Tag Archives: mental illness

ARC Reviews – A Tragic Kind of Wonderful by Eric Lindstrom

28575699Title: A Tragic Kind of Wonderful

Author: Eric Lindstrom

Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis: For sixteen-year-old Mel Hannigan, bipolar disorder makes life unpredictable. Her latest struggle is balancing her growing feelings in a new relationship with her instinct to keep everyone at arm’s length. And when a former friend confronts Mel with the truth about the way their relationship ended, deeply buried secrets threaten to come out and upend her shaky equilibrium.

As the walls of Mel’s compartmentalized world crumble, she fears the worst–that her friends will abandon her if they learn the truth about what she’s been hiding. Can Mel bring herself to risk everything to find out?

Huge thank you to Hachette Book Group Canada for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

I had a weird relation with this book as I was reading it. In fact, for such a short book I had put it down for six days without reading it because something within its contents gave me a reason to. I won’t lie to readers, Mel is a challenging heroine — she’s very distant from the reader, sometimes to the point where you never feel like she’s going to be open enough either. I hit a point with her where I was frustrated and it caused me to put the book down.

After some internal monologue and a few days away from the book, I picked it up again, determined I needed to see it to the end given I have this habit that I don’t like to give up on people or ficitional characters apparently. I am happy I saw her story to the end.

Lindstrom’s writing has a very simplistic quality to it that makes it very engaging. Mel is so into her own mind, thoughts and feelings that she doesn’t see beyond the world. She’s so focused on the death of Nolan, the guilt and anxiety that is present within her and its to the point where everyone she’s ever loved has been pushed far, far away from her. I can relate to that. Sometimes it’s on purpose, other times its just done unconsciously. My frustrations with Mel came from seeing myself in her and I think it’s why a part of me avoided this book for the while that I did.

Mel’s illness is rough, but her reactions and responses are so realistic, right down to the friends she keeps. I really liked the way Lindstrom handled the teenage drama in this book because the responses didn’t feel melodramatic, but rather on point. People do blow situations out of proportion, some people do try to be an alpha in a friendship, some people will try to take all the attention for themselves — all these reactions felt right in place with the story. I felt so angry with a lot of the characters in this book because none of them every stopped to look at the bigger pictures, which again shows a lot of strength in the story being told here.

There are parts of this book that I think will make readers uneasy at times, but I do think A Tragic Kind of Wonderful offers some wonderfully realistic characters trying to seek light in dark places. It is for those who wish to understand those with mental illness, and what Mel feels throughout the story sheds a lot of light on the stigma of mental illness, even if she s a character can feel really infuriating at the same time. If you like deep contemporary YA, this is definitely worth checking out.

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ARC Review – Under Rose-Tainted Skies by Louise Gornall

28101540Title: Under Rose-Tainted Skies

Author: Louise Gornall

Rating: ★★★ 1/2

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.

Huge thank you to Raincoast and Netgalley for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

Back at the Winter #TeensReadFeed event hosted by Raincoast, the first book we as a group were introduced to was Under Rose-Tainted Skies. The book focused on a topic that I admit I have never read anything about: agoraphobia. Our heroine Norah suffers from agoraphobia, OCD and is anxious as all hell, and while these are parts of her character, she works so hard throughout the story to not let these things define her.

I think what struck me about this novel was how well Norah’s anxiety was portrayed. I suffer from social anxiety, so seeing her anxious thoughts on the page had me constantly nodding along with her feelings. These were feelings I recognizing because they were things I were feeling on a constant basis. There was even one part where she discusses how being social drains her batteries to the point where it takes a long time to recharge, and part of me wanted to yell at the book, “Girl, I feel you.”A lot of how Gornall describes Norah and her illness are things I recognize in myself — things that are ugly, that I wish weren’t a part of me, but I accept that they are there and choose to fight against. Norah struggles with loving herself, and it makes it hard for her to love others because she has no concept of loving herself. I can understand that completely, and I personally still have those kind of days. I loved a lot of the descriptions in this book and I feel like Gornall hits this aspect of the story near perfectly.

