mental health

Book Review: Highly Illogical Behaviour

Highly Illogical Behaviour

Highly Illogical Behaviour by John Corey Whaley – Paperback, 249 pages – Published May 26th 2016 by Faber and Faber (first published May 10th 2016)

This is only a short book, but there is a huge story between these pages. I personally found this book amazing because I related so much to one character, Solomon, due to my own personal experiences with mental illness. (Hah! You’ll get that reference if you read the book.) But I still think that anyone will enjoy this book, and gain a deeper understanding of the mental health issues that are discussed.

Lisa seeks out Solomon, the “crazy” kid who jumped into a fountain three years ago, in hopes of writing a scholarship-winning essay on him. Solomon hasn’t left the house in three years. Not even to go in his own back garden. Every time he tries to, or even thinks about it, he has severe panic attacks. So instead of trying anymore, he gave up and made peace with a life inside four walls.

As an aspiring psychologist, Solomon’s case is perfect. But they become close friends, and eventually, Lisa even brings her boyfriend, Clark, to meet Sol. One thing they never expected was Sol falling in love… with Clark.

I have had times where I have been unable to leave my house. I used to have my school work sent home, and would avoid seeing anyone for as long as I could. It never got as bad as Sol’s case, but I would happily stay inside my house 24/7. (My mum won’t let me, though.) So I really did relate to Solomon. The descriptions of his behaviours and thoughts were really accurate in my opinion. It was quite inspiring to watch him slowly emerge from his shell and start living again.

Of course, there’s also the topic of homosexuality in this. I love how Clark remained so friendly even when he knew Sol was gay – not doing the whole “ew he might fancy me” thing that a lot of guys tend to. They were best friends. But Lisa was fed ideas by her friend, Janis, that made her worry Clark was cheating on her with Sol. Yeah. Awkward.

Overall, I just thought this was fantastically written. There are aspects for everyone to relate to, I think. And hopefully, it will help people understand why some of us may seem so “crazy”.

I can easily give this book 4.5 stars. I really enjoyed it, and loved the characters and their relationships. Even when Lisa was using Sol, I could see how she had good intentions. It was so well written.

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Book Review: My Heart and Other Black Holes

My Heart and Other Black Holes

My Heart and Other Black Holes by Jasmine Warga – Paperback, 309 pages – Published February 12th 2015 by Hodder & Stoughton

I’d heard a few things about this book around the internet and stuff, but didn’t actually read the blurb until the day I started the book. I guessed it was my kind of book from the title, but yeah I had no idea what it was about until I actually started it.

In case you’re wondering, it’s about a suicidal teen and her Suicide Partner, who meet through an online suicide forum. Bit messed up but yeah. Depression is like that.

Obviously, it may not be suitable if you’re going to get triggered by the frequent mentions of suicide and depression, but on the other hand I’d say this is actually aimed at people who are struggling – despite Aysel’s decision to kill herself, this book is actually about overcoming your sadness and fears and issues. It’s about living, not dying.

Aysel’s reason for wanting to die is because she’s scared she’s like her father – her father, who’s locked up for murder. And her partner feels responsible for the death of his little sister, and believes he doesn’t deserve to live when she isn’t living anymore. Obviously, these sorts of triggers are not the only reasons people kill themselves – you don’t have to have some big issue like this to want to die, believe me – but I think these particular situations are quite good. Not the ordinary kind of trigger you read about, but also pretty real.

Aysel is, for most of the book, kind of a bitch. She’s pretty sure she’s gonna be dead in a month, so she doesn’t care too much about anyone else anymore. But all of a sudden, “love” changes her – her relationship with Roman, her Suicide Partner, helps her see herself differently. Even if he’s still depressed as hell and set on killing himself.

The ending, to me, was maybe a little too cheesy. A little too perfect and happy. Yeah, I definitely didn’t want either of them to actually kill themselves, but this change of heart happened so quick and Roman, who was so against “flaking out” just changed his mind along with Aysel so easily. I feel like it should have taken more fight. It made it out to be too easy, too simple to just “change your mind”. It doesn’t really happen like that in real life, not in my experience.

But at the same time, Aysel’s “black slug” of depression is pretty accurate. Eating her happiness and sadness and just all her emotions, for the most part. Taking away everything.

So I have mixed feelings about this book. It was a really good read, overall. My only issues are with the accuracy of the topic, because it’s something quite important to me. I hate when mental health is portrayed wrong. Like I said, it wasn’t too far off, though. So about 3.5 stars, I think. A good read, just not quite how I would’ve written the ending.

