furiously Happy - Jenny Lawson: Mental Illness and Life-Affirmation

In FURIOUSLY HAPPY, Jenny Lawson tells anecdotes of her life. In the center of it all stands her life motto of being furiously, aggressively happy no matter what life throws at you.

What intrigued me: Felt like reading some Non-Fiction.

Loud and Eccentric

FURIOUSLY HAPPY is such a loud book that you're probably in danger of going deaf when reading it. It's quirky, eccentric and voice-y and definitely a book that will catch your attention and stay in your memory for quite a whilte. Lawson's narrative voice is sometimes off-trail, mostly shouting, and absolutely unique. And it's just too much for me personally.

It reads like some sort of strange diary without any sense of structure of coherence. Even after reading it I still don't know what this book is about, really.

You have to be in the mood for this type of writing, a type of train-of-thought esque narration.

Offensive humor?

The message of the book and the only thing that sort-of connects the very random chapters to each other is that they're all a mixture of anecdoctes that showcase the author's "crazy" (her words, not mine) behavior because of the multitude of mental illnesses she lives with. And I just don't like that. 

I can't get behind these self-degrading characterizations and as someone who has had experience with mental illness it actually quite offends me. I get that it's a memoir, at no point Lawson ever tries to make judgements about other people who live with mental illness. But at the end of the day it just rubs me the wrong way when she describes the way she reacts to anxiety-inducing situations as overreacting and ridiculous and calls herself insane.

That's just the humor of this book, this is all that FURIOUSLY HAPPY is about - making fun of your own illness to make peace with it. This isn't a negative thing, it's just soemthing that you have to get, that you have to understand and agree with. I don't. I didn't find FURIOUSLY HAPPY life-affirming in any way. I found it disregarding and quite ignorant, which again, is just my personal takeaway and not the author's fault or in any way an objective judgement of the book. You have to see for yourself if that type of humor resonates with you. 


Rating:

☆☆

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

FURIOUSLY HAPPY isn't my kind of book. Random chapters, train-of-thought narration, belittling mental illness - it's not my thing. It felt quite pointless and absolutely not funny to me.



Additional Info

Published: 17th October 2016
Pages: 320
Publisher: Kailash
Genre: Adult / Non-Fiction / Biographies & Memoirs
ISBN: 978-3-424-63130-2

Synopsis:
"In LET'S PRETEND THIS NEVER HAPPENED, Jenny Lawson baffled readers with stories about growing up the daughter of a taxidermist. In her new book, FURIOUSLY HAPPY, Jenny explores her lifelong battle with mental illness. A hysterical, ridiculous book about crippling depression and anxiety? That sounds like a terrible idea. And terrible ideas are what Jenny does best.

According to Jenny: "Some people might think that being 'furiously happy' is just an excuse to be stupid and irresponsible and invite a herd of kangaroos over to your house without telling your husband first because you suspect he would say no since he's never particularly liked kangaroos. And that would be ridiculous because no one would invite a herd of kangaroos into their house. Two is the limit. I speak from personal experience. My husband says that none is the new limit. I say he should have been clearer about that before I rented all those kangaroos."

"Most of my favorite people are dangerously fucked-up but you'd never guess because we've learned to bare it so honestly that it becomes the new normal. Like John Hughes wrote in The Breakfast Club, 'We're all pretty bizarre. Some of us are just better at hiding it.' Except go back and cross out the word 'hiding.'""(Source: Goodreads)


What's your favorite Non-Fiction read?

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Monday, November 7, 2016

[Review] Unnatural Deeds - Cyn Balog: Secrets and Murder Told in Retrospective





In UNNATURAL DEEDS, Victoria meets drop-dead gorgeous Z, who is too cool and beautiful to be interested in her - but he is. The problem is that Victoria has a boyfriend. 

What intrigued me: I've liked other books by Cyn Balog and the cover is insanely beautiful.

Unique concept

UNNATURAL DEEDS is the illegitimate child of DON'T LOOK BACK and WINK POPPY MIDNIGHT. It's just as dreamy and keeps you on the edge of your seat at all times. UNNATURAL DEEDS is a story about obsession and love, and the fine line between the two.

Told in retrospective and with little interview snippets and coroner reports, it's based on an undoubtedly very creative idea. The writing is unique as well, and might not be for everyone. 

