Mental Health

Book Review: Are We All Lemmings & Snowflakes?

Are We All Lemmings & Snowflakes? by Holly Bourne – Published August 9th 2018 by Usborne Publishing Ltd

I cannot believe it’s been four months since I read this book! Again, this will only be a quick review. I found this book at my local library and having read Holly Bourne before, I knew I’d enjoy it. It’s about mental health, too (as many of her books are), so that was another reason I picked it up.
Olive has had problems with her mental health for years but refuses to be told her diagnosis. She goes through phases of extreme ‘happiness’ (otherwise known as mania) followed by severe depressive episodes. When she’s offered a free place at an experimental new treatment centre, she is more than happy to accept. She doesn’t know exactly what’s wrong with her, but she’s desperate to find the cure.
While at the facility – called Camp Reset – Olive makes some interesting friends. She also finds herself in a manic state without even realising it, and focuses all her energy on an innovative algorithm she believes can cure or prevent mental illnesses. Of course, this leads to a huge crash, which prevents Olive from partaking in the grand finale of her and her friends’ plan to spread happiness.
Throughout her treatment, Olive goes through a lot of things. She faces rejection and learns to help others. She also begins to work on her attitudes towards herself.
The main thing I’ve got to say about this book is the relatability of it. The thoughts that Olive has, and the way they cycle round her head on repeat, were incredibly close to home. When something bad happens, her first reaction is to blame and hate herself. I related to her character so, so much in this way.
I also really liked how Olive is not the stereotypical ‘nice’ girl. She’s not quiet and quirky and lovable. She’s a bit of a bitch sometimes, quite frankly. But mental illnesses don’t give you a free pass to being a jerk. They often make people more of a jerk, honestly. It’s important to acknowledge this. It’s important to think about how your actions affect others, even though it’s hard when you don’t care about yourself or anything at all.
This was a fantastic portrayal of mental illness, and of recovery. It didn’t have a perfect ending – Olive acknowledges how she’s got so much farther to go, and that her journey to recovery is only just beginning. She also learns how there is no easy cure, which I think people forget sometimes. 4.5 stars!

Book Review: The Astonishing Colour of After

The Astonishing Colour of After by Emily X.R. Pan – Published March 22nd 2018 by Orion Children’s Books

Another book I read almost four months ago now (oops!). I think it’s time to get this review written!

I was immediately drawn to this book when I read the blurb. Leigh is a young woman struggling to accept her mother’s suicide. She finds herself travelling to Taiwan to meet her mother’s parents, where Leigh discovers more about her mother and her family than she ever expected.

This book was written beautifully, with colours expressing emotion. Leigh is an artist and thus pretty much thinks in terms of colour. It’s also an amazing mix of real-life, sorrow and loss, and fantasy. I don’t want to go into too much detail, but Leigh is convinced her mother is visiting her even after her death, but in a very different form.

As well as all the emotions surrounding the loss of her mother, Leigh addresses the issues around being a “half-blood”. As a child of mixed-race parents myself, I found some of the things in this book incredibly relatable. But it wasn’t an overbearing part of the story though, which I thought was fantastic.

This was a really emotional book, fantastically written. It was sad but heart-warming. 5 stars; I loved it!

Book Review: Under Rose-Tainted Skies

Under Rose-Tainted Skies by Louise Gornall – Paperback, 272 pages – Published July 7th 2016 by Chicken House

I picked this book up at my local library because I liked the cover. Then I read the quote on the front and knew I’d love it.

Agoraphobia is a horrific disorder. I’ve not found a single book about it before this one. While I myself don’t suffer from it, I do have anxiety and can relate to the main character, Norah, in so many ways.

The first thing I’m going to say about this is that it doesn’t overly romanticise the illness, which is so important. Yes, there are maybe a few aspects that aren’t incredibly accurate, but that’s always going to happen with works of fiction. Overall, I think this is a fantastic representation of Norah’s illnesses and how her life has been flipped upside down since her becoming ill.

I would have liked this to be less romantically-focused, though. Don’t get me wrong, the romance was lovely and I felt so happy for Norah. But I am a bit fed up of stories that portray romantic relationships as the ‘cure’ for mental illnesses.

As I mentioned above, I believe this depicts Norah’s behaviours and thoughts fantastically. I really related to her in a lot of ways, such as regarding her anxiety and panic attacks. Plus, her beliefs and emotions regarding her illness were very relatable; the guilt and shame of being a burden on others.

It was incredibly heart-warming to see Norah finally begin to make progress towards the end of the book. It was slow – which is how it is in real life. There is no magic, instant cure. It takes time and effort and a lot of pain.

