The title of this book is the main thing that first caught my attention due to the fact that it’s such a common and yet misinterpreted phase. My mind instantly went to the thought of ‘there’s no normal’, and I was quick to judge the book before actually getting more information about its plot and premise. However, after looking into the rough narrative of the book, I felt that it was one that deserved a shot, even if the title slightly made me hesitant in reading it. Once again, my hesitation could’ve prevented me from experiencing this incredible read.
Evie wants to be ‘normal’. She wants to go to college, hang out at parties with her friends, meet boys, and do all the things that she didn’t have the chance to do when she was sectioned after being diagnosed with severe OCD. Only, Evie doesn’t want to be known as the ‘girl who went crazy – she’s almost off her medication and is managing her illness a lot better, so she keeps that part of her life private. Only, life gets messy when relationships get involved, and she finds herself spiralling down a path that she’s too afraid to speak up about.
Quite a few of my book reviews are set out chronologically – I review the book as it progresses and look into the different elements of it, such as the characters or the story’s pace. However, with this novel, I really think that it’s more of a book that’s meant to be reviewed when you look back at the reading experience overall. It’s better to review the book from a vast perspective, rather than picking it apart, and so that’s how this review is going to be structured.
First off, the tone and the narration that is created by the monologue of the main character is definitely relatable, especially for teenage girls. It details the worries that go through our minds and the issues that we face within our personal lives and our social lives. As somebody who has only recently left college in the UK, I felt that there were many elements of the book that I could relate to. In fact, there were a lot of similarities that were rather eerily the same in regards to my own life (the name of the friends, the therapist’s name, the character’s struggles, the courses she took at college, etc.) Because I was able to pick up on a relatable tone and took an interest in the story of the main character from the very beginning of the book, this prompted me to divulge myself into the story further, and I was able to finish the book in less than half a day. The ‘teenage’ tone is evident from the very start, though I don’t think it comes across as all that cliched and stereotypical, which is refreshing and enjoyable and it doesn’t lose the interest of the reader.
Without going into too much detail, I want to disclaim that I am mentally ill. I don’t have OCD, so I don’t relate to the character completely on that basis (unless you factor in OCPD), but I have a variety of mental illnesses that factor into my everyday life. Therefore, I loved the frank approach that the novel takes in looking at the stigma that’s been created around mental illness and how so many neurotypicals think it’s something that’s overplayed and is something that we can control. Not only does the book do an excellent job of representing the issues of the mental illness stigma, but it makes sure to include a variety of different mental disorders as well – it’s not just looking at one specific issue, but it’s generally looking at the way that society reacts to mental illnesses in general. The book does an excellent job of bringing attention to matters that are so evident throughout our current society and yet are so often overlooked by people who like to brush them off. For example, the book explores the issue of people using mental illnesses as adjectives to describe the weather or something of the like, which I definitely have experienced first hand. In this sense, it calls out people that do make light of mental illnesses by turning them into the punchline of a joke or making them into a pun, and that’s what we need! We need people to realise that mental illnesses are serious, and they’re not just a term for you to use and brush off as if it’s nothing. Whether the reader suffers from a mental illness or not, this is something that can be picked up by the entire audience and it needs to be paid attention to.
As somebody with mental illnesses, I found myself connecting to the character, her feelings, and her experiences on such a personal basis that it somewhat unnerved me at points. My feelings and my thoughts were validated by seeing them mirrored in a character that’s going through some of the same things, and, to me, that is so important. It was so reassuring to explore the different elements of the character’s story and her issues as this allowed me to feel less alone in my own feelings. The book approaches the fact that people simply do not understand mental illnesses and they make light of them thinking that we’re either being overdramatic and that we’re in control when we’re really not. Likewise, I think it’s hugely important that the novel brings attention to the fact that people like to think that ‘recovery’ or ‘managing your illness better’ is linear and there aren’t any setbacks. That’s just not the case. As the saying goes; relapses happen, and people need to stop thinking that when somebody with a mental illness goes through a period of ‘managing’ their illness better, this doesn’t mean they’re magically going to be ‘fine’ forever more and won’t experience any relapses or darker periods. Personally, this is something that I constantly need to keep reminding myself as well, as I always think that people think I’m going to be ‘cured’ once I start seeing a therapist or learn a specific method of ‘managing’ one of my illnesses better. I’m constantly living in fear that people are expecting me to ‘get over it’ and that it’s ‘just a phase that I’ll move on from’, so seeing this addressed so frankly in this book did a great deal to remind me of these important points. I also think it’s great that readers without mental illnesses will get a better insight into how mentally ill people feel and this further highlights the fact that the process is not a linear one, and neurotypicals need to stop expecting it to be.
