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Posts Tagged ‘Mental illness’

The Truth and lies of Ella Black by Emily Barr.

January 3, 2018 Comments off

truth ella blackThe Truth and lies of Ella Black by Emily Barr. Pub. Penguin Random House, 2018.

I finished this stunning novel 2 hours ago so I have poured myself a whiskey and ginger ale to savour this moment of reviewing it. It is not a book I will forget in a hurry because it deals with a 17 year old girl called Ella who is struggling to keep out and /or control a  character in her mind that she calls Bella or bad Ella.

Ella is a studious girl with talent in art, she has a gay friend called Jack and a girl friend called Lily. Bella however is loud, violent and provocative and takes over Ella at embarrassing times. A solution is at hand but you will have to read the whole book to find out what it is.

The action is started when Ella’s parents take her out of school in London in the middle of the day and whisk her onto a plane that is flying to Rio a place that Ella has always fantasised about. Why? It happened at a time when Bella was starting to dominate.

Rio is wonderful and the action of the rest of the novel is set in this magnificent Brazilian city with its beaches, bars and favellas. Ella meets a boy and it is love at first sight but it is not this that causes Ella to flee her parents and live rough on the streets of Rio’s favellas. Bet you want to know why and the reason is stunning. Secrets!!

The second YA novel from Emily Barr after The One Memory of Flora Banks and it is structured in a count down of 40 days until she dies.

My goodness me I might read it again. Superbly written with a host of other characters, but at times I got irritated because I wasn’t getting there fast enough. Ella/Bella is a strong character and you are with her all the way but you do feel for her parents.

Turtles all the Way Down by John Green.

October 27, 2017 Comments off

turtlesTurtles all the Way Down by John Green. Pub. Penguin Random House, Imprint Puffin, 2017

This latest novel by John Green will get inside your brain and shake it around. No-one writes about the teenage psyche and condition better than John Green. In parts it gets deeper and further out than you want it to,until life crashes in and puts you on an even keel again.

Holmsey is 17 years old and thinks she is a fiction. She cannot control the body she has and she has constant intrusive thoughts that she doesn’t want and cause her to behave in a destructive way towards her self. She is realistic about her condition and doesn’t know why people tolerate her.

Fortunately she has a caring mother and a best friend Daisy with whom she shares some remarkable conversations. The banter between the two of them is a highlight of the novel. Adolescent sanity is so 20th century.

All this sounds like a heavy plot, and it is, but it is lightened quite considerably by the disappearance of billionaire Russell Pickett the father of a once friend of Holmesy whose name is Davis. Daisy convinces Holmesy to look up her old friend when $100,000 is offered  for information that leads to the whereabouts of Russell Pickett.

This starts off a relationship between Holmesy and Davis that will lead to the unraveling of her problems.

Two things puzzled me about this book. Firstly the meaning of the title, but you will learn this towards the end of the novel and Secondly Holmesy. I read the first 40 or so pages not knowing if it was a male or female character. See if it happens to you. When I found out her name was Aza, I thought amazing. See if you can understand why.

Very deep, often disconcerting, superbly written and essential to read. I loved it from start to finish. Teenagers and young adults will love it. I will leave you with a thought from the book ‘When the weather is fine and ordinary you don’t notice it but when it is cold and you can see your breath, you can’t ignore it”. Check it out.

A Tragic Kind of Wonderful by Eric Lindstrom

February 9, 2017 Comments off

tragic-wonderfulA Tragic Kind of Wonderful by Eric Lindstrom.  Imprint HarperCollins, 2017.

This is a senior Young Adult novel from a brilliant writer who knows how to unlock and discuss serious emotional and mental conditions in young people. It is positive.

When Mel was thirteen her older brother who lit up her life died. The family shifted house, the parents separated and Mel never told any of her friends that she had had a brother.

Mel had a breakdown and now takes a whole lot of drugs including ritalin to level her out. Now she is sixteen in a new school with new friends and working in an old peoples home called Silver Sands.

Every chapter is headed by the same four headings of animals beginning with H. Hamster describes her head condition, Hummingbird her heart, Hammerhead her physical condition and Hannigananimal whether she is up or down.

Mel sees herself as an antisocial underachiever, but she is not. Her manner at the Silver Sands retirement home is outstanding. She is caring and perceptive and she is going to get better.

Mel narrates the story of her life at school and with her friends and family and between these chapters there are chapters written in italics that tell about her brother and her arguements with friends that get to the heart of her mental state.

Battles are never won. Only survived. The dialogue between characters and the relationships between teenagers and adults are excellently handled.

Beautifully written in short sharp chapters that will keep you in the book. I couldn’t put it down. Eric Lindstrom also has Not If I See You First reviewed on this blog.

Delicate Monsters by Stephanie Kuehn

December 7, 2016 Comments off

delicate-monstersDelicate Monsters by Stephanie Kuehn. Pub. St. Martin’s Griffin, 2015.