I thoroughly enjoyed this. If it was less romantic, I may have given it a full 5 stars. As it is, I’m giving it 4.5 stars, and would definitely recommend it to others.

Book Review: Bone and Bread

A huge thanks to Edelweiss+ for providing me with a copy of this novel.

As I’ve mentioned many times on my blog, I have anorexia. I struggle with mental health issues and I believe books on the topic are extremely important. This took my interest for that reason, but I didn’t expect this unique view. Beena’s sister, Sadhana, is diagnosed with anorexia at 14 – after a rather traumatic, difficult childhood. Beena recaps their early days, while simultaneously narrating her current-day life. At first, Beena only vaguely references Sadhana’s illness, but it soon becomes clear that her heart attack was brought on by the eating disorder.

This book is about Sadhana’s struggle, her sister’s sire attempts to help her, and her grief at Sadhana’s eventual passing, but it is also about so much more. It is about Beena’s teenage pregnancy and single motherhood. It is about the death of their parents, one by one, before they were even midway through their teens. It is about Sadhana’s on-off struggles, Beena’s exhaustion at being her carer, their relationship and arguments and love. It is also about Sadhana’s life, separate to Beena’s, her secret girlfriend. It’s about life overall, really. And while the anorexia is a huge part of it, it isn’t the whole story.

It was written fantastically, and the opinions Beena gives on Sadhana’s illness are really quite unique. She expresses her anger and frustration, and the tiring nature of caring for her sister throughout her life. She does not express the sympathy and sadness toward sufferers that is often portrayed in books.

Sometimes, I did find Beena a bit too harsh – and Sadhana, too, actually. But overall the characterisation was great, and the relationship between the girls is so complex it feels real. 4.5 stars.

Book Review: Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine

I’m a bit late to this party, but I finally read it! It was released a while ago now, and I’ve been trying to get it finished for some time, but life got in the way. Anyway, here is my review at last.

Throughout a decent chunk of the novel, I felt like there actually was no plot. Not in a bad way, but it was almost just a narration of Eleanor’s life. The writing was so interesting and Eleanor so unique as a character that I liked that, though. And then a plot did start to develop, albeit not a particularly active one. As in, it was mostly about the past, not something that actually happened during the story. Like usual, I won’t say too much about it.

Eleanor is a very strange individual, with absolutely no social skills whatsoever. It’s rather comical at first, her attempts at everyday life quite laughable. But it’s later revealed why she has such difficulty, and I found myself feeling incredibly bad for her. Her story is sad, and although I had guessed at what had happened, her personal revelation was huge. After a failed attempt at ‘fixing’ her life, Eleanor finds herself at rock bottom. But miraculously, she has someone to help her, who cares about her well-being. With his help, Eleanor learns some new coping mechanisms, and begins to rebuild her life.

Thank you to the author/publisher for accepting my request to read and review this book

I really liked this book, and the writing was great. Eleanor’s personality was conveyed through the writing perfectly. 4.5 stars.

Book Review: A Voice in the Distance (Flynn Laukonen #2)

I read A Note of Madness a little while ago and absolutely loved it. Flynn is a great character, and the story of his struggles with mental health is just fantastic. There can never be too much awareness, especially in boys/men.

This book was even more… emotional for me. I don’t want to go into too much detail, but Flynn really reminds me of my boyfriend. The ending of this novel – while fantastic and honest – was not very comforting at all.

Jennah and Flynn started dating after the first book, and so in this book we alternate between the two narratives. Hearing Jennah’s thoughts on what’s happening with Flynn was amazing. I related to a lot of it.

In case you haven’t heard about A Note of Madness, it’s about Flynn Laukonen, a young uni student in London. He struggles with mental health problems and is misdiagnosed at first, but eventually correctly diagnosed with bipolar disorder. He suffers from extreme manic episodes, followed by severe depression. Fitting his music – especially competitions – around these episodes is quite a feat.

As I mentioned earlier, the ending is great. It was extremely bittersweet. I think it’s good to be honest about things like this, though, and not just throw together a stereotypical happy ending.

In this book, Flynn goes through a few treatment methods. Following attempted suicide (which may be hard for some people to read about, so be warned) he is sectioned and sent to a residential unit for a month. He also has some issues involving his medication and the side effects they cause.

The most noteworthy thing about Jennah’s take on Flynn’s illness is her admitting that Flynn can be horrible and can hurt her sometimes, and it’s okay to recognise that. Just because he is ill does not mean he is excused for harmful and mean behaviour. This is so important for anyone to realise when dealing with a loved one with any kind of mental health problems.

A really good book, realistic and reassuring but really quite emotional. 4 stars.

Book Review: History Is All You Left Me

Wow. Just… wow.