Balog tells the story in second person singular, Victoria narrates it to her boyfriend Andrew, whom she feels she betrays by befriending Z. I'm not a fan of second person in general and feared that this would ruin the experience for me. I struggled with the first couple of chapters but quickly got the hang of it. Balog is an incredibly gifted writer, she effortlessly pulls it off, which I salute her for, that really isn't easy.

The Charmer vs. The ... what's his name again?

The main conflict of UNNATURAL DEEDS is the love triangle. And I have to say, I really did like it. I fell absolutely and utterly for the love interest Z, a charming snake with tons of secrets whom you can't help but be fascinated with. Their romance is absolutely epic, twisted, and fascinating. Memorable.

Boyfriend Andrew on the other hand remains rather bleak, I felt like their relationship wasn't explored sufficiently to even give the reader the opportunity to have an opinion about them. Balog does tell the story to him, but most of the information we're given is via telling, not showing, which I'm personally not a fan of.

UNNATURAL DEEDS is built upon mountains of secrets and it's so, so fun. I love trying to figure out the story as I go along and I have to say, I didn't expect that ending. It's certainly a strange twist that nobody will see coming, and I wasn't really satisfied.
Highlight for a light spoiler. I can't tell you about the ableism without being a bit spoilery.
Mental illness is used as a plot twist in this which is incredibly ableist and also really just bad writing. It's not even specified which makes it even worse.

I found it too easy of a solution concept-wise because the rest of the story really doesn't make sense anymore after that ending. With a different ending, this would have been a solid five star read, because I genuinely frantically turned pages and didn't want to stop reading.

I'm a firm believer in giving the reader an opportunity to guess the ending, a hint, anything, even if it's very small. Balog really just did a 360 and left me confused and upset. If you like a drastic plot twist, this is absolutely, positively a book you don't want to skip.


Rating:

★★☆☆

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

The ending really spoiled this book for me. I was expecting more, a more satisfying conclusion. Yet this in no way negates the fact that I had a lot of fun reading this and enjoyed trying to unravel the mystery. It's surely worth the read if you like guessing games.



Additional Info

Published: November 1st 2016
Pages: 288
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Genre: YA / Thriller
ISBN: 9781492635796

Synopsis:
"Secrets. Obsession. Murder. Victoria is about to discover just how dangerous it can be to lose yourself.

Victoria Zell doesn’t fit in, but she’s okay with that. All she needs is the company of her equally oddball boyfriend, Andrew. She doesn’t care what anyone else thinks…until magnetic, charming, mysterious Z comes into her life, and she starts lying to everyone she knows in an effort to unravel his secrets.

And then something terrible happens. Someone is dead and it’s time for Victoria to come clean. Interspersed with news clippings and police interviews, Victoria tells her story to Andrew, revealing her dark, horrible secrets…secrets that have finally come back to haunt her."

(Source: Goodreads)



Do you like books told in retrospective?

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Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Recommendation: Paperweight - Meg Haston: Eating Disorders and Treatment Centers


In PAPERWEIGHT, Stevie's dad signs her up for sixty days of treatment for her eating disorder. But she plans to be dead by the twenty-seventh day, the day of her anniversary that she killed her brother.

What intrigued me: I was in the mood for a dark read.

Brutally Honest

PAPERWEIGHT is neither a light, nor happy-go-lucky type of story. It's a brutally honest story of a girl with an eating disorder. It's a raw emotional journey to read this and if you're looking for a thrilling read with plot twists or even a side of epic romance, this is the wrong pick. It's a minimalist story that's hard to read because it's so unapologetic. PAPERWEIGHT is a story that deserves to be read, but certainly won't be for everyone.

PAPERWEIGHT absolutely isn't romanticizing anything. If at all, it's doing the exact opposite. There are no euphemisms, no glorification, it's absolutely clear to the reader at all times that what Stevie is doing is wrong, that her motives are irrelevant, and that her experience isn't pleasant in the slightest. She isn't the most likeable protagonist, but that contributes to the credibility of the story and Stevie's actions. PAPERWEIGHT wants to make you uncomfortable and that's part of why I loved it so much.

Refreshing and Real

Stevie's narration alternates between her days in the clinic and her treatment with therapist Anna, and the past, through which we learn more about her family. The therapist plays a vital role in PAPERWEIGHT which I found refreshing. The present storyline is very straightforward and minimalist, but filled with fantastically well-developed side characters that absolutely make up for the lack of thrilling action. What had me clinging to the pages the most are actually the flashbacks and solving the mystery surrounding Stevie's brother and her best friend Eden, for whom Stevie developed more than just platonic feelings.

