Review: Mosquitoland by David Arnold

mosquitoland

Publisher: Headline
Release date: September 8, 2015 (March 3, 2015 in the US)
Format: eARC via NetGalley
ISBN: 1472218906
Pages: 352
Goodreads || Mosquitoland || Booktopia (AUS)

When her parents unexpectedly divorce, Mim Malone is dragged from her beloved home in Ohio to the ‘wastelands’ of Mississippi, where she lives in a haze of medication with her dad and new (almost certainly evil) stepmom.

But when Mim learns her real mother is ill back home, she escapes her new life and embarks on a rescue mission aboard a Greyhound bus, meeting an assortment of quirky characters along the way. And when her thousand-mile journey takes a few turns she could never see coming, Mim must confront her own demons, redefining her notions of love, loyalty, and what it means to be sane.

MY THOUGHTS

35 stars

I received an eARC of Mosquitoland from Hachette Australia via NetGalley. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Hmm, I had high hopes for this book and, unfortunately, it wasn’t as amazing as I thought it would be. I still really enjoyed the story and the characters but I had some problems with it that stopped me from giving it a 4+ star rating.

The writing is undeniably beautiful, but I found it to be a little bit purple prose-y. There were passages that were so unnecessarily descriptive and flowery that it was a bit awkward for me to read. I kept finding myself skimming through paragraphs of wordy descriptions and metaphors. At times, the writing was a bit disjointed for me and it made it hard for me to get through the book. It felt like the author was trying too hard to make the book deep and moving. Mosquitoland was not a page-turner for me. It felt a little bit draggy in parts and overall, the pace of the book was a bit too slow for my liking. I expected it to be a faster paced road trip book.

While I did like Mim’s character, I found her voice to be a lot older and mature than her age, which is 16. She was very quirky but she also seemed a little bit pretentious. I got a good sense of who she was through her voice, but I didn’t always believe that she was that person. Having said that, I did enjoy reading from her perspective and I liked that we got to see all of her flaws. Mim also acknowledges all of her flaws and learns from the experiences that she has.

I loved the character development in Mim. On her trip from Jackson, Mississippi to Cleveland, Ohio, she meets a lot of different people and each character she meets affects her in some way. Through her interactions with these people, she is able to reflect on the person she has been and think about the type of person she wants to be. I thoroughly enjoyed seeing her grow and use the experiences she’s had to become a better person. I also really liked that Mim starts of alone and not wanting to make friends, but slowly comes to realise that she doesn’t want to be without the people she meets along the way.

Do not underestimate the value of friends.

Mim ends up meeting two people on her journey who become the friends she has never had in her life. One of these two people is a boy who suffers from Down Syndrome and I appreciated that David Arnold included a disabled side character that we rarely see in YA. I ended up really liking these two side characters and I thought their friendship was beautiful. There is a little bit of romance in this book and I think it was just the right amount.

What I didn’t really like in this book were the mental illness elements. Mim at the beginning of the book has psychosis and is suspected of being schizophrenic. Her family has a history of mental illness and this comes up a lot in the book. I didn’t feel like this was completely necessary and I wish the author hadn’t explored mental illness. I think it would have been a much better book if Mim was just a normal girl going on a road trip to be reunited with her mother. The fact that Mim might be psychotic made me really wary as I read the book because I wasn’t sure if she was an unreliable narrator. Having said that, I thought the author did a great job of accurately representing psychosis and schizophrenia, so I applaud him on that.

Overall, I enjoyed the road trip aspect of the book and the character growth. I wasn’t a huge fan of the writing, the pace of the book, and the presence of mental illness. But I would still consider picking up a physical copy of the book.

Review: Fans of the Impossible Life by Kate Scelsa

fans-of-the-impossible-life

Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Release date: September 8, 2015
Format: Hardcover
ISBN: 0062331752
Pages: 368
Goodreads || Book Depository

Ten months after her recurring depression landed her in the hospital, Mira is starting over at Saint Francis Prep. She promised her parents she would at least try to pretend that she could act like a normal functioning human this time, not a girl who sometimes can’t get out of bed for days on end, who only feels awake when she’s with Sebby.

Jeremy is the painfully shy art nerd at Saint Francis who’s been in self-imposed isolation after an incident that ruined his last year of school. When he sees Sebby for the first time across the school lawn, it’s as if he’s been expecting him.

