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Posts Tagged ‘Mental illness’

Boy Under Water by Adam Baron, illus. Benji Davies.

July 30, 2018 Comments off

boy under waterBoy Under Water by Adam Baron, illus. Benji Davies.. Pub. HarperCollins, 2018.

This novel for intermediate and junior high school readers is about growing up and it addresses a massive question – “Do grown-ups tell you the real stuff or do they try to shove it aside like an old tent stuffed behind a sofa”?

Every family has secrets, secrets that affect other family members and friends  behaviour, and kids do not understand. Why don’t they know? and what will happen when they eventually find out?

Cymbeline Igloo is nine years old and he lives with his mother. He has artistic ability and his mother gives art lessons. Family history comes to a shattering crisis when Cymbelline has to go to the swimming pool with his class. His mother panics and Cymbelline wonders why his mother has never taken him to the pool or any body of water where he could learn to swim.

Cymbelline attends after a challenge from a class member and while waiting to commence a swimming lesson he is pushed into the deep end and sinks to the bottom. His mother erupts. The next morning when Cymbelline wakes up his mother is gone.

I am not going to tell you anymore you will have to read the novel and believe me I did not guess the ending, nor will you but it is brilliant.

Superbly told and explained by Adam Baron with an underlining dark and witty humour. He is talking to the kids and opening big secrets. Deftly illustrated by Benji Davies.

You will find out about the name when you read the book.

Because Everything is Right but Everything is Wrong by Erin Donohue.

June 26, 2018 Comments off

Everything rightBecause Everything is Right but Everything is Wrong by Erin Donohue. Pub. Escalator Press Whitireia, 2017.

The New Zealand Children and Young Adults Book Awards often recognise a novel that is right out of left field and this one is about the very important subject of mental illness, particularly with teens.

Caleb is in year 13 and until now has been a very competent student. Now he wonders if you can be lost and not know it. He suffers from two conditions that dominate his life -the Fear during which he can barely breathe and the Deadness which makes him want to stay in bed and do nothing.

At school his grades fall, he doesn’t do the required work and he wonders how he will function outside of school if he can’t function inside school.

His parents and little brother are at their wits end. “Its like he’s not even there”.

Then Casey appears. A rebellious attractive girl that taunts Caleb and her presence is the mystery of the novel and the catalyst that leads to him having treatment for mental illness.

Clearly written from experience the novel does not demonise mental illness but carefully analyses Caleb’s breakdown. I cannot comment on the treatment given to Caleb, I just don’t know but I was glad none of the drugs that he is treated with are mentioned.

I thought the attitude of Caleb’s parents was superb and that of his friends and little brother commendable.

Short and to the point which makes for compelling reading for teens and young adults.

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.