Okay so the main/underlying theme in this is the death of Griffin’s closest friend and first love, Theo. We’re given alternating excerpts from different moments in the past (such as when Theo and Griffin first got together, fun memories they made, sad moments etc) and excerpts from “now” (after Theo’s death). While this alone is a huge topic that is so important to address, this book manages to discuss several other issues at the same time.

The most important part of this book (to me) was Griffin learning how to move on without feeling guilty for betraying Theo. My boyfriend lost someone a few years ago and sometime’s I get scared I’m “competing with a ghost” (which is a fantastic quote from in this book, but I won’t tell you who said it because that’s a pretty big spoiler). I can only imagine how awful it must feel to lose someone you love, and how crap you’d feel for ‘forgetting’ them. But Griffin tackles this, not quickly or easily, but through mistakes and heartache and small realisations. It’s a very realistic portrayal of the journey, I think, and offers hope at the same time.

Other themes include homozexuality – which is explored through four different characters, as opposed to just one or two – and even OCD. Griffin’s OCD isn’t by any means the “main” plot, but it impacts everything in his life – which is, of course, very true for anyone with a mental illness like that. It reveals itself in tiny ways throughout his life, and is even seen as a sort of “quirk” by Theo. I especiay liked how Griffin’s new love interest at the end of the book tackles his compulsions so differently to Theo – he encourages him to move on and fight them, rather than just accepting them and letting them rule both Griffin’s and his behaviour.

I’m not sure if this counts as a theme, but there’s also the big issue of Griffin actually meeting the boy Theo was dating when he died. (Theo moved away to go to college, and his relationship with Griffin came to a weird end-but-not-quite. Theo found a new boyfriend, Jackson.) Jackson and Griffin had spent months hating each other, and refusing to even try to get on. But after Theo’s death, Griffin realises that this is the only other person who understands exactly what he’s going through. Although he hates that they had their own history together he knows that it means Jackson is grieving in the same way as Griffin. They eventually decide to help each other through the first month following his death, but when Jackson reveals how Theo told him some very personal information from Griffin’s childhood, Griffin begins to see Jackson as a weapon. Since his death, Griffin has been talking to Theo in his head. Now he wants him to watch as he has sex with his boyfriend.

Like I said, Griffin makes a lot of mistakes. He knows that. He made mistakes while Theo was alive, too – there are references to the “taboo” issue between him and Theo and the betrayal Griffin felt he committed that we are later informed about. But Wade, their closest friend since childhood, becomes the rock that Griffin had never expected. He helps Griffin see that Theo is in the wrong by asking him to wait for them to get back together when he has clearly moved on himself. Wade later helps Griffin see that Theo would be happy to see him move on, too, and that despite being his first love, Theo doesn’t have to be his only love.

So yeah, a pretty emotional book with a hell of a lot of twists. I loved it. I have another book by Adam Silvera on my shelf to read (I bought it back before I’d found this) and I am seriously looking forward to it now. Amazing book: 5 stars.

Book Review: A Note of Madness

Tabitha Suzuma is quickly becoming one of my favourite authors.

I didn’t realise this was the first of two books, but it reads fine as a standalone novel anyway. I hadn’t intended to read on, but I just love Suzuma’s writing too much. I’ve reserved the next novel at the library.

I found this quite similar to Hurt in a couple of ways; firstly, the protagonist is a young male who is experiencing something very unpleasant but important to talk about. Instead of rape, as in Hurt, this time the topic is mental health. Flynn’s got the whole world at his feet, but suddenly he’s up all night composing or drowning himself in alcohol and aspirin. Everything feels wrong and he doesn’t know why. His flatmate, Harry, calls Flynn’s brother in to help. He’s a doctor and soon realises Flynn needs proper help. After one incorrect diagnosis and several relapses, Flynn finally feels the world go back to normal.

Although the ending is typically “hopeful” (which you can only expect, really – it’s not gonna be very helpful for kids to read stories where you never recover from your mental illness) it still manages to be realistic rather than overly positive and optimistic. For example, Flynn is offered a couple of amazing experiences in this book, the first of which he is determined to take. But he doesn’t, because his health declines so much. I can tell you how horrible it is when you have your heart set on something but your mental health holds you back… Sometimes you just can’t do it. Flynn’s health gets so bad that his brother takes him away on the eve of his big concert (he’s a music uni student).

There’s also a romance line through this, which I gather will be furthered in the next book. Flynn doesn’t pay much attention to it – doesn’t even notice it – due to his condition, until it’s too late and he’s messed it up. Jennah is an old crush of his, recently parted from her boyfriend for a mysterious “other guy”. Flynn just doesn’t put 2 and 2 together, though, and assumes she could never love him because he’s so hopeless and talentless and depressed. Things really get bad when they argue about it during one of Flynn’s relapses, and she goes missing for the night. I must admit that I immediately feared the worst after what happened in Hurt, but it was eventually resolved. I am very interested in reading how Flynn’s mental illness impacts his relationship in the future.