Sebby, Mira’s gay best friend, is a boy who seems to carry sunlight around with him like a backlit halo. Even as life in his foster home starts to take its toll, Sebby and Mira together craft a world of magic rituals and secret road trips, designed to fix the broken parts of their lives.

As Jeremy finds himself drawn into Sebby and Mira’s world, he begins to understand the secrets that they hide in order to protect themselves, to keep each other safe from those who don’t understand their quest to live for the impossible.

A captivating and profound debut novel, Fans of the Impossible Life is a story about complicated love and the friendships that change you forever.

MY THOUGHTS

1 star

Fans of the Impossible Life was a book that I pre-ordered about a month ago and it was one that I was very excited to read. Unfortunately, I was a bit let down. My rating of this book was probably a little bit influenced by my personal life philosophy, so I’ll talk about my thoughts on the ‘objective’ aspects of the book first.

First, let’s discuss the writing. I didn’t think the writing was very sophisticated, which isn’t a problem because I love simple writing too. I just feel like there were some scenes that had unnecessary descriptions. Also, the book was written from three different perspectives (Jeremy, Mira, and Sebby) and they were all written from different narrative styles. Jeremy’s chapters were in first person narration, Mira’s in third person, and Sebby’s were in second person. I thought this was completely unnecessary because it didn’t add anything to the story or the tone of the book. I don’t know if it was intended to be a plot device… but if it was, it was very unsuccessful. It just made the whole book awkward for me to read. There just didn’t seem to be a reason for the book to be written this way, and these sorts of gimmicks just turn me off.

The plot of the book was almost non-existent until about page 280 (and the book is only about 360 pages!!). Nothing happened in this book at all – it was very slice of life – until close to the end of the book. After the first 100 pages, I was bored and wanted to DNF, which I never do. The book is also split into 3 parts but I don’t think there was anything that really distinguished Part 1 from Part 2 in terms of plot or theme. Part 3 was when everything started happening, so I understand why that was a separate section, but Parts 1 and 2 just kind of blurred together. In terms of the little bit of plot that we did get, I don’t think there was a resolution at all. I don’t mind that there was an open ending but none of the issues were resolved. I’ll get into this a little bit more further down in my review.

I didn’t like any of the main characters in Fans of the Impossible Life. They felt a little bit pretentious and forced, like the author was trying to make them seem quirky. I thought Jeremy was okay but that might have just been because his chapters were written in first person and I connected with him a little bit more than the other two. I was not into Mira or Sebby at all. What I disliked the most was that there was absolutely no character development in this book. At the end of the book, they’re pretty much where they were at the beginning, except now they’re a group of three instead of a group of two plus Jeremy. I also didn’t really see the friendship developing at all. It kind of just happened – one day they didn’t know each other and then the next day they were friends.

I want to talk a little bit about the themes now, and the first is friendship. This book is supposed to be about friendships and how they can change you, but I thought the author took it too far in this book, or at least not in the direction I thought it would go in. Our three main characters in this book were depending on each other so much that they felt like they couldn’t live without each other. There are mental health relapses that occur when the friendship breaks down and I just really disliked this aspect of the book. Not being able to breathe when you haven’t heard from your friend for 3 days is not normal, at least not in my life. I do recognize that social relationships and having support leads to better mental health but I thought this was taking it too far. This level of dependency on another person is not healthy and I think the book idealised it a bit too much for my liking.

Another thing that I think was romanticized in the book was mental illness. This is a book about mental illness and it was not handled well at all in this novel. Mental illness is present throughout the book but it was never presented as a problem. None of our characters are in therapy or taking any steps to get better or stay better, and the book ends without any of them really acknowledging the problem or taking clear steps towards treatment. It was very unresolved. Mira is seeing a nutritionist in the book as a sort of ‘fix’ for her depression. I’m sorry, but a nutritionist is not able to treat your depression! She doesn’t see a psychologist, and if I remember correctly, the antidepressants that she does have are locked away from her in her mother’s drawer.

I think it’s important to incorporate mental illness into YA books so that readers are exposed to what these disorders look like. But there’s no point in making it a book about mental illness when you don’t properly show the behaviours, cognitions and steps towards treatment that may be involved. You’re almost idealizing mental illness when you don’t acknowledge that it’s a problem. I also don’t think mental illnesses were represented very well in this book at all. Mira has depression but I wouldn’t have known if the book hadn’t explicitly stated that. The only obvious symptom that I saw in the book was fatigue, besides a suicide attempt. Why should I think that depression is a serious illness when it just seems like something I feel on a bad day?