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Book Review: Nothing Tastes as Good

Nothing Tastes as Good

Nothing Tastes as Good by Claire Hennessy – Papberback, 336 pages – Published July 14th 2016 by Hot Key Books

I happened to see this book by chance, in my local library. I was drawn to it because of it’s cover, it’s title – I’m anorexic, and I happen to be drawn to things relating to mental health. It doesn’t expressly say on it that it’s about anorexia, but the cover made it pretty obvious to me. A warning to anyone that wants to read it: it’s hard. If you suffer from something like this, like me, then you will probably have difficulty reading something so close to home. Especially if you’re recovering. But it gets better. (I mean the book; I’m not using that “life gets better” crap.)

So Annabel is dead. I’m studying The Lovely Bones at school so the whole beyond-death narration isn’t that special to me now. But Hennessy does it pretty differently to Sebold.

We don’t know much about Annabel, not at first. But we begin to learn about her while she helps her assigned “soul-in-need” – The Boss (definitely not God) has promised her a final communication with her family if she helps Julia. And this looks easy, at first – Julia is from Annabel’s old school, with a loving family and good grades. Everything is fine, except she’s fat. Annabel thinks this should be easy – after all, she’s an expert in weight loss. She lost weight until she died.

But Annabel soon finds out that Julia’s issues are a whole lot more complex than her weight. At first, losing weight helps. But then her old scars come back to haunt her, and Annabel realises that maybe losing weight isn’t going to fix all her problems.

Aside from the obvious issue, this book does talk about a lot of important topics. It covers friendships and relationships, like most YA novels do, but it also combats ideas on feminism, affairs with older men, and people all having their own hidden demons.

At first, I wasn’t keen on Annabel. I wanted to like her – I felt I should, because I could relate to her story so much. But she was a bitch. She wanted other people to be like her, and rather than encouraging recovery and health and happiness, she shared tipped on weight loss. It really did hurt to read. Her ideas on “perfection” and being weak for eating just really hit a nerve for me. Not because it was wrong (though I’d never encourage an eating disorder in someone else), but because it’s exactly how I’d think about myself. Her behaviours, her worries, her anger – they were so real.

But Annabel, despite being dead, grows alongside Julia. Yes, she tells Julia to starve herself and run on an empty stomach and hate herself, but eventually she starts to feel for her. She wants Julia to combat her issues, to actually be happy. And she realises, despite having been so upset with her old friends for recovering, that maybe she wasted her life. Maybe she could have been something more, rather than striving to be less.

I found this really emotional. Annabel’s love for her sister, the sister she neglected for years while she was focused on her goals, and the future she cut short. The way Julia’s life changed when her passion for writing and journalism was overtaken by her obsession with food, calories, exercise. It’s so real and so sad. And the ending isn’t “happily ever after” – Annabel’s still dead, Julia’s in counselling – but it’s real. It gives hope that things can change, that Julia can really achieve happiness.

At first, I didn’t like this that much. I know Annabel is just a character, but I just didn’t like her. She was one of those girls that makes anorexia sound like a choice, a lifestyle, and I hated that. But later she realises she is sick, and I actually felt sorry for her. I was sorry that she had been brainwashed by her illness into believing she was doing what was right.

The only reason I’m giving just 4.5 stars to this book is because Annabel was a bitch. Yes, she is a character, and yes, she grows considerably throughout the novel, but her encouragement of EDs just drove me insane. Personal pet peeve, I guess.

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Book Review: Beautiful Broken Things

pro_readerI would like to give a massive thanks to NetGalley for providing me with a copy of this novel. In return, I am writing a review with my honest opinions on the book.

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Beautiful Broken Things by Sara Barnard – eBook, 337 pages – Published February 11th 2016 by Macmillan Children’s Books

Wow. The title was perfect to me – I personally suffer from mental health issues and have known lots of other people who do, too. There are loads of books about this issue now, but I like how this isn’t about her suffering, but instead her friend.

If you’re struggling with any mental illness, you’ll understand how “broken” is such a perfect word for describing your state. Using “beautiful” alongside this is nice, making you feel that maybe being broken isn’t always such a bad thing.

Caddy is ordinary, boring, plain – until her best friend introduces her to Suzanne. At first, she just seems like a fun, reckless kind of girl. But it soon becomes apparent that she has some serious issues beneath the surface.

Barnard creates Suzanne as a character before introducing her issues. She does hint at something going on, but she doesn’t make it her only identity. This is so important in books. We are not just our mental illnesses! I wish more people could see that.

The relationships are very realistic, too. I can’t say I know much about abuse, but I can say that the friendship issues caused by Suzanne’s depression are portrayed very realistically. And when she is admitted to treatment, she realises that maybe she has dragged her friends down without intending to do so – something that is incredibly common.

Suzanne is very relatable, but that may just be personal. The way she talks about her issues and emotions, and the way she copes with things, are very similar to my own. And again, her being a “bad influence” is something I have experienced to some extent. But even if you don’t personally fit in her shoes by any measure, I think anyone can appreciate Suzanne’s struggles and her relationship and impact on Caddy.

