Showing posts with label anxiety. Show all posts
Showing posts with label anxiety. Show all posts

Friday, March 17, 2017

[Review] Optimists Die First - Susin Nielsen: Anxiety and Amputees

In OPTIMISTS DIE FIRST, Petula meets and falls in love with a disabled boy whom she meets in therapy.

What intrigued me: I always enjoy reading about neurodiverse and disabled characters!

Juvenile and strange narration

Welp. OPTIMISTS DIE FIRST is a classic it's not you, it's me pick when it comes to the writing.

I really enjoyed the whimsical narration at first, but very much did struggle with the extremely juvenile writing. And with juvenile I mean that it doesn't read like YA, but like Middle Grade. I'm not a MG reader, so this was extremely exhausting for me and severely impacted my reading experience, considering that Nielsen writes in very short repetitive sentences that do not complement the story or POV in any way.

Petula is a quite interesting main character, but unfortunately the voice is absolutely unable to reflect that and just makes this read weirdly staccato-like, throwing you out of the story all the time.


Problematic Disability Rep

Beyond that, I had issues with the disability rep in this one. I neither have anxiety nor am an amputee, though I do have a disability, so take this with a grain of salt. 

Petula's anxiety is very much portrayed as this quirky thing that she can turn off and on whenever she wants, which is in itself very problematic. The problematicness gets doubled knowing that her relationship with love interest Jacob is the thing that enables her to do things she couldn't do before and basically turn off her anxiety. 

This is a "love cures all" kind of story, that I think has no business in the hands of marginalized readers or people who aren't versed in disability discourse, because it provides dangerous misinformation. This is bound to do immense harm. Beyond that, neither the story, the writing, or the characters are even remotely intriguing enough to warrant me giving this one a star more. OPTIMISTS DIE FIRST is one of those stories about anxiety that make it seem quirky and cool and capitalize on disabled characters instead of actually representing.


Rating:

☆☆☆☆

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

OPTIMISTS DIE FIRST could've been great with a fabulous premise and anxious and disabled characters, but at the end of the day very much ventures into romanticizing territory and strikes me as having pretty harmful representation. Be careful with this one.



Additional Info

Published: March 2nd 2017
Pages: 272
Publisher: Andersen
Genre: YA / Contemporary
ISBN: 9781783445073

Synopsis:
"Petula has avoided friendship and happiness ever since tragedy struck her family and took her beloved younger sister Maxine. Worse, Petula blames herself. If only she'd kept an eye on her sister, if only she'd sewn the button Maxine choked on better, if only... 
Now her anxiety is getting out of control, she is forced to attend the world’s most hopeless art therapy class. But one day, in walks the Bionic Man: a charming, amazingly tall newcomer called Jacob, who is also an amputee. Petula's ready to freeze him out, just like she did with her former best friend, but when she’s paired with Jacob for a class project, there’s no denying they have brilliant ideas together – ideas like remaking Wuthering Heights with cats.
But Petula and Jacob each have desperately painful secrets in their pasts – and when the truth comes out, there’s no way Petula is ready for it."
(Source: Goodreads)



Have you read books with great disability rep?

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Monday, February 13, 2017

The Difference Between Romanticized Mental Illness and Romance with Mental Illness | YA Talk



Today I've brought Leah from While Reading and Walking on the blog to talk a bit about mental illness romanticization. Enjoy!

As writers, readers, and reviewers, there is a lot of responsibility on our shoulders when it comes to the representation of mental illness. 

Bad representations of mental illness can do real damage. Teens especially in the midst of anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, and more, can be influenced by what they read in books that they believe are faithful representations of what mental illness looks like—and what healing can look like.

I’ll be talking specifically about the relationship between mental illness and romance in fiction. romanticizing mental illness can mean a lot of things. Here, I’m talking about the common trope where someone has a mental illness and then falls in love. 

I am a novelist and book blogger who has depression and anxiety. There is obviously a range of experiences when it comes to these issues, and there are many more forms of mental illness that I can’t personally speak to. I am a cis white woman who has a privileged life in many respects, and others who do not have those privileges might have a different experience.