There are so many refreshing things about PAPERWEIGHT, at no point you'll feel like this story is told to influence the reader, to make them like the protagonist or to add any unnecessary drama to the story. It almost reads like an autobiography, which is even more admirable when you read the author's bio and realize that this an #ownvoices novel by someone who has first-hand experience with eating disorders. 

If you want an honest read that chronicles mental illness the way it is, read PAPERWEIGHT.
If you struggle to understand eating disorders and learn more about them, read PAPERWEIGHT.
If you want a dark literary read and want to be emotionally invested, read PAPERWEIGHT.




Rating:

★★

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

PAPERWEIGHT is a brutally honest and fantastic novel that chronicles the story of a girl with anorexia. If you want to learn about anorexia or love YA that's on the darker side, PAPERWEIGHT is the perfect pick. A total page-turner.

Proceed with caution if you plan on picking this novel up, PAPERWEIGHT may be a very triggering read for anyone who has/has had first-hand experience with an eating disorder and/or self harm. 

Highlight following text for a full list of trigger warnings and possible triggering content:

alcoholism, anorexia, bulimia, cutting, death, eating disorders, PTSD, self harm/self mutilation, suicidal thoughts, suicide



Additional Info

Published: July 13th 2015
Pages: 320
Publisher: Thienemann
Genre: YA / Contemporary
ISBN: 9783522202152

Synopsis:
"Seventeen-year-old Stevie is trapped. In her life. And now in an eating-disorder treatment center on the dusty outskirts of the New Mexico desert.

Life in the center is regimented and intrusive, a nightmare come true. Nurses and therapists watch Stevie at mealtime, accompany her to the bathroom, and challenge her to eat the foods she’s worked so hard to avoid.

Her dad has signed her up for sixty days of treatment. But what no one knows is that Stevie doesn't plan to stay that long. There are only twenty-seven days until the anniversary of her brother Josh’s death—the death she caused. And if Stevie gets her way, there are only twenty-seven days until she too will end her life.(Source: Goodreads)


Have you read books about eating disorders?

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Tuesday, October 18, 2016

[Review] Angelfall (Penryn & The End of Days #1) - Susan Ee: Angels and the Apocalypse




In ANGELFALL, the world has been destroyed by angels and people are forced to hide in the ruins of their cities. 

What intrigued me: Angels. I missed the angel hype a couple of years ago and am now in full obsession mode.


A typical post-apocalyptic dystopia

The setting of ANGELFALL isn't much different from what you'd expect from a dystopia, and the only thing that makes this world differ from the usual apocalyptic wasteland in YA, is the occasional angel flying above their heads.

It's a survival story at the core, a lot of walking, a lot of stalling time. Naturally, this isn't always easy to read, I caught myself skimming the generic descriptions of building ruins and empty streets and litter. The scenery is so generic that it almost doesn't need any descriptions at all if you've ever seen a post-apocalyptic movie in your life.

I longed for every little bit of explanation about the angels that didn't quite come. With novels with supernatural elements that are out there in the open in the real world, it's very important to me to understand how this happened. The only glimpse we get is that Penryn mentions that the messenger of God Gabriel came down to Earth and was immediately shot. That's it. Very frustrating, generally the book just throws things that happen at you and doesn't explain a lot, probably a technique to make people buy the second book. And yeah, I shamefully have to admit, it works.

Thank the heavens (or not?) for a realistic romance plot

Ee absolutely had me hooked through the character of the angel Raffe. Penryn's and his dynamics are hilariously wonderful and his dry humor and arrogance incredibly entertaining. Of course we have some obligatory side romance, but it's very subtle. 

The first time in a long time that I actually thought to myself that this story could really happen. It's very realistic, they actually take time to even just not be awkward in conversation. No premature declarations of love here. They don't even really care about the other one surviving this whole ordeal until 60% in. It's refreshing to see a relationship and friendship(!) develop at a realistic pace.

Another thing that absolutely needs to be mentioned is the ableism in this one. I was so happy to see a wheelchair user in the form of Penryn's little sister. This is a magical cure narrative. If you're a wheelchair user looking for representation, this isn't the book to pick. I'm extremely disappointed with Ee making that decision and it severely impacts my rating and opinion of this book.