However, I REALLY struggled with the romance in this book. I am not big on stories where boys can be a magic cure for illness. It didn’t work for me in Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon, and it definitely didn’t work here either for me. While Norah was so easy to connect with, Luke was the exact opposite. I found him to be a bit too robotic and awkward, but not in the teen boy way, more in that I don’t feel like his character is as well-developed. Frankly, Luke feels too much like a plot device as a opposed to a character and that was hard to stomach at times. I think there will be people who will gravitate to this kind of romance, but ultimately it just didn’t work for me.

I think Under Rose-Tainted Skies offers a wonderful perspective on mental illness that feels very authentic in ways that other YA novels have struggled with. Norah’s story is messy, its heartfelt, and Gornall’s message to her readers is so loud and clear. These are the reasons to read this book, pain and simple. I just wish I had a larger connection with the romance (or I wish it hadn’t been there at all) because this book then would have easily been a home run for me.

ARC Review – Girl Against the Universe by Paula Stokes

22297294Title: Girl Against the Universe

Author: Paula Stokes

Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis: No matter how many charms she buys off the internet or good luck rituals she performs each morning, horrible things happen when Maguire is around. Like that time the rollercoaster jumped off its tracks. Or the time the house next door caught on fire. Or that time her brother, father, and uncle were all killed in a car crash—and Maguire walked away with barely a scratch.

It’s safest for Maguire to hide out in her room, where she can cause less damage and avoid meeting new people who she could hurt. But then she meets Jordy, an aspiring tennis star. Jordy is confident, talented, and lucky, and he’s convinced he can help Maguire break her unlucky streak. Maguire knows that the best thing she can do for Jordy is to stay away. But it turns out staying away is harder than she thought.

Huge thank you to the publisher for sending me a copy of this for review!

Molly’s Review:

I really liked this book! I’ve always had a soft spot for books/movies/TV shows about people trying their best at a sport. Maybe because I’ve always wished that I could be good at a sport, but instead gave up on the one that I really loved 😦

ANYWAY! This is a book about Maguire, a girl who believes that she is bad luck. She thinks that she’s cursed and that the Universe is against her. Bad things seem to happen around her: her brother, father and Uncle died in a car crash while she survived, friends have gotten sick, accidents have happened, houses have burned. Maguire chooses to see the bad and she isolates herself from her family and friends. Her mother finally gets her into therapy and her therapist encourages her to make a list of challenges to face so that she can hopefully conquer her fears and go on an international trip with her mother to visit her grandmother.

I loved the topics dealt with in this book. Magical thinking is something that I don’t feel gets spoken about enough. Often YA books focus on the more “hot topic” mental illnesses (which is fine, I think that talking about depression and other mental illnesses is SUPER important). I think that everyone in the WORLD falls prey to magical thinking. I know that I often find that my husband and I fight around holiday celebrations and I often say things like “we shouldn’t even bother celebrating, only bad things happen when we do”. It’s also socially accepted to have good luck rituals (knocking on wood, blowing off eye lashes that have fallen onto someone’s cheek, etc) that are considered normal if we don’t view them as magical thinking. And ya know, some magical thinking CAN be good. Believing that you can do something, telling yourself that today is going to be good… that can all be very positive. But the focus on the negative magical thinking in this book was really well done, relate-able, and realistic.

The characters in this book were really fun and I loved watching Maguire grow. She makes friends, falls for a great guy, and gets closer to her family. She does have moments when she doesn’t believe in herself and she fails her challenges or regresses back to old habits, but that’s what made this book realistic. I LOVED how supportive everyone was of her and it was really hopeful feeling that if you do have something that might be considered “different” or “weird” that if you find the right people they’ll be totally supportive and accepting.

The positive portrayal of therapy was also very refreshing. I often times find that books for teens have very negative therapist-patient relationships and I really like it when they seem healthy and helpful.

I wasn’t quite sure how I felt about where the ending was going and was almost a little mad that things seemed to be coming full circle and I did NOT understand how Maguire was ever going to be able to move on with her life, but then when something really amazingly good came out of it, I just felt so happy and everything felt so right.