I also had a very big problem with the romance/sex in this book. There were some mature scenes in the book and they really put me off because they didn’t seem to be completely consensual. For example, there is a scene where one person tells another to do something to a third person (and this was all under the influence of alcohol and drugs). I don’t mind YA books that mention sex in them, but I felt like this book romanticized and encouraged this non-consensual behaviour. The author made it seem like it was done out of love for each other when actually one person was pretty much coercing another into doing things. There were just a lot of things that I felt like were not okay.

Overall, I disliked this book quite a bit. It presented a lot of issues that I felt could have been explored more deeply and handled a lot better. I finished the book not really understanding what messages the author wanted to convey. And I just didn’t understand what the point of the book was.

Review: A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

a-little-life

Publisher: Doubleday
Release date: March 10, 2015
Format: Hardcover
ISBN: 0385539258
Pages: 720
Goodreads || Book Depository

When four classmates from a small Massachusetts college move to New York to make their way, they’re broke, adrift, and buoyed only by their friendship and ambition. There is kind, handsome Willem, an aspiring actor; JB, a quick-witted, sometimes cruel Brooklyn-born painter seeking entry to the art world; Malcolm, a frustrated architect at a prominent firm; and withdrawn, brilliant, enigmatic Jude, who serves as their center of gravity. Over the decades, their relationships deepen and darken, tinged by addiction, success, and pride. Yet their greatest challenge, each comes to realize, is Jude himself, by midlife a terrifyingly talented litigator yet an increasingly broken man, his mind and body scarred by an unspeakable childhood, and haunted by what he fears is a degree of trauma that he’ll not only be unable to overcome—but that will define his life forever.

In rich and resplendent prose, Yanagihara has fashioned a tragic and transcendent hymn to brotherly love, a masterful depiction of heartbreak, and a dark examination of the tyranny of memory and the limits of human endurance.

MY THOUGHTS

5 stars

A Little Life is one of the books on the Man Booker Prize longlist for 2015 (the shortlist will be announced on September 15, and the winner will be revealed on October 13). I picked up this book back in June because I heard Max from WellDoneBooks on Youtube rave about it (and I pretty much buy whatever Max raves about). When it was announced as part of the Man Booker longlist at the end of July, I knew I had to read it.

This book is a masterpiece. I haven’t read any of the other longlist titles yet, but I think A Little Life has a great chance of winning. This book is honest, gripping, haunting, heartbreaking and it made me ugly-cry so many times as I was reading it. I didn’t think I could survive so many stabs to the heart. Even when I think about it now, I tear up a little. I think A Little Life is absolutely brilliant and is definitely one of my top three favourite books of all time.

Continue reading

Review: Everything Everything by Nicola Yoon

everything-everything

Publisher: Delacourte Press
Release date: September 1, 2015
Format: Hardcover
ISBN: 0553496646
Pages: 306
Goodreads || Book Depository

My disease is as rare as it is famous. Basically, I’m allergic to the world. I don’t leave my house, have not left my house in seventeen years. The only people I ever see are my mom and my nurse, Carla.

But then one day, a moving truck arrives next door. I look out my window, and I see him. He’s tall, lean and wearing all black—black T-shirt, black jeans, black sneakers, and a black knit cap that covers his hair completely. He catches me looking and stares at me. I stare right back. His name is Olly.

Maybe we can’t predict the future, but we can predict some things. For example, I am certainly going to fall in love with Olly. It’s almost certainly going to be a disaster.

MY THOUGHTS

45 stars

Everything Everything is a wonderful book about taking risks and living life to its fullest potential. While it did tackle some serious issues, the overall tone of the book for me was quite light-hearted and it felt very refreshing. This book made me feel so hopeful and happy that I forgave some of its flaws.

I was very intrigued from the first time I heard about this book and I preordered it way back in May. I’ve read a lot of contemporary books about mental illnesses and one trope that we see a lot of is the ‘love cures all’ trope. I was interested in Everything Everything because our main character, Maddy, suffers from a physical illness that can’t be magically cured by love. I’ll get into this a little bit more later in my review.

