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Born Scared

3.33  ·  Rating details ·  540 ratings  ·  177 reviews
Elliot has lived his first thirteen years confined to his home, incapacitated by fear. Now he's out of pills, snow is falling, and his only safe person is missing. A terrifying thriller from Carnegie Medalist Kevin Brooks.

From the moment of his birth, Elliot's life has been governed by fear of almost everything, even of his own fear -- a beast that holds him prisoner in hi
Hardcover, 244 pages
Published September 11th 2018 by Candlewick Press (MA) (first published 2017)
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Average rating 3.33  · 
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 ·  540 ratings  ·  177 reviews

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Well, huh. I don't really know how to rate Born Scared. It wasn't at all what I expected, but I did mostly enjoy it.

We follow Elliot, a 13-year-old boy so afraid of *everything* that he has become a shut-in, spending nearly all of his time in a sound-proofed room completely devoid of anything he deems "scary". Elliot takes pills to help somewhat dampen his constant feelings of fear, but due to an unfortunate series of events, his prescription is about to run out and if the refill is not picked u
Cora Tea Party Princess
5 Words: Fear, family, winter, panic, AAAAHHHHHH.

Stick a Kevin Brooks book in front of me and you are almost* guaranteed that I will love it. I have been hooked to his haunting writing style since I first picked up Lucas when I was in high school.

This author makes you feel things.

And this book made me feel so much.

This is a book about fear. Heart-racing, blood-cooling, mind-numbing... FEAR. It's a truly thrilling read. Elliot's fear is so real, it's palpable, I could feel it. I was terrified for
Dannii Elle
Awareness of mental health is still shockingly sub-par. Which is why books like this should be a necessary part of everyone's literary programme, whether you can personally relate or not. A broken leg is an easily visible ailment and a mental illness is not. With little understanding it is hard to grasp that another's reality is now drastically different from your own. This book, although only representing one small sphere of the spectrum, can provide some tolerance and empathy. This poignant re ...more
Sep 26, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Elliott is afraid of everything. In fact, he doesn't remember ever not being afraid. His mother, his aunt and his doctor are the only people that don't remind him of monsters. But there are even some things he has to keep secret from the fact he sees and talks to his twin sister, Ellamay, even though she died shortly after they were born. The only thing that shuts down the beast, his fears, are the little yellow pills he takes six times a day. The pills quiet his fears enough for hi ...more
Sofii♡ (A Book. A Thought.)

I want to thank Candlewick Press and NetGalley for providing me with this copy in exchange for an honest review

This is a kind of strange book being honest, but I think it was an interesting and new experience for me. It's a pretty short story with a fixed central plot and I liked that, I liked that although it's short, it's very intense and you can really feel everything that happens to the main character in a very raw and real way.


3.7/5 Stars

You can find more of my reviews on my blog A Book. A
Claire (Book Blog Bird)
Born Scared is the story of Elliott, a boy who is scared of literally everything. The only thing that can regulate his ever-present terror (seriously, of *everything*) are the little pills he pops every few hours. On Christmas Eve, his mum goes to get his prescription refilled but she doesn’t come back and Elliot realises he will have to leave the house for the first time in god-knows how long and go and find her.

The idea behind this book was really interesting - how does someone with acute fear
Karen Barber
Aug 31, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley
I'm not ashamed to admit to feeling a little traumatised after finishing The Bunker Diary. While I admired the idea, and found elements of it utterly gripping, there was a small part of me that found it all a bit macabre - it made me think of Saw and other such movies/books. Not really my thing!
So it was not without some caution that I started this. Brooks has a habit of taking seemingly ordinary characters and finding the downright odd to focus on. In this case, it works brilliantly.
Elliot is s
Erik Fazekas
Kevin Brooks is a brutally brutal writer.
When I was reading this book, I felt everything the main protagonist was feeling.
Best book of this year!
Jul 25, 2018 rated it liked it
3.5 stars

13-year old Elliot has been afraid of everything since he was born. About the only things he’s not afraid of is his room, and three people: his mother, his aunt, and his doctor. This is a severe, debilitating phobia of everything. He needs pills just to make the phobias less severe (though they are still there).

One Christmas Eve day, just before the stores will be closed for a couple of days, there is an error with Elliot’s prescription. Elliot’s mom must leave him at home by himself t
Wendi Lee
Elliot has extreme anxiety. He can’t leave his home, or meet other people than his mother and a few trusted others. He’s had anxiety since he was born, and is finally on a medication that lessens his fear. But when his mother leaves (in a snowstorm, no less) to refill his medication, and doesn’t come back, it’s up to Elliot (and his twin sister, who lives in his head), to venture outside and find out what happened.