Def check out this book, it is SO good.

ARC Review – When We Collided by Emery Lord

25663637Title:  When We Collided

Author: Emery Lord

Rating: ★★★★★

Synopsis: Meet Vivi and Jonah: A girl and a boy whose love has the power save or destroy them.

Vivi and Jonah couldn’t be more different. Vivi craves anything joyful or beautiful that life can offer. Jonah has been burdened by responsibility for his family ever since his father died. As summer begins, Jonah resigns himself to another season of getting by. Then Vivi arrives, and suddenly life seems brighter and better. Jonah is the perfect project for Vivi, and things finally feel right for Jonah. Their love is the answer to everything. But soon Vivi’s zest for life falters, as her adventurousness becomes true danger-seeking. Jonah tries to keep her safe, but there’s something important Vivi hasn’t told him.

Huge thank you to Razorbill Canada for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

When We Collided ripped me apart as I was reading it. Perhaps it’s my current circumstances, perhaps it’s the fact that a lot of this novel mirrored too much of my own life… it just destroyed me. That makes for a fantastic reading experience, admittedly. This is one of those books where I connected on so many different levels and and it made for such a layered experience.

I loved the relationship between Vivi and Jonah. In fact, it was my favourite part of the novel. It wasn’t love at first sight, the romance between both characters felt so organic, as everything builds to a messy climax. Jonah in particular was the one I could really relate to, and stories about caregivers often get ignored. Often these stories tend to miss the burnout, the aggression, the frusration of feeling like you don’t matter compared to the person you’re caring for. I understood Jonah’s trials and tribulations, in fact, whenever he vented his emotions I found myself nodding along with him. I loved Jonah’s siblings as well, especially Leah, who I feel capatured a lot of the books emotion in terms of how younger children deal with hyper-sensitive situations.

I also loved Vivi. I saw a lot of myself in her as well — emotionally investeded in others, but struggles to take care of herself. Loves others unconditionally, but cannot seem to find the same love in herself. She’s a beautiful character packed with so much intensity and emotion. I loved her need to remind the world who she once was, where she is now, and who she wishes to become. I loved her constant need to surprise others, and find the beauty in everything. She’s so well developed, though to be fair, I think every character in this book is fantastically portrayed.

This book is messy, it’s emotional, it’s loving, it’s rough, it’s kind, it’s… everything one would expect from a story about people colliding and trying to find focus in there lives in situations where it’s not possible. Lord does this amazing job of reminder readers about how these kinds of struggles are so real and should not be ignored. She also reminds us that beautiful things can often come in the messiest packages.

River’s Quickie Reviews #7

It’s been a long time since I’ve thrown one of these together, but River managed to get a crapton of books from ALAMW 2016, and has been writing some mini reviews for a few of the books she got her hands on. Enjoy some mini-reviews of titles that have either just released or will be coming out later in the year!


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Title: Ask Me How I Got Here by Christine Heppermann (May 3rd 2016 by Greenwillow )

Synopsis: Addie has always known what she was running toward. In cross-country, in life, in love. Until she and her boyfriend—her sensitive, good-guy boyfriend—are careless one night and she ends up pregnant. Addie makes the difficult choice to have an abortion. And after that—even though she knows it was the right decision for her—nothing is the same anymore. She doesn’t want anyone besides her parents and her boyfriend to know what happened; she doesn’t want to run cross-country; she can’t bring herself to be excited about anything. Until she reconnects with Juliana, a former teammate who’s going through her own dark places.

River’s Review: This is a very fast read. I think I read it in about a half hour? It’s written in verse and the writing is SO gorgeous.

This is the story of a girl who has an abortion. She goes to a catholic school so there’s a lot of religious stuff going on in this book, but it’s not a book about condemning what was done. It’s not a book about a broken girl, just a girl who deals with the consequences of her actions and does what she believes is the right thing. This book isn’t preachy, but it does give a very interesting view on both sides of the debate, and I loved the juxtaposition going on in it.

I also really liked how quiet it was. She doesn’t go crazy and become a broken thing, but she does lose faith in herself and interest in things that were once important. Friends and family show concern, but it’s all very subtle and overall very well done.