The Example

You have a character. Let’s call her Leia. She has anxiety and is susceptible to panic attacks. She often obsesses all day about small things. Her anxiety can arise from real-life issues or from nothing at all. 

She meets a girl. That girl is cute and funny and makes her laugh. What next?

  • The Right Path:
There is a lot of truth to the idea that anxiety and depression are easier to get through when you have someone by your side who will make a conscious effort to support you, listen to you, and understand what you’re going through. 

If every time you have a panic attack, there is someone on the end of the phone who is ready at all times to talk to you and talk you through that attack, then anxiety becomes just that little bit less scary to face. The world gets a little more secure when you have someone you can depend on, who can ground you and remind you that they aren’t going anywhere. That's absolutely okay to reflect in your writing.

  • The Wrong Path:
The problem is that many novels seem to imply that mental illness can be fixed and healed by being in love. That if Leia just finds this girl, her anxiety will melt away and never come back. She’ll never have another panic attack. These YA novels make it sound like love makes everything sunshine and rainbows, and mental illness flees from relationships like opposite ends of a magnet.

But having someone in your life you love doesn’t mean that your mental illness goes away. Saying it does implies that anxiety and depression are not real illnesses. But they are. Mental illness is physical, and chemical, and while it can be triggered by things in the outside world—for example, the death of a loved one or a break-up can lead to depression if you’re susceptible—it’s still a genuine illness. This is the same reason why Leia could be the sunshine optimism of her friend group, have an amazing job, pets, supportive family, and a new beautiful girlfriend and still have panic attacks. 

The Impact

When a person with mental illness reads a novel that implies that their conditions would melt away if only they had someone who loved them, it can have serious implications on their psyche and emotions. 


They can think, 'I have a boyfriend. I'm in love. Am I not in love? Or is something just wrong me?' or they can get into a headset where they believe that chasing love is the only way they'll ever get better. Teaching young people that the right way to heal is to fall in love and then things will get better ignores the real causes of mental illness, and can make people think that things won’t get better after all. 

Like I said: A person who makes you laugh can help to make a day with depression less awful. A person who grounds you can remind you that you have a handle on things in the midst of your panic attack. A person who makes you laugh might be able to get you out of the house on a day when you can’t leave your bed. 

  • But having Leia fall in love and then her panic attacks never return sends the message that loneliness is what causes mental illness. 
  • It implies that you need a savior to get better, and that you have no control over your own healing. 
  • It implies that mental illness is a neatly solved problem if you would just fall in love.

So what do I do? 

Write well.
Call out novels that clearly romanticize mental illness.
Be reasonable, but be vigilant too.

A romance in which the character has mental illness is not “romanticizing mental illness,” but it is a huge problem in the book community where we conflate the classical tale of being lost and completing your life with the addition of another person who balances you (classic love story) with the idea that a mental illness can be 100% healed if you would just find your soulmate.



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Sunday, December 11, 2016

[Review] Timekeeper (#1) - Tara Sim: Steampunk and Time-Controlling Clocks | #ReadIndie

In TIMEKEEPER, time is controlled by clock towers in an alternate Victorian Era. When the clock towers start getting bombed, mechanic Danny grows curious.

What intrigued me: I heard about a bisexual character in this and immediately needed to get my hands on a copy.

Incredibly Original

TIMEKEEPER impressed me instantly with the rich world building. The second you open this book, you're sucked into the story, a Victorian-Era-inspired Steampunk world controlled by clocks. It sounds strange but works so well and is so delightfully refreshing and new. I've never read anything like this before.

As a Steampunk skeptic I was hesitant about picking this up, but Sim managed to convert me fully. TIMEKEEPER is absolutely not only a novel for fans of the genre, but also for people who'd like to try something different.

Lack of Urgency

The world building is the biggest strength but also the biggest weakness of TIMEKEEPER. A good chunk of the novel is spent feeding background information and letting protagonist Danny walk around to get a good look at everything that it has to offer. This leads to the premise quite quickly growing a little bit wonky. 
The idea with the clock towers getting attacked isn't necessarily the focus of it all and it did bother me because I felt like the story was deriving from its intended path a lot, in order to give the characters more screen time or to info dump. It just feels like urgency of the story just isn't addressed enough and that there isn't any real danger, else the characters would probably proceed more quickly or in the least with more caution.