I want to talk about the cover of this book first. I’ve heard so many positive comments about the cover and I didn’t understand why everyone thought it was so beautiful until I had it in my hands and was able to look at it up close. This cover is stunning! The illustrations are so intricate and everything on that cover is related to something that happens in the book (cover illustrations by Good Wives and Warriors). I also have the American hardcover edition and the jacket has that buttery texture. It’s one of the best covers I’ve seen in the last couple of months.

This novel also contains beautiful illustrations throughout it and these are actually done by Nicola Yoon’s husband, David Yoon. I thought the illustrations added a lot to the story and really enhanced it. This book is written in very short chapters, sometimes only a page long, and is filled with notes that Maddy has written, as well as instant message exchanges between characters. I loved the different mediums that were added to the story. I thought it made the book fun and hopeful instead of serious and sad. The little notes and illustrations we got were my favourite part of the book.

So let’s discuss the plot and the themes. In Everything Everything, Maddy has a serious illness that prevents her from doing anything, including going out or even having visitors in her own home. She’s well and alive as long as she’s kept a prisoner in her own home, with only her mother (a physician) and her full-time nurse for company. We actually don’t get very much information about Severe Combined Immunodeficiency (SCID), which is the syndrome that Maddy has that makes her allergic to everything. There were times when I wished we had gotten a bit more information about SCID, just to satisfy my curiosity, but for the most part I was happy to accept the little information that we were given. I also sometimes prefer that books don’t go into a lot of detail and include a lot of jargon because I encounter so many books that misrepresent mental illnesses. So it’s probably better when authors don’t write too much about things they don’t know about.

For me, the last quarter of the book and the plot twist were kind of predictable. It was obvious to me that that was the direction that the plot would take. It’s probably the best way that everything could have turned out, but I almost wished that it had ended differently so things didn’t happen just to make the romance work. It was a bit disappointing that it still ended up being a bit of a ‘love cures all’ type of book. If you’ve read the book, let me know what you think (no spoilers, of course). There were also some things that I found VERY unrealistic, but I don’t want to spoil anyone so I won’t mention what they are.

I really loved watching Maddy grow in this book. She starts off as a pretty passive character but slowly grows into somebody who learns to take risks and experience the unknowns in order to truly be alive, even at the expense of her own life. I loved seeing Maddy appreciate things that I would normally take for granted and I enjoyed seeing the world through Maddy’s eyes as she encountered new things, such as travelling in a car for the first time. I liked her willingness to try new things. There were times when I felt she was being too reckless and it seemed too out of character for her to be risking her life for a few moments of fun. And I also felt that she was a bit inconsistent in her thoughts about whether she’d rather be trapped in a room or dead from doing things that normal people do. Examples below:

I’m on my way home, I’ll remain trapped there forever.

I’m alive, and don’t want to be.

Love can kill you and I’d rather be alive than out there living.

Overall, I really liked Maddy’s character. It was easy to connect with her and read from her point of view. She’s also a book nerd! There were times when I forgot she was 18 because of her innocence. But I loved that she was able to develop and start to take control of her own life. I thought Olly was a great romantic interest for Maddy. He’s very caring and loves his family, and he seemed like the perfect person for Maddy. I did think that their relationship was very insta-lovey and developed too quickly for my liking. It was understandable that Maddy would be drawn to Olly because he’s probably the first teenage boy she’s ever met, but I didn’t understand Olly’s interest in Maddy. They pretty much fell in love without even speaking a single word aloud to each other, and I didn’t think that was very realistic. I still thought they were adorable together and I loved reading about their relationship.

I liked how real the characters felt and that they each had their own issues to deal with. Olly’s father is mentally and physically abusive to his wife and kids, and that added an interesting dynamic to the story. The first half of the book makes a lot of emphasis on the black rubber band that Olly wears and keeps snapping on his wrist. That made me a little bit worried that he was suicidal, because snapping a rubber band against your wrist is a common behaviour that is used as a substitute to cutting. At this point, I was a bit worried about where the story was going to go, but luckily it never went in that direction. There were some mental health elements in the book, but they were never explored very far before the book was over. I do like that the novel had a very open ending. It was a very satisfying and cute ending to the book.

I have many more thoughts about this book but I should probably end it here. Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this book and I will probably reread it again in the near future. If you’ve read Everything Everything, let me know if you agree or disagree with any of my thoughts!