This is a great topic to address, especially in males. The episodes may be a little exaggerated but then I suppose that is how some people experience it. It’s different for everyone. I really appreciate the age chosen, too, because people often forget that mental illnesses don’t only develop when you’re twelve or thirteen. 5 stars; a fantastic book and a fantastic author.

Book Review: Hurt

I am going to try to avoid spoilers as much as I can in this book, but I’m afraid there will be some. I’d also like to say that this book includes a lot of graphic details and references to rape and suicide.

At first I felt that Mathéo was a bit too in love with Lola – he’s only seventeen, and his adoration for her was bordering on sickly. But then I suppose young love does feel as all-consuming and important as Mathéo made it out to be. Lola, his girlfriend, was a beautiful young lady who moved into Mathéo’s rich town. Unlike him, her house is small and cluttered and comfy – very different to his strict and orderly lifestyle.

First, Mathéo’s rich-boy lifestyle is too much for him; he’s not happy. But then his memory of the most awful night returns, and things get a whole lot worse. After a diving accident (Mathéo is expected to win an Olympic gold medal in a year’s time) and a couple of near-death experiences while on holiday, I really thought Mathéo’s life couldn’t get any worse. But it did. Oh god, it did.

I will not give away the ending, but it honestly made me cry. Maybe it just hit a little too close to home, or maybe the contrast of such a lively, bright character with such a dark event was just too much for me. Either way, the ending was so unexpected and so, so sad. But I liked how the epilogue sort of tied things up, without being too sappy or “feel-good”. I felt like this was a brutally honest story. Not to mention that the events/themes in this book are incredibly important to talk about – I really appreciated that this focused on a male rape victim.

Although I kind of felt like Suzuma had written the openening this book with a theosaurus on hand, seeing how many new words she could include, I got sucked in really quick. I really wanted to know more about what had happened, what was going to happen, and I really got emotional for Mathéo. His relationship with his little brother, and the development of their relationship, was really nice. And the epilogue… God, it’s sad, but it’s honest. Most people don’t stay in touch after school. Most people do move on and forget each other.

The ending was fantastic, so I’m going to have to give this 5 starsBookmarked Signature Logo

Book Review: Wintergirls

22310019Another book based on eating disorders, which I’d definitely not recommend for anyone recovering or struggling with these issues. It also includes a lot of self harm and suicidal references, so just be warned.

This was another amazing book. I personally suffer with both anorexia and self harm, so this was so incredibly relatable to me. One major difference is Lia’s relationship with Cassie – her best friend who suffers with bulimia. The two of them encourage each other through their weight loss journeys, giving tips and even challenging each other to become the thinnest. I could not imagine having a relationship like this. I know several other eating disordered people, one of whom is a good friend, and we would never dream of acting like this. It was quite sick, honestly – I hate all the pro-ana stuff. But I suppose some people do it.

A quick observation: they never actually use the terms “anorexia” or “bulimia” which is interesting. There’s often a sort of rivalry portrayed between the two disorders, and the diagnosis of anorexia is held as some sort of accomplishment. It was refreshing to read a book that doesn’t mention that, and even sees them ‘working together’.

At the very start of the book, Cassie dies. Lia eventually learns how exactly that happens, but refuses to let it affect her because her and Cassie had fallen out a while ago. Lia’s eating habits seem to be getting worse (again) and her family think it’s Cassie’s death that’s triggered her, but Lia denies it. But when Cassie’s ghost starts haunting her and begging her to join her, Lia realises how out of hand it’s become.

The little details of the eating disorder were fantastic. The way Lia always quotes calories whenever talking/thinking of food, her estimating every other woman’s BMI against her own, even her initial “I want/need food” that she denies. It all felt so much like my own experience.

The ending was definitely one of those “inspiring” types; who ever would’ve thought Lia would actually work with the unit she’d been admitted to so many times and actually try to recover? I liked how honest this was, though. It wasn’t just a simple, clean recovery. There were fears and bad days and also the realisation that she had been avoiding real life, afraid of it. It’s hard to confront the underlying issues of a disorder like this.

I really loved this. It was just so accurate and inspiring and actually made me cry a bit. It did trigger me at times, but that’s probably just because I’m in a bit of a wobbly place right now. The ending has definitely provided me with hope, though. (Usually these books are focused on younger girls, but Lia is my age. It makes me feel like maybe I still have time to find my motive to recover.) 5 stars.Bookmarked Signature Logo