Leading on from this further, I think the book does a wonderful job of giving the audience a better insight into how it really is to live with a mental illness. Even if you don’t have OCD or you aren’t mentally ill, this is a novel that still highlights a lot of issues that all mentally ill people face and these are issues that our society needs to stop sweeping under the rug. The book is excellent at connecting to readers in similar situations and working as a reassurance when it’s relatable for the reader, but it also does well to educate those who may not know much about the subject at hand. Certain readers may not know that they’re adding to the stigma and they may not realise that the use of certain terms and certain attitudes are negatively impacting society’s view on mental health, and so I think this book is important from an educational stand-point too.
The book is an easy read, and the tone and style that’s created through the narration are so quick to captivate and immerse you in the story of the character. You’ll find yourself thrown into her life, whether you relate to her directly or not, and so that makes it an incredibly compelling and interesting read. Once again, even if the reader doesn’t know much about the subject or doesn’t relate to the issues that the character is going through, it still works to broaden their knowledge regarding the subject.
I also loved how the book approached and included the subject of feminism, as I’m a huge feminist myself. Not only does it explore the mental health stigma, but it also looks into the obvious sexism that exists throughout our world and how inequality negatively impacts us through our everyday lives. The book brings attention to elements of inequality that a lot of people also like to brush over and pretend don’t exist, and I think it wonderfully showcases just how damaging that can be. It makes the readers consider the state of inequality on a deeper level and consider how it plays into different elements, such as mental health. Therefore, I believe that the novel is incredibly empowering for sufferers of mental health, but it’s notably an important read for young girls and women with mental illnesses as it showcases empowerment and how strong we can be when we support each other.
The book also does a good job of showcasing the strength of friendship and female unity, which is always a nice thing to see portrayed through any book. In a sense, the character’s fears of being judged and abandoned by her friends if they find out about her ‘mental health issues’ are incredibly relatable. Even if you don’t suffer from a mental illness, you’re still going to be able to relate to the book because it does such a good job of showcasing how it feels to be a young person – especially a young person that’s facing the issues we see within our current society.
To put it simply; this book is a masterpiece at exploring and bringing attention to the stigma that’s been created around mental health. As a sufferer myself, this novel is one that reassured me and connected with me on a deeper, personal level, though it’s also a great read for those who are looking to educate themselves further on the topic. It’s emotive, captivating, and ever-so-interesting as it does a wonderful job of providing an accurate insight of how it is living with any mental illness, and it also is wonderfully inclusive of feminism. I adored this read, and I would recommend it to anybody, whether or not you can relate to the character on a personal basis. There are important messages that are showcased that need to be paid attention to, and they need to be taken seriously. One of the best young adult contemporary novels that I’ve read lately, and one that I’ll likely return to in the future. ...more
The story follows Emory Walden, a seemingly lost reclusive who doesn’t know all that much what he’s doing or where he’s going. Whilst the narrative alludes to a past of secrets and thrills, we follow the main character as he takes on the role of trying to fit back into a society that he doesn’t agree with. A secret graffiti artist, writer, and all around social activist, Emory finds himself pairing up with Fletcher Spivy to wreak mayhem against the societal forces he wishes to bring to their knees. The only issue is; can Emory trust the promises that Fletcher is making, or is there a more malicious plan at work?