Review: Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella

finding-audrey

Publisher: DoubleDay Childrens
Release date: June 9, 2015
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 0857534599
Pages: 288
Goodreads || Book Depository

Audrey can’t leave the house. she can’t even take off her dark glasses inside the house.

Then her brother’s friend Linus stumbles into her life. With his friendly, orange-slice smile and his funny notes, he starts to entice Audrey out again – well, Starbucks is a start.And with Linus at her side, Audrey feels like she can do the things she’d thought were too scary. Suddenly, finding her way back to the real world seems achievable.

Be prepared to laugh, dream and hope with Audrey as she learns that even when you feel like you have lost yourself, love can still find you . . .

MY THOUGHTS

45 stars

Finding Audrey is such an adorable, funny and heartwarming story. I was hooked from the very first page and I couldn’t put it down. The opening of the book just captures your attention – it’s comedic and just perfect. I genuinely laughed out loud so many times while reading this book. I finished it in one sitting.

Audrey is a 14 year old girl who suffers from severe social anxiety and isn’t able to leave the house or make eye contact even with her own family. This book is about her recovery and finding herself again. What I loved most about this book is that it’s not only about Audrey getting better, but her whole family getting better together.

“So we’ll make it work,” I said, as robustly as I could. “Mum, there’s no point in me getting better if things don’t get better for all of us. I mean, we’ve all had a bad time, haven’t we?”

The family elements were my favourite part of the book. Audrey’s family is so supportive of her and they never pushed her or forced her to get better faster. Even her 15 year old brother is very caring and supportive of her, which I find a little bit rare in YA fiction. I loved reading about Audrey’s family and all of the dramas they go through. They have a great family dynamic and I could relate to so many of the things that they went through because my family went through those things too. Such as me sneaking out of bed to chat to my friends on MSN, and my parents threatening to throw out my brother’s computer because he was addicted to computer games 🙂 Audrey’s family was chaotic but so heartwarming to read about.

While the book is about anxiety and recovering from anxiety, I liked that it was still lighthearted and fun. I don’t feel like the book was too focused on the social anxiety – of course it’s still present throughout the novel because that’s what Audrey suffers from but it didn’t focus on the darker aspects of the disorder. There were times when I even forgot that Audrey had anxiety because I was enjoying the family drama so much (It also helped me forget everything I knew about anxiety and just enjoy the story). We also never fully learn about the events that happened to Audrey to trigger her anxiety, but I kind of liked it that way. The book was more about recovery and moving forward than it was about dwelling on the past, which was refreshing, and I didn’t think we needed to know about her past. There were a couple of instances where I thought the book made treatment of anxiety seem very easy, when in fact it isn’t. But at the same time I was really rooting for Audrey and I just wanted her to get better without relapsing.

I know a lot of people have concerns about Audrey recovering from anxiety because she found love (ie. love cures all)… but that was definitely not what happened in this book. She starts to come out of her shell because she is forced to talk to Linus who comes over to her house to game with her brother. They fall in love but it wasn’t the act of falling in love that treated her anxiety. It was the fact that Linus was supportive of her recovery process that pushed her to get better. I also don’t feel like the book was focused on the romance. For me, it was more about recovery and family.

But I have to say, the romance between Audrey and Linus was just the cutest. They are adorable together and Linus is so perfect. He sends her virtual kisses and gives her the nickname Rhubarb. Which brings me to an excerpt that I really want to share – this was probably my favourite scene in the whole book. It had me on the floor laughing. In this scene, Audrey and Linus are at Starbucks but she feels uncomfortable with her name being called across the coffee shop, so he tells her to give a fake name to the barista.

“Yes, that’s my name. Rhubarb.”

“You’re called Rhubarb?”

“Of course she’s called Rhubarb,’ chimes in Linus. “Hey Rhu, do you want anything to eat? You want a muffin, Rhu?”

“No, thanks.” I can’t help smiling.

“OK, Rhu. No problem.”

“Fine. Rhu-barb.” The girl writes it down with her Sharpie. “And you?”

“I would like a cappucino,” says Linus politely. “Thank you.”

“You’re name?”

“I’ll spell it for you,” he says. “Z-W-P-A-E-N-”

What?” She stares at him, Sharpie in hand.