There’s a lot of good things about this book. I like how anxiety is handled here;
This book just didn’t work for me. I couldn’t finish it, (and in result I actually lost it) even though the whole premise sounds awesome, all the tension and suspense fizzled out in the first couple of pages. In my opinion this book was pretty boring and I just didn’t get round to finishing it.
Tiana Hadnt
3.5 STARS!!!!!

This is a book about fear. Elliot’s fear. And Elliot is afraid of just about everything.

The story is about Elliot being put in a situation where he is nearly out of his medication, and the person he can always count on goes to get a prescription and doesn’t come back. That’s about all I can say without spoiling it.

I found the way this book dealt with mental illness to be very interesting. It gives pretty detailed descriptions and Elliot comes to feel like a real person. It’s handl
Cameron Foster
Dec 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I basically read the majority of this book in one sitting because I kept flying through the pages and kept desperately trying to make sense of a good way!
This novel is something original and extremely good at depicting the irrational fear of everything. I found myself rooting for the main character the entire way through and it was so interesting to see how the story progressed and connected with other characters.
I’m probably going to spend a lot of time pondering this’s that c
May 28, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018-reads, arcs, thriller
A quick read that offers a complex character battling his anxiety, inner demons and a couple of deadly Santa Clause’s.

“Born Scared” tells the story of Elliot, a young boy who has battled crippling anxiety since birth who runs out of medication and is forced to venture out into the world after his mother fails to return home. On this adventure into the unknown he is forced to make the decision to hide or fight as he comes face to face with what he fears most.

I don’t have anxiety or a mental ill
Oct 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
From the moment of his birth, Elliot’s life has been governed by fear of almost everything, even of his own fear — a beast that holds him prisoner in his room. The beast is kept at bay, though not eliminated, with a daily regimen of pills. But on Christmas Eve, a mix-up at the pharmacy threatens to unleash the beast full force, and his mother must venture out in a raging snowstorm to a store that should be only minutes away. Hours later, when she still hasn’t returned, Elliot sees no choice but ...more
Jun 25, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2018-books, netgalley
A BIG Thank You to Netgalley and Candlewick Press for providing me a copy of “Born Scared” by Kevin Brooks in exchange for my review. I had high expectations for this book! A YA psychological thriller about mental illness, with an awesome cover? I knew I had to read this one! However, it didn’t turn out the way I had hoped.

The main aspect I loved about this book was the dark and eerie atmosphere it creates. The author has beautifully blended the fairy tale fantasies with the horrors of adult lif
This was a very interesting quick read. I especially liked the split narratives between the chapters which made it very easy to read and created and diverse setting for the book. The writing was very good as well which always helps.

The reason for the three stars is mainly because even though I enjoyed it I did feel like a lot of the good action was left a little too late to the end. Also, I was left kind of wanting more at the end I don't really know why but I'm one of those people that really l
Dena (Batch of Books)
Jun 26, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ya, thriller
I'm not sure why, but I was under the impression that this was a middle grade horror novel. It's not.

Born Scared is a young adult psychological thriller with a protagonist dealing with mental illness. His inner demons are just as frightening (and sometimes even more so) than anything real he encounters.

When his mom goes out in a blizzard to get his medication, Elliot waits on pins and needles for her to return. When she doesn't come back, Elliot does the unthinkable and goes in search of her.
Elliot is such a sweet character that I wanted to protect at all costs.

Elliot is afraid of everything to the point that at 13-years-old is now a shut-in and hardly leaves his room and is fully reliant on the medicine his doctor has prescribed him. While the medicine isn't enough to fully help him, it is enough that it keeps him from constantly spiraling. When it's time to refill his prescription on Christmas Eve the pharmacy messes up, and with several other mishaps having happened, his mom has
Adele Broadbent
Elliot has run out of pills. He needs them to keep the beast of unbridled fear away. Ever since he was born, Elliot has been terrified by almost everything. This means people (other than his mum), dark, dogs, cars, the sea, baths, and even colours. His mum has tried to get help for him but he’s so terrified of the outside world, it never happens. So Elliot spends his days and nights in his bedroom. He has everything he needs but it’s very close to Christmas and he’s run out of pills to keep his ...more
Oct 24, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Thank you to Netgalley for providing me a copy of this Born Scared exchange of a honest review.