Firstly, I really like how the book is introduced with a ‘publisher’s’ note that somewhat summarises the premise of the book without giving away too much information. It captures the reader’s attention from the very beginning and makes the audience want to read on to explore the story that’s being alluded to, which is very effective for general readership. The introduction, prior to the actual beginning of the story, works to grab the reader’s attention and their interest and gives them the necessary drive to continue reading to explore the story that’s hinted at and the life of the character who’s mysteriously mentioned.
Likewise, as the story actually starts off and introduces you to the protagonist, it’s interesting from the start as there are obvious details to the background of the character and what he’s done. He’s mysterious – we don’t know his story or why he’s ended up where he is, doing what he’s doing, and so that makes the reader want to learn more about who this person is that we’re meant to be connecting with. In that sense, the audience does want to get to know the character and the details regarding his life, and this prompts them to read on further. Along with having an obvious backstory that’s yet to be revealed, from the beginning of the book, there’s a very specific tone that’s created by the main character. Not only does this give the reader a good look into the mindset of the character himself, but it also sets the nature of the novel quite nicely. In that sense, the tone is continuous and doesn’t jump all over the place. You know you’re reading the book from the perspective of the protagonist due to the specific personalisation of the monologue itself, and this works to further transport the audience into the novel’s environment. The monologue feels realistic because there are obvious characteristics and traits that are portrayed in the way that the character ‘thinks’ and the way that he is described to ‘carry himself’ through certain situations. This means that the character is well-developed and has obviously been constructed to quite an in-depth extent to give the reader the full experience of getting to know his story.
One of the elements of the structure of the book that I found myself really enjoying is the way that the dialogue doesn’t detail every little thing that’s being said and noted by the characters. Whilst the conversations are detailed and in-depth and give the reader a good sense of tone/environment, there are some points where the author just summarises how the conversation continues. Instead of showcasing every interaction between a group of characters, the conversation is overlooked through the monologue of the protagonist as he reflects the interaction. It’s been a while since I read a book that takes this refreshing take and moves to alter the way that characters interact with each other, and that’s one of the reasons why I found the novel captivating. It was nice to be able to experience a somewhat new take on the way that the development of a relationship between characters develops.
The author also definitely knows how to create imagery through the use of in-depth descriptions and the inclusion of little details that often go overlooked in a scene. For example, I loved the character’s inner-monologue description of the diner that he works in and how he summarises what his work consisted of. Due to the fact that the author included these little but ever-so-vital details makes the scene seem all the more realistic. The reader’s attention doesn’t lack, and they’re able to create a vision for where the setting of the book is taking place.
However, I did have some issues with the introduction of Fletcher Spivey’s character as he seems very pompous. At some points during reading his dialogue, I felt like he was just regurgitating what he had read in a thesaurus. Though, saying this, I definitely was able to pick up on the fact that the character was meant to come across as pretentious and thinking of himself highly in that manner. He’s meant to come across as patronising, but some of the elements of the dialogue were rather played up to the extent where it actually did make it difficult to read through certain interactions and, instead of just making the reader roll their eyes, it works to confuse the audience.
As I said earlier, the character of Emory – the protagonist – has a specific tone of voice and has been well-constructed to seem like a three-dimensional person rather than just a trope. He has a very distinct view of himself, the world, and the people around him, but this isn’t something that I necessarily enjoyed. I wasn’t able to take a liking to him as a character from the start – and this only digressed as the story continued. Again, I was easily able to pick up on the specific type of personality that was being created for the character through the monologue, but I didn’t enjoy some elements of his personality. For example, using phrases such as ‘hideous girls’ in reference to people he’s slept with and the continued use of body and slut-shaming somewhat put me off of Emory as a character. I felt that, as his story progressed and the reader actually got to know his background more clearly, he also somewhat becomes more pretentious and his ‘true colours’ are revealed more clearly. There was also one point during the book where he uses the phrase ‘my life organ’ which, honestly, did make me cringe and pause reading for a moment as I felt there were occasions were similes and metaphors were overused. Again, though, this speaks for the development of the character, and not the personal views of the author themselves.