This is a great book for a lazy afternoon. Beautiful writing, important content. It was something different and I needed it. 5/5 Stars.


25203675Title: The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi  (April 26th 2016 by St. Martin’s Griffin)

Synopsis: Cursed with a horoscope that promises a marriage of Death and Destruction, sixteen-year-old Maya has only earned the scorn and fear of her father’s kingdom. Content to follow more scholarly pursuits, her world is upheaved when her father, the Raja, arranges a wedding of political convenience to quell outside rebellions. But when her wedding takes a fatal turn, Maya becomes the queen of Akaran and wife of Amar. Yet neither roles are what she expected. As Akaran’s queen, she finds her voice and power. As Amar’s wife, she finds friendship and warmth. But Akaran has its own secrets – thousands of locked doors, gardens of glass, and a tree that bears memories instead of fruit. Beneath Akaran’s magic, Maya begins to suspect her life is in danger. When she ignores Amar’s plea for patience, her discoveries put more than new love at risk – it threatens the balance of all realms, human and Otherworldly.

River’s Review: Here’s another book that I very much enjoyed but didn’t LOVE. The writing in this is breathtakingly gorgeous and I really enjoyed some of the side characters. But over all I felt a little displaced with the world and the two main characters didn’t do too much for me. I LOVED that it was based on Indian mythology, that’s not something that I’ve run into very much in YA. Kamala the flesh eating horse was hilarious, and I really enjoyed Gupta and his eccentricities. Sadly Maya was a little too gullible at times, but I did enjoy her growth as a woman in the story. Amar was every other brooding bad-good-guy.

The first 100 pages or so of this was slow and boring at times, but around 150 things really picked up and I loved the way that things were reveled and pieced together through Maya’s own personal journey.

I’m very excited to see what more Chokshi writes, because wow does she spin some beautiful tales! 4/5 Stars.


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Title: The First Time She Drowned by Kerry Kletter (March 15th 2016 by Philomel Books)

Synopsis: Cassie O’Malley has been trying to keep her head above water—literally and metaphorically—since birth. It’s been two and a half years since Cassie’s mother dumped her in a mental institution against her will, and now, at eighteen, Cassie is finally able to reclaim her life and enter the world on her own terms. But freedom is a poor match against a lifetime of psychological damage. As Cassie plumbs the depths of her new surroundings, the startling truths she uncovers about her own family narrative make it impossible to cut the tethers of a tumultuous past. And when the unhealthy mother-daughter relationship that defined Cassie’s childhood and adolescence threatens to pull her under once again, Cassie must decide: whose version of history is real? And more important, whose life must she save?

River’s Review: So I really liked this but something about the story felt super dated. I couldn’t place the time, and then there were mentions of cell phones and a couple of pop culture references, but overall this felt like it was set in the late 80s or early 90s for some reason.

And the college aspect of this was REALLY weird for me. I didn’t do the whole “freshman” thing when I was in college (I transferred in during my 2nd year) but I don’t remember my college (or any of my friends) having dances (like formals like you do in high school) and the pay phone at the end of the hallway and the very lack of anybody really following up with anything regarding Cassie just seemed really random and strange.

The emotional aspects, the mental health issues in this, and the writing were all really good though. 3/5 Stars.

 

 

ARC Review – I Crawl Through It by A.S. King

23203744Title:  I Crawl Through It

Author: A.S King

Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis: Four talented teenagers are traumatized-coping with grief, surviving trauma, facing the anxiety of standardized tests and the neglect of self-absorbed adults—and they’ll do anything to escape the pressure. They’ll even build an invisible helicopter, to fly far away to a place where everyone will understand them… until they learn the only way to escape reality is to fly right into it.

Huge thank you to The Novl for sending me a copy of this book!

River’s Review:

Ya know despite how weird this book was and how little sense it made at times, I actually enjoyed it. I found myself starting it and being totally lost and hoping that it was going to have some huge AH-HA moment in the end where everything was cleared up and I just kept going and it was weird because it just FLOWED. And while I could probably spend a long time trying to puzzle out ~the meaning~ behind everything, I’ll leave that for someone’s English 101 class.