As for Caddy, who is the protagonist of the novel, I think she is a greatly accurate representation of many teenage girls. She wants something impressive to happen – she’s never had a boyfriend, she still has her virginity, she’s never even been in any serious situations. Everyone has that phase of wanting something that sets them apart, that makes them unique and interesting. Of course, Caddy never could have anticipated what would happen when she befriended Suzanne…

And Rosie, Caddy’s original bestie, is sort of the other kind of typical teen. She has more of a social life but is still loyal to her old friend, and although she may not be entirely “boring” she also isn’t incredibly special, either.

This may possibly be a slightly romanticised portrayal of depression and suicide, but not like many others. Honestly, the reckless and thrilling adventures Suzanne takes Caddy on aren’t all that out-there. When you’re in that dark place, you do crazy things sometimes. And although Caddy had fun and loved Suzanne, it was still part of the issue. Caddy’s parents take the events as Suzanne being a bad influence, though, which (as I said before) is something I have experienced. Caddy doesn’t see it that way, and although Suzanne isn’t intending to influence Caddy in any way, she isn’t a great help either. What’s that phrase about cutting yourself when trying to fix someone who’s broken?

I do admit that I’m maybe emotionally attached to this for personal reasons, but I can honestly say that this is a fantastic book anyway. The character development is superb, the writing is easy to follow and the plot is realistic yet interesting. I can’t say I’d change it at all. 5 stars.

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Book Review:Am I Normal Yet?

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Am I Normal Yet? by Holly Bourne (Normal #1) – Paperback, 434 pages – Published August 1st 2015 by Usborne

Holly Bourne writes about two of my absolute favourite topics: feminism and mental health.

So Evie is a teenage girl, who desperately wants to be “normal”. She’s been diagnosed with Generalised Anxiety Disorder and OCD, and is trying so, so hard to prevent them from ruling her life anymore.

Evie combats a number of issues in this book, such as the stigma around mental health, and the misuse of diagnoses (eg. “I like things neat, I’m so OCD”). She’s such a real character, who makes mistakes and upsets people and keeps secrets. She shares her bad thoughts, her rituals and her worries with us, which makes this book so fantastically relatable for people with similar thoughts.

Like everyone else suffering with mental illnesses, Evie has a ton on her plate. Recovery, boy problems, friendship problems… And her desperation to just be normal for once, which leads her into a teenage guys bedroom and triggers a horrific relapse.

This doesn’t have a typical happy ending. Yes, things do get better at the end, but Evie doesn’t magically beat her illnesses or avoid a relapse altogether – because that’s just unrealistic. Mental health doesn’t work like that. Recovering from a mental illness is a rollercoaster, with about a thousand loops.

The girls – the Spinsters as they decide to call themselves – are all fabulous too. They talk about all the things that people don’t talk about enough, including periods and the difference between mental health care for males versus females. I think these are all such important topics, and are covered fantastically in this novel from a teenage girl’s viewpoint.

Overall, I think this is just such a wonderful, important book. For those of us who are struggling with mental health issues, it helps us to feel less alone, and lets us know that our problems are not uncommon. For other people, the more “normal” people, Am I Normal Yet? provides an accurate insight into the mind of someone who’s not having such a great time mentally. I really loved this book and all the topics it includes. A new favourite of mine, with 5 stars.

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Book Review: Paperweight

Paperweight - Paperback Cover

Paperweight by Meg Haston – Paperback, 287 pages – Published 2015 by HarperTeen

This. Book. Is. Amazing.

There aren’t enough books about such serious and common topics like this. I’m not going to lie, I found this rather hard to read due to how it brought back so many personal memories for me. I should warn any potential readers that this book includes a log of negative language about body image, mentions of self-harm and suicide, and a lot about eating disorders and behaviours.

Stevie, a 17-year-old girl who’s mother left and brother died, has her self-destruction plans halted when her father sends her to an eating disorder treatment centre. This book follows her through a twenty-seven day period of pain and conflicting thoughts and emotions.

Throughout Stevie’s time at the treatment centre, the reader is told about her life through little snippets here and there. We learn about her behaviours and thoughts as her eating disorder developed, about the day her mother left, and the time around her brother’s death.

Stevie is carrying so much guilt and pain, and all she wants is to disappear on the anniversary of the accident. But her shrink, Anna, is desperate to help her live her life.

This book is so accurately written. The things Stevie thinks and does often reflect myself and people I’ve known while really struggling with eating disorders. The daunting prospect of recovery looms over her, making her unsure of what her goal really is. She was so sure she wanted to die… But now she’s met Ashley, and Anna, and rethought her plan. What once seemed so simple and obvious, Stevie is no longer sure she wants.

Paperweight is so emotional, accurately telling the story of Stevie’s personal experiences with an eating disorder as well as her struggles after her mother moved away and her brother was killed. It combats so many topics that I’ve rarely seen in other books, and is just so greatly written… I love it. 5 stars!