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Promising Young Women

3.92 of 5 stars 3.92  ·  rating details  ·  176 ratings  ·  26 reviews
A series of fragmentary tales tells the story of Lizzie, a young woman who, in her early twenties, unexpectedly embarks on a journey through psychiatric institutions, a journey that will end up lasting many years. With echoes of Sylvia Plath, and against a cultural backdrop that includes Shakespeare, Woody Allen, and Heathers, Suzanne Scanlon's first novel is both a deeply ...more
Paperback, First, 160 pages
Published October 2012 by Dorothy, a publishing project
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7th out of 10 books — 5 voters
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Fictional Mental Hospital Novels
103rd out of 191 books — 626 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 792)
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Michael Vagnetti
"Iatrogenic" is when the treatment does harm. Untrustworthy medicine, misunderstood brains: when you experience the personal and expanded import of this, it must be like being eaten by The Blob. What is moral courage? To express compassion after having been digested by the invalidating maw of medical-industrial phagocytosis: "It was far away, and it had nothing to do with me. Still, I couldn't stop thinking about it. What it would be like." (23) To still read faces, and describe what people are ...more
"I saw the charts that noted what made a patient more or less likely to succeed. I read about the 'unexpected failures.' According to the book the 'unexpected failures' were those attractive, intelligent, promising young women who had, against all expectation, offed themselves in the years post-discharge.

I knew I shouldn't be reading but I couldn't stop. I read for clues to my own prognosis. It didn't look good."

As this memoir-like novel begins, a narrator named Lizzie is recalling he time in he
I heard about this book on Sarah McCarry's blog The Rejectionist and, after seeing in the description on Goodreads that it's reminiscent of Plath, decided to read it: it was short and I had loved The Bell Jar. The book was almost too disjointed for me, with the chronology jumping all over the place so that I didn't really know what was happening when; each chapter (including a not-related but perfectly-written one called Girls with Problems) was a new story.

But the book is definitely worth readi
Laryssa Wirstiuk
The book had a few brilliant shining moments, but overall I found the narrative to be forgettable. The fragmented episodes, in my opinion just did not work for this book, and I would have like to see some more substantial character development. I just don't feel connected to the characters at all and therefore cannot invest my emotions in them. The ending was particularly underwhelming. Also, I think the book trivializes mental illness. I kind of get that the author is trying to make a point abo ...more
Full Stop
Jun 11, 2014 Full Stop added it
Shelves: fall-2012

Review by Eleanor Gold

Virginia Woolf, in Orlando, wrote about a proliferation of selves piloted by a Key Self that works to compress them into agreement, into a unity that can withstand the shock of the present. Perhaps this is the best way to understand Suzanne Scanlon’s Promising Young Women.

Selves abound in Scanlon’s debut novel. The back cover identifies them all as “Lizzie,” but don’t be fooled. Promising Young Women is told through a multitude of voi
Some really lovely stuff in here. I didn't think the structure of the book -- these fragments in chapters -- was used to its fullest potential. It feels almost as though the book could have gone a bit deeper into the editing process, made the fragments seem more intentional, less haphazardly collected together.

The chapter toward the end of the book called "The Other Story" was incredibly moving and well-written/structured and works really well as a standalone piece.
Jasmine Woodson
oh thank goodness I was afraid messy but promising tragic young white women narratives had been played allll the way out, but nope!

I LOVE the structure of the stories, though, how the narrative folds into and out of itself.
JSA Lowe
Oh HELL yes. I have a lot to say, but I'm reviewing it and another book for an Unnamed Journal, so nothing more from me for now, not a word. Only: you want this. Trust me, you do.
At first, I felt embarrassed picking this up. I got it at a local bookstore in a small Canadian city. In highschool I loved Sylvia Plath -- no, I was obsessed. I read everything I could that she had written. Later in life I fell similarly into depression and was hospitalized. I realized that I had romanticized and maybe idolized Plath in highschool. Now, I resent that.

Scanlon's book takes this hospitalization and extracts the boring truth of it, the boring truth of being depressed, a fragile ex
This book is beautifully written in a matter-of-fact tone about mental illness. It is a coming of age novel that take the main character Lizzie through her struggles with various stages of life--sexuality, career, and motherhood--at the same time she is struggling with mental illness.

Subjects like mental instability are very challenging to write about because they are so easily overdramatized. The last thing a thoughtful audience wants are histronics. The sensitive, smart choices Scanlon makes
Jul 14, 2015 Kelly rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2015
I read this all in one afternoon, shortly after finishing Her 37th Year. A little dizzying.
I love this book with the kind of complicated love you have when you wish you had written something yourself.
Laurel Beth
I think this might be satire.
Sian Lile-Pastore
I find this book to be a little hard for me to write about but I really liked it, it's a novel in fragmentary parts about a young woman who goes in and out of psych wards. I liked the line:
'It was all very post - Cuckoo's Nest but also even post- Girl Interrupted, which maybe hadn't been published yet.'
Apr 14, 2013 Julie rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2013
A disturbing, disjointed ride through one woman's survival of depression. I did not like the choice to make the last thing her suicide attempt that got her institutionalized. I would have liked more on how she coped and learned to deal with life.
Feb 28, 2013 Matt marked it as to-read
Shelves: women
Decided to add this book after reading this:
Megan Henrich
Check out my review at Heavy Feather Review!
The fragmentary structure is brilliantly done. Second half of this book really got to me.
Multifaceted views, glimpses. Perfect. Want to read again.
That the question that despair asks has no answer.
Aug 06, 2012 Jill added it
Review forthcoming in Bookslut.
Rachel Abeyta Newlon
Reviewing for Bombay Gin...a must read!
Disjointed and disorganized.

Really good book.
Jessica marked it as to-read
Sep 01, 2015
Aipuu marked it as to-read
Sep 01, 2015
Josh marked it as to-read
Aug 31, 2015
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Her 37th Year, An Index

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“The mornings were the worst. Roger told me this was Classic Depressive. He said that mornings were generally the most trying part of the day for a Classic. As Roger spoke, I would think of all the people everywhere, all over the world, who managed to get out of bed every morning. One morning after another morning. All that getting out of bed. All those people. And then I imagined those same people all leaving the house—actually going somewhere—maybe even without thinking about it.The progress of days. All the lives in all those days. I remember wondering how it was done. As if I wasn’t implicated…Roger told me that this train of thought, too, was Classic. I wondered if he meant to be comforting.” 3 likes
“You have to see this,” he said.

For the rest of my life, the men I loved or would love—it was always this way: *You must read/see/listen to/ think about this*.

And I would. Read or watch or listen or think. It was one way of becoming the person I wanted to be.”
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