This is my first A.S. King book. I’ve heard that her books are weird, but I’m down for weird books! I used to be a huge book snob and would only read really weird books! And this was weird and it was supposed to be weird but at the same time I’m surprised at how easy it was to read. And I enjoyed it for that.

I honestly don’t know what else to say about this book. I can totally see why some people hated it and why some people couldn’t finish it, but I’m glad that I gave it a shot and I’m interested in checking out King’s other work.

ARC Review – Your Voice Is All I Hear by Leah Scheier

22082098Title:  Your Voice Is All I Hear

Author: Leah Scheier

Rating:  ★★★★★

Synopsis: Everything about Jonah is unexpected. On the first day of school, he sits next to April, when he could have chosen to sit with the popular girl. He turns down an invitation to join the school team and declares he’d rather paint. He encourages April to develop her musical talent and shrugs off the bullies that torment them. April isn’t surprised to find herself falling for Jonah. The unexpected part is when he falls for her too.

But the giddy happiness of their first romance begins to fade when Jonah’s unpredictability begins to take a darker turn. April understands that her boyfriend is haunted by a painful memory, but his sudden mood swings worry her. She can’t explain his growing fear of cellphones, electric keyboards, and of sounds that no one else can hear. Still, no matter what happens, April is sure that she’ll always stand by him. Until Jonah finally breaks and is committed to a psychiatric ward. Until schizophrenia changes everything.

Though everyone urges her to let him go, April stays true to Jonah. But as the boy she adores begins to disappear in front of her, she has to face her worst fear: that her love may not be enough to save him.

Huge thank you to Raincoast Books for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

This book was an unexpected surprise for me. When I started it, it felt like just an ‘okay read’ that slowly developed into me wanting to huddle into a corner and cry. There’s a lot of tough issues in this book that are at play and Scheier does an amazing job balancing them with the core issue of the novel: how do you love and stay with someone who you know needs more help than they want to admit to?

Because this novel deals with a character who suffers from schizophrenia, you are given a story that bursts with aggression, emotion and it leaves you feeling drained. April is in love with a boy who thinks he’s hearing voices, is haunted by the death of someone, and also feels as through he has been split into two different people. Jonah is such a wonderfully rich and well written character, and if anything I love the fact that he tries so hard to control himself but knows in a lot of ways that he is ill. April wants him to get help and Jonah feels as though the world is out to get him and April is the only person he can trust.

There’s a lot to take into with this story. I admit, I was worried about April’s character in the story because she’s introduced as the token invisible girl, but I liked the way in which she develops throughout the course of the story. She’s a young woman whose never had to make difficult decisions, yet being with Jonah is both the most beautiful, destructive thing she faces. It’s gut-wrenching the decisions April makes in the story and you see her fighting for her relationship, on top of the fact that she wants to do right by Jonah in so many ways.

What I also ended up loving about her character (and this may have more to do with the writing) is the way Scheier builds the friendship between Kristin and April. A lot of their relationship was something I could relation to in some ways, especially when it came to friends trying to have the other see something they aren’t, regardless of how much it hurts. I liked the resolve between them, and I appreciated the way in which there is so much development between them — Kristin didn’t feel like she was tacked on, she felt as much of a character as everyone else did. I also loved Jonah’s sister Katie — she was just so cheeky and yet you can see how caught in the middle she is at such a young age. I also liked how April got into touch with her Jewish heritage in the story, which was a nice little addition in her development (and I have to say, I learned quite a bit!)

I felt like I learned a lot about mental illness and how much it can affect a relationship. There’s such a realistic portrayal of how mental illness changes someone, and how it is handled by loved ones. I especially enjoyed the way the novel ended, especially because I felt if it ended any other way it would be such a cop out.Your Voices Is All I Hear is beautifully written, thoroughly engaging, tough to read, and doesn’t pull any cheap tricks to play with emotions. The book is raw, has wonderfully developed and characters, and the ending will leave quite the hole in your heart.