As the second part of the book really got underway, the narrative and the action definitely picks up the pace and becomes a lot more riveting. Whilst the beginning half of the book works to establish the character and his current situation, the second part showcases struggles that he faces and begins to introduce the plot-twists that make the reader want to read on and explore the story even further. Due to the fact that the narrative escalates – quite quickly at that – it definitely becomes more of a thrilling read, and I found that I really enjoyed that. Without giving too much away, I think that the development of the ‘torture’ of the main character was very compelling to read because, along with being descriptive of the settings and scenes themselves, it makes the emotions and fear of the protagonist very evident. In that sense, it’s very emotive and, at some points, overwhelming for the reader to experience. Though, because it’s paced quickly and there doesn’t ever seem to be a ‘lull’ in the narrative of the second half of the book, the reader’s attention and interest are maintained throughout.
I was actually taken off-guard by one of the biggest plot twists of the book as I found that, throughout the development of the first half of the novel, I really got to like the character of Renton. In this case, I think the author does an excellent job of making the audience take a liking to a character that they least expect is going to ‘crop up’ in that type of plot twist. Like in most of my reviews, I try not to spoil the book or give away the biggest elements of the narrative, but I was definitely surprised by the way that the story rather comes to a close as it nears the end of the novel. Renton felt like a real person – he felt well-developed and I found myself continuously wanting to learn more about his own storyline and background. I suppose I was right to expect there to be more to his story that the author was initially letting on, and I think that the construction of that plot point was done very well.
Continuing on with the progression of the second half of the book, I like how the novel came to an end as it felt like the story of the main character had been told in the way that he was trying to get it across. Like the ‘publisher’s’ note at the beginning of the novel states, this is a story that the character wants to get out for people to read for themselves and get a better idea of his side of the narrative. He wanted to explain the situation from his perspective, and that’s very well achieved. However, at the same time, it still feels as if there is more mystery to be revealed. Whilst it draws to a close nicely and rather shuts that ‘chapter’ of the character’s life, it still feels like there’s more potential for the story to continue and for the life of the protagonist to develop further.
The last thing I want to point out that did work to trip me up is that there are the occasional spelling and grammar errors. Whilst the author notes at the beginning of the book that there are indeed likely to be some mistakes, there were some instances that I was somewhat tripped up by a spelling error. However, this is more so to do with the fact that I was captivated and involved in the book, and so the slight errors rather threw me off balance rather and didn’t work to ruin the reading experience at all. Which, in that sense, goes to show the success that the author has achieved in grabbing and maintaining the interest of the audience.
To put it simply; with strong personalities, tone, and well-developed characterisation, this book definitely is a great read for those who are interested in the thriller and mystery genres. This is a captivating and detailed read with a plot-twist that legitimately does take you off-guard. The book is structured in a refreshing style of monologue and the characters that are showcased feel three dimensional and specifically crafted to their individual storylines. Whilst there were issues that I had with the traits of the protagonist himself, this speaks for the character, not the author, and the author’s talent of being able to write a novel with a refreshing take on the genre is apparent. ...more
The novel introduces the protagonist Roza – a girl with a troubled past after being let down by the continuously failing public school system. She tells her story as she has to flee the US to go back to her mother’s home of Poland after a school protest ends in tragedy. Trying to figure out her life and find her footing in a foreign country, readers are able to explore the harsh realities and struggles that Roza faces. Her journey is one of both self-discovery and personal development as it looks at her experience of coming to terms with her own identity.
As soon as the book starts, there’s a very evident and dynamic tone that’s been created through the narration. The book is completely descriptive straight away and apparent imagery is created from the get-go. Not only does this demand the audience’s attention, but it does well to maintain the intrigue of the story even though the details of the main plot and the main character haven’t quite been revealed. Due to this, the reader is easily able to get a very clear idea of the personality of the main character, which works to make the book all the more immersive as the development and creation doesn’t feel two dimensional. The beliefs of the main character are made obvious and the atmosphere of the novel is definitely very well-written from the start of the book itself. Because such a bold and somewhat different tone of voice has been created by the main character, the monologue and the way that the book has been written works to be very intriguing. It prompts you to want to continue reading and explore the story to a larger extent as there are details about the character that have yet to be uncovered and explored by the audience and by the story that is set to unravel. Likewise, the way that the protagonist of the story addresses the reader is highly captivating and it makes the audience members feel involved in the story that’s being told, instead of just reading about the happenings within the character’s life. I really enjoyed just how captivating the tone of voice really was and it grabbed my attention so easily that it made the book a pleasure to read overall.