“Wait. I haven’t finished. Double-F-hyphen-T-J-U-S. It’s an unusual name,” Linus adds gravely. “It’s Dutch.”

I’m shaking, trying not to laugh.

The Starbucks girl gives us both evil stares. “You’re John,” she says, and scrawls it on his cup.

I loved all of the characters in this book. Even though Audrey is 14, I found it so easy to relate to her. Her voice is very mature and I never saw her as juvenile or immature. I loved reading about her parents. Her mother is obsessed with the Daily Mail and her dad is just wants to keep the peace. Audrey’s 4 year old brother, Felix, is also hilarious and I loved every scene he was in.

I also really liked the formatting of this book. As part of her journey to recovery, Audrey’s psychologist gets her to film a documentary of her family and her life. Because of this, some of the chapters in the book were written as a transcript (kind of like in Me, and Earl, and the Dying Girl). These chapters were a great change in pace and kept the book interesting.

Overall, I really loved Finding Audrey. I thought it was a very heartwarming story about family, love and finding yourself. It was a very hopeful book, with some really great characters that will stay with me for a while.

Review: Polarity in Motion by Brenda Vicars

polarity-in-motion

Publisher: Red Adept Publishing
Release date: December 2, 2014
Format: ebook from author
Pages: 262
Goodreads || Book Depository || Amazon

Fifteen-year-old Polarity Weeks just wants to live a normal life, but with a mother diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, that’s rarely easy. Her life gets exponentially more disastrous when her sixth-period history classmates start ogling a nude picture of her on the Internet. Polarity would never have struck such a shameless pose, but the photo is definitely of her, and she’s at a complete loss to explain its existence.

Child Protective Services yanks her from her home, suspecting her parents. The kids at school mock her, assuming she took it herself. And Ethan, the boy she was really starting to like, backpedals and joins the taunting chorus. Surrounded by disbelief and derision on all sides, Polarity desperately seeks the truth among her friends. Only then does she learn that everyone has dark secrets, and no one’s life is anywhere near normal.

my thoughts

35 stars

I received a free electronic copy of this book from the author for review. All opinions in this review are honest and my own.

When the author first contacted me about reading and reviewing her book, the blurb immediately captured my attention. Because of my background in psychology, I was particularly interested in the borderline personality disorder (BPD) aspect of the book. And the description also reminded me of Sarah Ockler’s book, #scandal.

I really enjoyed the story and thought that the mystery aspect of it was done very well. We don’t really know who posted the photo of her until the very end of the book, but we get given little clues throughout the book. For me, the perpetrator was kind of predictable but the reason behind the posting of the photo was not at all predictable, and I thought it was quite clever. At times I felt like there were a lot of things going on and a lot of changes in setting, but they all seemed to fit together in the end.

However, I thought there were too many themes and issues being explored in Polarity in Motion. The book tackles borderline personality disorder, racism, bullying, unequal treatment of non-Caucasian’s in the education, justice and foster care systems, along with some other minor issues. It might have been more effective if only one or two of these issues were explored in greater depth and developed further in the story. I really enjoyed the exploration of differences in the treatment of white and non-white individuals and I wished the author had just spent more time on that, especially since she has greater expertise in that area. I thought the BPD aspect was a little bit unnecessary and not done particularly well.

I should begin this next section by saying that while I do have some clinical training, I am not a registered psychologist and I don’t have as much knowledge about BPD as I do depression and anxiety. The information in the book about BPD was mostly accurate but really only focused on certain aspects of the disorder. The book mentions the fear of abandonment and black-or-white thinking. But for me, it was missing some of the key diagnostic criteria for the disorder, such as self-harm/suicide and instability of self-image or self-identity. The book was just filled mostly with Polarity’s mother getting irrationally angry at everything. There was also a lot of emphasis on her calling things and people ‘evil’ when her BPD got very bad, and I just didn’t understand that. Believing things are evil isn’t a symptom of BPD so I was a bit confused when it was mentioned over and over again.

There were about 10 pages at the beginning of the book where we were just given a lot of information about BPD and I almost felt like facts were being thrown at me. But what irked me the most was that there were some inaccuracies in the information.

“Mom’s not bipolar; she’s borderline. Bipolar is a brain disorder. Borderline is emotional.”