If you have ever done something really bad that has deeply hurt or affected others, and you have kept it a secret and carried the guilt of it all around with you, then this is a novel for you.

The teenage years can be wonderful and they can be mixed up. Many teens struggle to find out who they are and worry what others think of them. The three main characters in this novel have a lot of these feelings in them.

Sadie Vu is from a wealthy family who live in the wine growing area of California. She has been expelled from many boarding schools, cares about nothing and sees herself as pathological. She does things because they are bad and she has been responsible for the near death of Roman, a boy who really liked her.

Emerson is a 6ft 4 inch basketball player whose father committed suicide in his ’64 ford mustang, a car Emerson still drives. He is sadistic in behaviour and carries around secrets that he needs to resolve. His brother is a sickly soul called Miles, a boy who has allergies, who is often sick , has visions that appear to come true and is bullied mercilessly.

Mix these characters together and you have a stunning story that will keep you reading and wondering where it is going. It is disturbing, chilling and disconcerting but you must finish.

This aptly named novel is splendidly written in four parts  by an author  with a degree in sport psychology who is working towards  a doctorate in clinical psychology. She doesn’t miss a trick with the ending being open and powerful.

Definitely for mature students and young adults. Those who have read All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven will love this novel

This is where the World Ends by Amy Zhang.

April 19, 2016 Comments off

world endsThis is where the World Ends by Amy Zhang. Pub. Greenwillow Books imprint HarperCollins, 2016.

If you like tragic young adult stories this is about as tragic as it gets, but so wonderfully told.

Janie and her secret boyfriend Micah share the same birthday. They call it Metaphor Day after a pile of rocks that stands near a deep quarry full of water near both their houses. They are different yet together. Micah likes Rachmaninoff Prelude in G Minor, Janie is Let it Be by the Beatles. Janie carries rocks from the Metaphor around in her pocket.

They tell no-one of their relationship because Janie wants it that way, meanwhile she has a relationship with a jock called Ander from school. He is repulsive and his actions ultimately lead to Janie’s collapse.

Lewis Carroll once said “all the best people are crazy” and I think this sums up the characters in the book well, but then aren’t we all. This is a school story about growing up.

The novel is structured in two parts, Once Upon a Time and Happily Ever After and within each part their are three narratives – a Before narrative by Janie, an After narrative by Micah and a Journal kept by Janie which provides a fairytale dimension to Janie’s life and to the story.

It took me a while to get into this novel but once in there I dwelt for long periods digesting every word, action, emotion and fantasy. You will too. It is not unlike All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven. It is very deep and not for everybody but those that like it will remember it forever.

All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven.

January 15, 2015 Comments off

all bright placesAll the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven. Pub Penguin, 2015.

If you read one Young Adult book this year make it this one. It will blow your mind. I once heard an interviewer ask Stephen Fry why he went off medication and he answered “I missed all those highs”. This book is about all those highs and those lows of two teenagers and possibly half their friends who are suffering from some form of mental illness.

Theodore Finch doesn’t know who he is. he has a number of personnas – Badass Finch, Dirtbag Finch, Loser Finch and 80,s Finch among others. He has had some sort of breakdown that he refers to as the Asleep. His parents are separated, there is little communication in the home and his sportsman father has physically abused him as a child.

Finch is falling apart but in the most brilliant of fashions. His wit and imagination are superb. You will laugh, wonder and cry at the same time. Finch narrates most of the chapters.

Finch meets Violet at the top of the school bell tower. Both are standing on the ledge contemplating what if I jump? Finch talks Violet out of it although everybody thinks it is the other way round. Violet was involved in a car accident in which her older sister was killed. She can’t get over it. She wears her sisters glasses and refuses to get into a car. All her old pastimes and interests fall by the wayside. Her excuse is “I am not ready yet”. It is a cop out and she knows it. Violet narrates the rest of the chapters in response to contact with Finch.

The meeting with Finch on the bell tower is to change both their lives as is the geography assignment in which they are partners. Lots of school stuff and some good and bad adults.

It is brilliant. If you don’t read this you deserve a kicking.

Shift by E.M. Bailey

February 10, 2013 Comments off

shiftShift by EM Bailey. Pub. Hardie Grant Egmont. 2011.

This is a novel that explores friendship between teenage girls particularly when things go wrong and misunderstandings cloud the issue.

It is also a novel about a ruthless and mentally disturbed girl.

Olive and Katie were best of friends until Olive had an incident in her life and new girl Miranda Vaile turned up at school.

Miranda takes advantage of the falling out of Olive and Katie but there is something more sinister happening than that. Katie starts to lose weight drastically as though she was anorexic and Miranda starts to not only look like the old Katie but steals her boyfriend and assumes the top dog role in the school society.

What is going on here?

Olive has a friend called Ami but is she real?

A novel that is compulsive reading and if you have ever seen the film Single White Female then you will see parallels in this book.

A psychological drama. Definitely High school in appeal.