Anxiety is weird. When we feel anxious, we try to avoid the thing that's jacking up our sympathetic nervous system. Too bad avoidanFace the Worst Case
Anxiety is weird. When we feel anxious, we try to avoid the thing that's jacking up our sympathetic nervous system. Too bad avoidance often increases anxiety. The best strategy for reducing anxiety is to approach it head-on--ask a honey out on a date, deliver public speeches, drive to a friend's over snowy roads--but who has the gumption to do that?
Vivi Lewis just might be the one.
Vivi is a 17 year old whose mother's nervous system is on overdrive. Convinced the world is dangerous, her mother keeps uprooting her from town to town, running from her fears. Her mother even has the gall to move her to Idaho in the midst of Vivi's senior year.
What an interesting setting for the story: Coeur d'Alene. I lived in eastern Washington for a year and still remember the breathtaking views of the lake and resort when I visited this northern Idaho town. But Vivi's mother hasn't moved her here for the view. It's another ploy by her mother to avoid her crippling anxiety.
Thankfully a neighbor boy, Win, makes Vivi feel right at home from the get-go. He's got his own secret worst case that has made him wise beyond his years.
Vivi has inherited her mother's anxious brain, which includes worry and panic attacks but also the gifts of anxiety: kindness, intelligence, and keen observational skills, like:
The space thing, I've always been fascinated by it. Grown-ups take up a lot of space, most of them. Men. They spread out on bus seats. They take their half of the hallway out of the middle.
Win does this, but not in a man-spread, irritating way. In a "clear the way, here he comes" kind of way. He is noticed, and people move for him.
A path clears for Win. And here I am, riding in his wake. What an intoxicating feeling.
*nods* I agree with Vivi. On airplanes, I seek a seat next to a woman, not a man, because of this space thing. I'm not a small person and the women next to me might not be small either, but they don't tend to "spread out" like men do. (PS I love men but I don't want to be cramped on a long flight!)
Sounds like Vivi has had some therapy--too bad her mother is reluctant to see a therapist--and I like this metaphor:
It sucks, anxiety. I had a psychologist once who told me it's best to try to think of anxiety like it's the flu. When you have the flu, you don't get owned by it. It doesn't dominate you, it doesn't define you. It's just something you have, and you deal with it.
I enjoyed Vivi's quirky humor, like when she tries paddle boarding:
Win's out in the water, up to the waist, and when I put a toe in, it's really, really cold.
"It feels hypothermic. Like Jack-and-Rose cold."
...or when an annoying but lovable girlfriend makes a big deal of her kissing Win:
Phoebe jumps up and down.
Win breaks the kiss and pulls me into a hug. "Don't move. If we're still, maybe she'll move on."
"She's not a tyrannosaurus rex. She can still see us," I murmur. But I'd be happy to just stand here in his arms.
Vivi and Win keep alluding to the big talk they need to have, revealing their inner demons, and I think it takes a bit too long for them to share their secrets. The build-up makes their secrets seem anticlimactic, when upon reflection, family problems like these would challenge any teen.
Beck Anderson's straightforward writing style and unique observations of the world continue to impress me. I'll read anything she writes!
So, back to facing anxiety. When I have "what-if" questions, like "What if I don't get my to-do list done?", instead of trying to banish those thoughts from my mind, cognitive-behavioral therapy has taught me to go deep into the worst-case scenario and imagine coping with it. I ask myself three questions: 1) What's the worst case scenario? 2) What's the likelihood of that event? and 3) Even if that unlikely worst case scenario happens, could I handle it? Asking these questions convinces me that I won't *die* if I fail to finish my to-do list.
Luckily for Vivi and Win, they help each other face their own worst cases, and it's a worthy journey....more
Thank you to Mitsy for recommending this book to me. I don't typically read thrillers but this one definitelyI Have Seen This Girl, And She's a Badass
Thank you to Mitsy for recommending this book to me. I don't typically read thrillers but this one definitely held my attention.
Do you have teenage daughters? If so, you might want to steer clear of this story. Wendi Wise is 13 when she and her friend meet two cute boys at the mall. The boys offer them a joint, and they smoke behind a store. From such an innocent beginning comes Wendi's downfall when she is kidnapped and forced to become a drug-addled sex slave.
Most girls are killed at this point, but Wendi isn't like most girls. She's going to claw her way back to a life worth living any way she can.
I like the timeline of Wendi's story, starting with the prologue at age 21, flashing back to age 13, and then picking up again at age 21.
It's an accurate portrayal of drug addiction, without drugs being the central focus of the story:
Whenever I thought about using, I imagined one of those old seesaws you see on primary school playgrounds. On one end were all of the things I liked about using: The numbness. The excitement. The comfort. But on the other end was all of the bad things: Lost jobs. Lost friends. Disappointed faces. Terrible, writhing pain that rattled my bones and scared me shitless.
At times I love the writing, like when Wendi discovers her foster mother is pregnant: It was a miracle; it was a tragedy. But there are too many adverbs for my taste.
The vibe of the story is creepy. There are a few welcome surprises in the climactic ending, though parts seem a bit far-fetched.
This is definitely a page-turner! Wendi says it best:
Yes, I've seen this girl. I know her and I know her pain. But I also know her triumph and recovery....more