Rating:

★★☆☆

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

ANGELFALL is easily one of the better dystopias out there, however it could use some more world building and is ableist. Leaves a bitter taste in my mouth.



Additional Info

Published: August 28th 2012
Pages: 288
Publisher: Skyscape 
Genre: YA / Dystopia
ISBN: 9781444778519

Synopsis:
"It's been six weeks since angels of the apocalypse descended to demolish the modern world. Street gangs rule the day while fear and superstition rule the night. When warrior angels fly away with a helpless little girl, her seventeen-year-old sister Penryn will do anything to get her back.

Anything, including making a deal with an enemy angel.

Raffe is a warrior who lies broken and wingless on the street. After eons of fighting his own battles, he finds himself being rescued from a desperate situation by a half-starved teenage girl.

Traveling through a dark and twisted Northern California, they have only each other to rely on for survival. Together, they journey toward the angels' stronghold in San Francisco where she'll risk everything to rescue her sister and he'll put himself at the mercy of his greatest enemies for the chance to be made whole again."(Source: Goodreads)


What's your favorite book about angels?

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Monday, September 12, 2016

[Review] The Form of Things Unknown - Robin Bridges: Hallucinations, Schizophrenia, and Ghosts





In THE FORM OF THINGS UNKNOWN, Natalie struggles with hallucinations and suddenly starts seeing ghosts when she's chosen to play Titania in her schools rendition of A Midsummer Night's Dream.

What intrigued me: I've read the first companion novel DREAMING OF ANTIGONE and was curious to see more of Bridges.



Character-driven coming-of-age story

THE FORM OF THINGS UNKNOWN is a companion to DREAMING OF ANTIGONE, featuring some characters you might recognize, but it's by no means necessary to have read the latter. Both novels are coming-of-age stories that feature chronically/mentally ill protagonists and are essentially retellings of Antigone and A Midsummer Night's Dream respectively. 

THE FORM OF THINGS UNKNOWN surprised me by being a lot more hands on and to-the-point than DREAMING OF ANTIGONE. I quickly grew very invested in Natalie's story and was very intrigued by the paranormal (? or not ?) sub plot. Brigdes cleverly intertwines Natalie's mental illness with the past-tense story though I found the novel a little too slow at times. The plot doesn't advance as quickly as I would've liked and aside from the premise, there is sadly not much to THE FORM OF THINGS UNKNOWN. It's purely a character-driven coming-of-age story and you certainly do have to have a soft spot for that to enjoy this. Personally, I'm not a fan.

Belittling mental illness?

I loved Natalie dearly and grew fond of almost all the supporting characters, which ultimately warrants my interest in this story and had me stick around until the end. Without Natalie's entertaining voice and narration I wouldn't have finished this. The truth is, there are a couple things that are problematic about THE FORM OF THINGS UNKNOWN. Love interest Luke is/was suicidal and depressed and has been at rehabilitation facility with protagonist Natalie (who`s been treated there for her hallucinations). 

At no point do both these illnesses feel genuine, realistic, or even just well-researched. Luke is one of those generic mysterious love interests whose depression is belittled, paraphrased: "he doesn't look like he's depressed". Natalie's hallucinations are shrugged off and merely a gimmick to give this novel at least some kind of plot with them searching for ghosts in the theatre. 

It just irked me, though I love that Bridges tries to tackle mental illness in many forms (Natalie's grandmother also suffers from schizophrenia), the lack of research is blatantly obvious. THE FORM OF THINGS UNKNOWN is spiked with microaggressions and slurs that may not be as obvious to a neurotypical reader. Despite all that, there's no story to begin with. 

Rating:

★★☆☆

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

I certainly liked THE FORM OF THINGS UNKNOWN more than DREAMING OF ANTIGONE, but because mental illness isn't handled very respectfully and the novel overall lacks direction and plot, I wasn't really a fan. The high rating is mostly warranted by the great voice and characters, and trying to include neurodivergent characters.



Additional Info

Published: August 30th 2016
Pages: 240
Publisher: Kensington
Genre: YA / Contemporary
ISBN: 9781496703569

Synopsis:
"Natalie Roman isn’t much for the spotlight. But performing A Midsummer Night’s Dream in a stately old theatre in Savannah, Georgia, beats sitting alone replaying mistakes made in Athens. Fairy queens and magic on stage, maybe a few scary stories backstage. And no one in the cast knows her backstory.