I've read a lot of Kevin Brooks books in the past when I was a few years younger and most of them have left me awestruck and traumatised. As should books so. Kidding.

The synopsis sounded very intriguing however for me it wasn't original the difference to this book and others I have read in the past is that the main character is a boy. The tension is very apparent in the book, Elliot is crippled with an
Nov 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
I thoroughly enjoyed this book, but it wasn't exactly what I expected from reading the inside cover. I knew it would deal with anxiety, but I thought it would focus much more on the mental illness itself than the mystery/thriller aspect. I didn't mind this, necessarily; it was still a quick and thrilling read, but I wanted more of a deep dive into Elliott's anxiety than what I got. Despite this, Born Scared was written incredibly well, and I think it would be easy for even reluctant readers to g ...more
GMT Books
Sep 11, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Same as...or different?

Having just read Goldfish Boy, the two books sit side by side but I feel that Goldfish Boy is the better of the two. They are so similar in theme and execution the difference will only be apparent in the fact that Born Scared is a tense and gripping on the edge of your seat telling of a boy forced to face the outside world to save his Mum and aunt. I had to keep reading although I had to get up early the next day. Having settled it in my mind overnight i can day it is well
Petra Be
It must be terrible to be scared of everything. A great story. A bit unbelievable sometimes.
Jessica (Spooky KidLit & We Who Walk Here, Walk Alone)
Content Warning: anxiety, mental health

Kevin Brooks definitely understands anxiety. His main character Elliot has an extreme fear of…well, everything, so when he has to venture out alone during a snowstorm to refill his anxiety medication, the mere act of starting the journey is a lot tougher for him than it would be for most people. Even though his case is an exceptional one, I have to admit that I recognized myself quite a bit in Elliot’s characterization. I’m not sure how much of this review
J.L. Slipak
Aug 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Elliot has lived his first thirteen years confined to his home, incapacitated by fear. Now he’s out of pills, snow is falling, and his only safe person is missing. A terrifying thriller from Carnegie Medalist Kevin Brooks.

From the moment of his birth, Elliot’s life has been governed by fear of almost everything, even of his own fear — a beast that holds him prisoner in his room. The beast is kept at bay, though not eliminated, with a daily regimen of pills. But on Christmas Eve, a mix-up at the
Oct 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Elliot was born scared --- literally. Ever since birth, he's suffered from an extreme fear disorder which even all his doctors have struggled to identify, but through trial and error have managed to medicate well enough. As long as Elliot sticks to his routine of pills each day and makes sure to be properly stocked up on backup pills, his fear --- or the "beast", as he refers to it --- will remain contained.
Although the pills help to keep the beast at bay, Elliot still lives under many restricti
Dani Winland
Nov 19, 2018 rated it it was ok
Thank you to NetGalley, Candlewick Press and author Kevin Brooks for giving me a copy of BORN SCARED in exchange for my honest review.


This review was originally published on my blog:


Born Scared is a different kind of story. It is told with a multi-person point-of-view, and while multi-person narrations are not uncommon, it’s the mixing of the first person narration—the main character, Elliot—and the unknown third person narration that I found interesting.

Lori L (She Treads Softly)
Born Scared by Kevin Brooks is a recommended YA psychological thriller featuring a protagonist with a type of anxiety disorder.

Elliot is a thirteen year old who has spent his whole life afraid, terrified of everything. He is confined to his home by what is likely some type of severe panic/social anxiety disorder and on medication to control his overwhelming ever-present fear. When the pharmacy makes an error and refills one of his prescriptions with the wrong pills, his mother has to ask a frien
Jun 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: giveaways
I received this book as part of a Librarything giveaway. Thanks a lot to Candlewick Press for sending it my way!

Fortunately for most of us, we live in a world where mental illnesses are being more and more accepted and acknowledged as severe and debilitating diseases that can have a huge impact on a person’s life. That said, more and more people these days admit to suffering from anxiety disorders and panic attacks and many of them find help in therapies and medication. However, I think I’m not
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Kevin Brooks was born in 1959 and grew up in Exeter, Devon, England. He studied Psychology and Philosophy at Birmingham, Aston University in 1980 and Cultural Studies in London in 1983. Kevin Brooks has been in a variety of jobs including: musician, gasoline station attendant, crematorium handyman, civil service clerk, hot dog vendor at the London Zoo, post office clerk, and railway ticket office ...more

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