Similarly to the bold tone of voice that’s created for and by the character of the story, the book itself isn’t scared to be political and it faces real-world issues face on. It speaks on issues that a lot of us like to brush off and put to one side, which is nice to see as it does ‘sugar coat’ things in that sense. It’s not scared to be unapologetic and make it’s own voice known, and the main character is absolutely apparent in her beliefs which makes her all the stronger and more memorable. She’s not somebody who’s going to back down any time soon and, despite going through her own issues, she perseveres and faces so many life problems that many of us are familiar with in one aspect or another.
That being said, the book itself and the storyline that is showcased is definitely relatable as well. This is especially the case if you’re a young adult who is trying to find your own place and worth within the world. Many of us face the issues of coming to grips with exactly who we are and, with the world looking like it does at the moment and the issues that are occurring throughout the globe, sometimes we get lost in the idea that our futures are going to be bleak no matter what. I think, in general, a lot of young people will have quite a bit of anger towards the world and towards their current situations, even if the issues seem small in comparison to other events. Therefore, the anger and the emotions that the main character experiences are definitely ones that the audience members are going to be able to interpret and understand in one way or another for themselves. We go through stages of our lives without knowing who the hell we are and sometimes we don’t know whether we should even bother trying.
One of the elements of the book that I was able to relate is the whole subplot of the character’s family being somewhat ‘expats’. Her mother moved to New York from England, and that’s an aspect of the story that is rather referenced quite a lot. I’m an expat, so I do understand that sense of getting angry at your parents from somewhat upping and leaving and uprooting your family. It does leave you in a sense of turmoil as you don’t know whether you should be trying to fit in, or whether you should be true to how you were raised. Even though this isn’t one of the main focuses of the book and you absolutely don’t need to have the familiarity of being an expat to understand and enjoy the narrative, it is still an element of the novel that stood out to me on a personal level.
Another point that I liked was the fact that the book also isn’t hesitant in making use of good representation of characters that work to overcome issues in their lives. The story looks at how certain characters have worked to overcome adversity and how they’ve come to make their own lives work for them, despite the problems and hurdles that they may face overall. Again, this is something that I want to be able to say that I somewhat relate to, once again linking back into the whole ‘expat family’ subplot, but, in general, it’s also great representation. Not only does it show the readers that you can overcome even the darkest of situations, but it gives the character motivation and pushes the story onwards.
The ending did actually take me off guard, and that’s not something that I was all expecting. I really was rooting for the main character to get back to her life in the States and to actually make a name for herself, but, of course, that would’ve been way too easy and way too convenient for an ending. I definitely think that the book did an excellent job of developing the narrative in a way that does allude to the ending and does provide quite a bit of prior foreshadowing, though the reader doesn’t actually pick up on these elements of the plot until the ending comes to a close overall. I think that definitely works to make the book a lot more intriguing and captivates the reader’s attention right to the very end. I was somewhat kicking myself for not making the connection earlier and not picking up on the subtleties that hinted towards how the ending did, in fact, close off the book, but that made it all the more interesting and enjoyable to read.
To put it simply; I don’t think I’m wrong in saying that this is a bold portrayal of an #ownvoices book. It’s not afraid to be political, blunt, and tell it like it is, but it also showcases the struggles that young people face. It’s very relatable in the sense that, in a world that currently is how it is, a lot of people are going to be angry and the emotions of the main character are completely understandable. Not only does the book make good use of representation, overcoming adversity, and the issues that people face when trying to come to terms with their own identity, but it also makes the audience stop and really think about the state of the planet. The author does a great job of writing in a way that generates a specific character tone and she knows how to use her talent to grab the attention of any type of reader....more