Except for Lucas—he was in the psych ward, too. He won’t even meet her eye. But Nat doesn’t need him. She’s making friends with girls, girls who like horror movies and Ouija boards, who can hide their liquor in Coke bottles and laugh at the theater’s ghosts. Natalie can keep up. She can adapt. And if she skips her meds once or twice so they don’t interfere with her partying, it won’t be a problem. She just needs to keep her wits about her."(Source: Goodreads)



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Sunday, February 7, 2016

[Review] The Program (#1) - Suzanne Young




In THE PROGRAM, suicide has become an epidemic among teenagers. To fight this, the government has established The Program, ... but it also has a side effect: it leaves participants stripped of their memories, life-less shells that lack all sense of personality.

What intrigued me: A killer premise. (No pun intended)

...I don't get it?

I love the idea, but I think this novel severely lacks in execution. If you have such an interesting premise, the world building and characters are the most important thing to make it work. I didn't really understand why and how suicide can become an epidemic, the teenagers get depressed and then they just commit suicide as a consequence? 

That premise is just confusing to me and I didn't really get it. The protagonist Sloane mentions several times that she doesn't want to die, yet knows that she'll eventually will kill herself. Suicide isn't treated as a mental illness, but more like getting bit by zombie and subsequently turning into a mindless shell. The depressed are even called "infected". With topics like these, you have to be extra sensitive and try not to make it patronizing.

Young is simply unable to get me really invested in the story. A huge part of that are the already established relationships. James and Sloane's relationship didn't really interest me until halfway into the novel. I only started really getting invested in the story with the introduction of Dr. Warren, Sloane's therapist in The Program, who points out how her and James aren't really in love, only co-dependent on each other. Basically the whole novel explores Sloane and James' relationship: Flashbacks, filler scenes, reflection monologues etc. If you don't like him from the get-go, you'll skim a lot of this.

Weak MC and a Lot of Co-Dependency

Sloane and James have zero chemistry. I have hardly ever read a book with so little chemistry between the main characters. Neither of them really has a personality at all and they seem very exchangeable and boring. You don't really get to know either of them until half of the book is already through and by then I couldn't really sympathize with either of them. I like that Young decides to base their need for survival on their love for each other, and therefore the established relationship is necessary, but ... eh.
The love triangle is done very lazily and I'm not a fan of characters that constantly need to be protected. Sloane is always at the mercy of some guy. Either it's James, or the creepy, rape-y employee of The Program, or the other love interest Realm. The novel has a strong premise, interesting beginning, but loses itself completely trying to make Sloane's and James' love story epic. It's not epic. It's exhausting, actually.


Rating:

★★☆☆

 

Overall: Do I Recommend?

I had too high expectations. The premise is wonderful, but the novel just couldn't keep my interest for very long. It's just too long.



Additional Info


Published: April 30th 2013
Pages: 405
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Genre: YA / Dystopia
ISBN: 9781442445802

Synopsis:
"In Sloane’s world, true feelings are forbidden, teen suicide is an epidemic, and the only solution is The Program.

Sloane knows better than to cry in front of anyone. With suicide now an international epidemic, one outburst could land her in The Program, the only proven course of treatment. Sloane’s parents have already lost one child; Sloane knows they’ll do anything to keep her alive. She also knows that everyone who’s been through The Program returns as a blank slate. Because their depression is gone—but so are their memories.

Under constant surveillance at home and at school, Sloane puts on a brave face and keeps her feelings buried as deep as she can. The only person Sloane can be herself with is James. He’s promised to keep them both safe and out of treatment, and Sloane knows their love is strong enough to withstand anything. But despite the promises they made to each other, it’s getting harder to hide the truth. They are both growing weaker. Depression is setting in. And The Program is coming for them." (Source: Goodreads)

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Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Do We Need Books About Mental Illness By Neurotypical People? | YA Talk


Mental illness is a topic that I've only recently started getting very interested in. Sadly, the books I've encountered that deal with OCD, depression, anorexia, bipolar disorder, and many more, are just not realistic. 


Raising Awareness: Why I think it's important

In everyday life there is no way you'll just stumble upon the different kinds of mental illness, unless you meet somebody who actually has it.

If it weren't for the internet, I had no idea social anxiety was a thing. And there aren't even only a few people that live with it. Same goes for many other mental illnesses - you just don't run into people randomly that care to inform you about it. I understand that no one wants to talk about a personal matter like that in real life. This is why I think books on those topics are insanely important.