That line just made me so frustrated when I read it. Bipolar isn’t a ‘brain’ disorder. It’s a mood disorder. And BPD is classified as a personality disorder. And this is something that Polarity says after her caseworker commends her on her knowledge about bipolar disorder. If you had no prior knowledge about BPD, you’d probably enjoy this book a lot more than I did. But at the same time, I don’t feel that it’s right to ignore these inaccuracies and misrepresentations of the disorder, especially since readers who know nothing about BPD will take away information from this book.

I know that the author was trying to highlight the fact that we all have deep and dark secrets, but I strongly think that the book would have been a lot better without the BPD elements. Polarity’s family is very supportive throughout the whole experience – they had a really good family dynamic – and I think it would have been even better if her mum’s behaviour wasn’t erratic and impulsive all the time. I do think though, that the family element was the best part of the whole book. There was also some romance in the book, which I didn’t really like. I would have preferred it if the book didn’t contain romantic elements. There was already enough going on in the story.

I did appreciate the character development that we saw in Polarity. She definitely became more assertive and confident and I really liked the person she was at the end of the book. Coupled with a mysterious and entertaining plot, I think this book is worth a read.

Review: Paperweight by Meg Haston

paperweight

Publisher: Harper Teen
Release: July 7, 2015
Format: Hardback
ISBN: 006233574X
Pages: 304
Goodreads || Book Depository

Seventeen-year-old Stevie is trapped. In her life. In her body. 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.

MY THOUGHTS

4 stars

A dark and emotional book about a girl struggling with an eating disorder, I thought this was such an important story that all young girls need to read. It was confronting and made me feel uncomfortable (and ugly-cry) at times, but I’m so glad this book is out there in the world because not many people talk about eating disorders.

I was first interested in this book because of the cover (the hardback version is beautiful with and without the jacket) but when I read the description, I was even more interested because of my background in psychology. There are more and more YA books about depression and suicide now and that’s really great to see, but there are definitely not enough books about eating disorders. Anorexia, bulimia and the other types of eating disorders aren’t really seen as much of a problem, and sometimes are even glorified. So I think this book gave a great perspective on the issue. Meg Haston actually started writing this novel when she was at a treatment centre for her eating disorder.

I thought the story and the writing were good but I didn’t love it. There are lots of flashbacks incorporated into the story, which I didn’t love but didn’t hate either. These flashbacks were formatted in the same way as the rest of the book, which annoyed me a little bit, but it was obvious each time that it was a scene from the past. I wasn’t the biggest fan of the story of Stevie’s past because I felt that it was a bit dramatic at times – mother abandons the family, brother is dead, she has no true friends, and therefore eating disorder. Having said that, I did like that the author made it clear that some of the other girls at the treatment centre didn’t have tragic pasts or dysfunctional families. Because anybody can have an eating disorder and not only those who come from a certain background. Even though I didn’t like the story of Stevie’s past, I did like all the events that happened in the treatment centre. They were very realistic and incorporated a lot of great information about eating disorders and the treatment of them.

On to the characters… I wasn’t a huge fan of Stevie, which was also a reason why I didn’t connect with the story as much as I thought I would and would have liked to. It’s hard to fall in love with a story when the protagonist isn’t very likeable. I did warm to her a little bit towards the end but for most of the story her character just didn’t sit well with me. For more than half of the book, she acts quite superior and puts down other girls who aren’t as skinny and close to death as she is (she does this all in her thoughts but it was still quite disturbing to me). She thought other girls were being arrogant when they said they were so sick that they passed out, and she looked up to girls who had a feeding tube because they weren’t able to keep themselves alive with real food. She also treated bulimia as if it’s not a serious and life-threatening condition. I can appreciate the fact that she was sick, and had some unhealthy beliefs and thought patterns but it just really put me off that she wasn’t able to understand that other people aren’t aiming to literally starve themselves to death. She just generalised her wants and beliefs and expected people to think the same way, and for a big part of the book I felt little compassion for her (which made me feel like the worst person in the world).

We see so much development in her though that I think it redeemed her character. There were so many moments in her journey that made me tear up. I loved seeing her make friends and take care of others. I liked all of the side characters from the treatment centre and they really made me root for them. There was also a character called Jenna and that made me so happy because it’s very rare for me to see my name in a book (and when I do, she’s usually the bitchy girl who steals the protagonist’s boyfriend).

