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Promising Young Women

3.93  ·  Rating Details  ·  215 Ratings  ·  29 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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Creature by Amina CainWho Was Changed and Who Was Dead by Barbara ComynsIn the Time of the Blue Ball by Manuela DraegerThe Wallcreeper by Nell ZinkDan by Joanna Ruocco
Dorothy, A Publishing Project
12th out of 12 books — 8 voters
It's Kind of a Funny Story by Ned VizziniThe Bell Jar by Sylvia PlathOne Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken KeseyVeronika Decides to Die by Paulo CoelhoCut by Patricia McCormick
Fictional Mental Hospital Novels
112th out of 213 books — 675 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,045)
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Michael Vagnetti
Jan 20, 2013 Michael Vagnetti rated it it was amazing
"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
Jan 28, 2013 Rebecca rated it liked it
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
Oct 01, 2012 Emily rated it it was amazing
"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
Laryssa Wirstiuk
Dec 20, 2012 Laryssa Wirstiuk rated it it was ok
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
Oct 04, 2012 Jeffrey rated it it was amazing
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
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
Jan 25, 2013 Jen rated it liked it
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
Aug 27, 2012 JSA Lowe rated it it was amazing
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.
Jul 02, 2015 Kdunbier rated it it was amazing
I love this book with the kind of complicated love you have when you wish you had written something yourself.
Nov 16, 2015 Liza added it
very good! i tried to make my partner read it because she is in nursing school and has a clinical rotation in bellevue right now but she probably won't. sometimes i have a hard time sticking with depression/depressive narratives but this one had a voice that really pulled though. i liked all the references to sarah lawrence and found it very sarah lawrence-y in a kind of nostalgic way. (i could see that being a criticism or dismissal, sarah lawrence-y, as a kind of shorthand for pretty girls wit ...more
Aug 10, 2015 Jasmin rated it it was amazing
Shelves: mirrors
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
Apr 11, 2016 Angela rated it really liked it
This was what Prozac Diaries should have been but wasn't. Little vignettes on the psych ward, all of them well-written and pungent. And she made it out and wrote this book, so they're extra-good and extra-pungent.
Jul 14, 2015 Kelly rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2015
I read this all in one afternoon, shortly after finishing Her 37th Year. A little dizzying.
Laurel Beth
Jan 18, 2015 Laurel Beth rated it really liked it
Shelves: from-the-library, vcu
I think this might be satire.
Sian Lile-Pastore
Dec 07, 2014 Sian Lile-Pastore rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, feminism
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 liked it
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:
Nov 17, 2015 Milo rated it really liked it

"If you were the one who didn't know how to live, if you needed to be taught, we'd look away, too. We wouldn't want to know."
Megan Henrich
Jan 14, 2013 Megan Henrich rated it really liked it
Check out my review at Heavy Feather Review!
Nov 27, 2012 Anita rated it really liked it
The fragmentary structure is brilliantly done. Second half of this book really got to me.
Jun 03, 2014 Pj rated it it was amazing
Multifaceted views, glimpses. Perfect. Want to read again.
Dec 13, 2012 Carrie rated it it was amazing
That the question that despair asks has no answer.
Aug 06, 2012 Jill added it
Review forthcoming in Bookslut.
Rachel Abeyta Newlon
Oct 27, 2012 Rachel Abeyta Newlon rated it it was amazing
Reviewing for Bombay Gin...a must read!
May 08, 2015 Marlene rated it did not like it
Disjointed and disorganized.
this book is phenomenal.
Jul 31, 2012 Joey rated it it was amazing

Really good book.
Andrew Sheivachman
Dec 20, 2012 Andrew Sheivachman rated it it was amazing
Jessica Younger
Jessica Younger marked it as to-read
Apr 28, 2016
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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.” 4 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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