...

But here's the twist. I don't think I can endure any more poorly researched novels, else my head will probably explode. I recently tried FINDING AUDREY by Sophie Kinella, I tried SOLITAIRE by Alice Oseman. Two books that are very popular and praised for dealing with sensitive topics. I don't want to make any guesses on whether those books are inspired by experiences of the authors or not - but I can tell you, both of them are pretty poor excuses for diverse books.


What really bugs me here: Being Allergic to Research

The two books I mentioned play into all the clichés you have in mind when thinking about social anxiety and depression. 
The characters are cliché, the plot development unrealistic, and romanticized. It just doesn't feel like you're reading a novel about a sick person. I mean that's what mental illnesses are, ILLNESSES. It's not fun, it's not quirky, it's an actual illness that limits peoples' lives. I want to learn about it, because I think it's important to raise awareness that these things do exists. But books like these aren't helping us. They are making things WORSE.

What good does a book that deals with a controversial topic, but just fuels stereotypes? 

We simply don't need it. I want books that show the ugly sides of mental illness. I want books that even just show both sides, it just doesn't have to be all sad and depressing. I'm just tired of reading about characters who are completely over the top, or miraculously cured when a cute love interest enters their lives. 

So please, non-neurotypical authors, help us out. I'm craving realistic portrayal


Do you think we need more books based on experience with mental illness?



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Friday, September 12, 2014

[Review] The Rattler - Jason McNamara: Hearing Voices, Kidnapping, and a lot of Blood





In THE RATTLER, writer Stephen has been searching for his supposedly kidnapped fiancée for years, when he suddenly starts hearing her voice coming out of dead people's mouths.

What intrigued me: I'm in a comic mood and the premise sounds very GONE GIRL.

Grotesque and bloody

THE RATTLER tells a downright grotesque story in such a fast-paced and fun way that I couldn't help but binge-read it all at once. The premise about a writer-turned-victims-rights-advocate hearing his missing fiancée's voice out of corpses' mouths isn't only very imaginative, but also well-done. The comic throws you right into the story and I didn't have any issued with the narrative, maybe that I would have preferred to have it all told from Stephen's perspective. However, having his girlfriend Chantal and her partner Kaizu have their own series of panels surely benefits to making everything seem more real. 

THE RATTLER is definitely a gore-y horror story that is not for the highly sensitive. There are many, many graphic and bloody scenes in this that almost made me squeamish because of their grotesqueness. Still, it never feels like it's overdone and the premise definitely demands the degree of death and chaos and havoc that Stephen wreaks.

Why no color?

The sketchy illustration style is a little hard to get to get used to in the beginning, but I quickly grew very fond of it. What I must criticize though is that the novel is completely in black and grey, the only color you'll find is blood red. 
I do understand why this choice was made and it does accentuate the gore-y, bloody scenes quite beautifully. I must insist thought that his beautiful and very detailed drawing style would probably look even better if the comic was in full color. There are just too many details that deserve being showcased and it probably would have made me want to read this even faster than already. 

The black and grey style demands a certain degree of alertness and creates the illusion that this isn't easy to read. It is. The story is incredibly easy to follow, the characters are established enough, it really hits all the basic points quite beautifully.




Rating:

★★★★

 



Overall: Do I Recommend

THE RATTLER is fantastic horror story, very reminiscent of Stephen King's DOLAN'S CADILLAC, with a side of surrealism meets slasher movie. I thoroughly enjoyed it and was absolutely caught off guard with the fantastic plot twist!



Additional Info

Author: Jason McNamara
Illustrations: Greg Hinkel
Published: March 29th 2016
Pages: 104
Publisher: Image Comics
Genre: Adult / Thriller
ISBN: 9781632156556

Synopsis:
"10 years have passed since Stephen Thorn's fiancee vanished without a trace, and he has grown into a prominent, if bitter, victim s rights crusader. Despite the cold trail and lack of leads, he stubbornly refuses to give up the search. 

And then he begins to hear her voice in the strangest of places. Pursued by his own organization and questioning his sanity, Stephen embarks on a grisly journey to save his long-lost love. As he unravels the truth of her disappearance, the body count rises and Stephen finds himself ensnared in a trap that has been set for him long ago"(Source: Goodreads)

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