Overall, I thought this book was great. It’s set in a very specific location (New Mexico) but I could this story being set anywhere in the world, which is why I think it’s so important for books like this to be out there. The characters in this book were so real and are relatable to all young girls (and boys) who are currently living in a society that promotes the thin ideal and poor body image. This is a story that I think all readers could learn something from, either about themselves or about eating disorders.

Review: More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera

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Publisher: Soho Teen
Release date: June 2, 2015
Format: Hardback
ISBN: 1616955600
Pages: 304
Goodreads || Book Depository

The Leteo Institute’s revolutionary memory-relief procedure seems too good to be true to Aaron Soto – miracle cure-alls don’t tend to pop up in the Bronx projects. Aaron could never forget how he’s grown up poor, how his friends aren’t there for him, or how his father committed suicide in their one-bedroom apartment. Aaron has the support of his patient girlfriend, if not necessarily his distant brother and overworked mother, but it’s not enough.

Then Thomas shows up. He has a sweet movie-watching setup on his roof, and he doesn’t mind Aaron’s obsession with a popular fantasy series. There are nicknames, inside jokes. Most importantly, Thomas doesn’t mind about Aaron’s past. But Aaron’s newfound happiness isn’t welcome on his block. Since he can’t stay away from Thomas or suddenly stop being gay, Aaron must turn to Leteo to straighten himself out, even if it means forgetting who he is.

MY THOUGHTS

45 stars

More Happy Than Not is a coming-of-age LGBT book, with some sci-fi elements that are reminiscent of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. It is by no means an adorable, feel-good book like Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda. More Happy Than Not is a dark and heavy book that also deals with depression and suicide, as well as homophobia and hate crimes.

I have to admit, I did not like this book at all when I first started reading. For the first 100 pages, I was just not into the book. I couldn’t connect with the writing or the characters  and my attention just kept wandering away. I didn’t like Aaron or Thomas, and I thought Aaron’s friends were absolutely ridiculous and not the kind of people you’d want in your life. I actually almost gave up on the book. But then the story really picked up when we got to the next section of the book, where Aaron’s character starts making self-discoveries and accepting himself for who he is. From that point on, I was hooked. My rating immediately jumped from 2 to 5 stars. I ended up giving it 4.5 stars because of those first 100 pages, but I was so emotionally affected by the story that it feels like a 5 star book to me.

Adam Silvera has written such a heart-wrenching story about a boy who is unable to be himself because he doesn’t have the support system that he needs. His whole life, he’s been surrounded by people who tell him not to be gay. I think this is a book that everybody needs to read. It delves into the complexities of sexuality and self-identity. This isn’t just a coming out story – it’s so much more than that and I don’t think I have the proper words to describe it. But while this novel is sad and emotional (and made me cry lots and lots), it is also full of hope. It really sends the message that you don’t have to change yourself or forget the negative or ‘unwanted’ parts of yourself in order to find happiness. Because happiness comes from just being who you are.

For those of you who are looking for a romance or a love story, you’re not going to get that in this book. This is a novel about coming out to yourself, forging healthy relationships and dealing with pain. I highly recommend this beautiful novel. The first 100 pages might bore you to death and the story might break your heart, but it’s so worth it.

Review: The Shock of the Fall by Nathan Filer

9780007491452

Publisher: HarperCollins
Release date: May 9, 2013
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 000749145X
Pages: 314
Goodreads || Book Depository

“I’ll tell you what happened because it will be a good way to introduce my brother. His name’s Simon. I think you’re going to like him. I really do. But in a couple of pages he’ll be dead. And he was never the same after that.”

MY THOUGHTS

4 stars

The Shock of the Fall is one of those books that you need to read and experience for yourself.

Written from the perspective of Matthew, a young man struggling with schizophrenia, this book left me speechless. His voice was so strong, and I could feel the conflict and the battle in the writing. I really appreciate what Nathan Filer was able to do in this book. At times, the story was confusing because it jumps around a little bit, but I slowly grew to appreciate it and see it as part of the novel’s charm and how confusing and unsettling schizophrenia is. This book definitely affected me and probably would have affected me more if I wasn’t a psychology major.

I loved the format and the typography in the book. It really added to the story and made it even more realistic. It made me feel like I was there and part of the story.

But most of all, I just loved Simon, just like Matthew said I would.