The lack of urgency is probably due to the story's other plot line, mechanic Danny following in love with a physical manifestation of a clock tower he's repairing. It sounds strange and reads a little strange, too, it reminded me a little of those people who fall in love with inanimate objects. The concept is interesting, but I just didn't grow fond of it at all. Which is probably also due to the quite flat love interest whose only attribute is that he is incredibly lovely and adorable.



Rating:

★★★½

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

TIMEKEEPER is a cute little story for steampunk-enthusiasts and those who like their romance fluffy and superficial. It stuns with fantastically diverse characters in leading roles (PTSD, bisexual, gay, POC) and a very innovative world.

What's #ReadIndie?



Additional Info

Published: November 1st 2016
Pages: 368
Publisher: Sky Pony Press
Genre: YA / Historical
ISBN: 9781510706187

Synopsis:
"Two o’clock was missing. 

In an alternate Victorian world controlled by clock towers, a damaged clock can fracture time—and a destroyed one can stop it completely.

It’s a truth that seventeen-year-old clock mechanic Danny Hart knows all too well; his father has been trapped in a Stopped town east of London for three years. Though Danny is a prodigy who can repair not only clockwork, but the very fabric of time, his fixation with staging a rescue is quickly becoming a concern to his superiors.

And so they assign him to Enfield, a town where the tower seems to be forever plagued with problems. Danny’s new apprentice both annoys and intrigues him, and though the boy is eager to work, he maintains a secretive distance. Danny soon discovers why: he is the tower’s clock spirit, a mythical being that oversees Enfield’s time. Though the boys are drawn together by their loneliness, Danny knows falling in love with a clock spirit is forbidden, and means risking everything he’s fought to achieve.

But when a series of bombings at nearby towers threaten to Stop more cities, Danny must race to prevent Enfield from becoming the next target or he’ll not only lose his father, but the boy he loves, forever."(Source: Goodreads)


Do you like steampunk?

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Sunday, November 13, 2016

[Review] Furiously Happy - Jenny Lawson: Mental Illness and Life-Affirmation

In FURIOUSLY HAPPY, Jenny Lawson tells anecdotes of her life. In the center of it all stands her life motto of being furiously, aggressively happy no matter what life throws at you.

What intrigued me: Felt like reading some Non-Fiction.

Loud and Eccentric

FURIOUSLY HAPPY is such a loud book that you're probably in danger of going deaf when reading it. It's quirky, eccentric and voice-y and definitely a book that will catch your attention and stay in your memory for quite a whilte. Lawson's narrative voice is sometimes off-trail, mostly shouting, and absolutely unique. And it's just too much for me personally.

It reads like some sort of strange diary without any sense of structure of coherence. Even after reading it I still don't know what this book is about, really.

You have to be in the mood for this type of writing, a type of train-of-thought esque narration.

Offensive humor?

The message of the book and the only thing that sort-of connects the very random chapters to each other is that they're all a mixture of anecdoctes that showcase the author's "crazy" (her words, not mine) behavior because of the multitude of mental illnesses she lives with. And I just don't like that. 

I can't get behind these self-degrading characterizations and as someone who has had experience with mental illness it actually quite offends me. I get that it's a memoir, at no point Lawson ever tries to make judgements about other people who live with mental illness. But at the end of the day it just rubs me the wrong way when she describes the way she reacts to anxiety-inducing situations as overreacting and ridiculous and calls herself insane.

That's just the humor of this book, this is all that FURIOUSLY HAPPY is about - making fun of your own illness to make peace with it. This isn't a negative thing, it's just soemthing that you have to get, that you have to understand and agree with. I don't. I didn't find FURIOUSLY HAPPY life-affirming in any way. I found it disregarding and quite ignorant, which again, is just my personal takeaway and not the author's fault or in any way an objective judgement of the book. You have to see for yourself if that type of humor resonates with you. 


Rating:

☆☆

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

FURIOUSLY HAPPY isn't my kind of book. Random chapters, train-of-thought narration, belittling mental illness - it's not my thing. It felt quite pointless and absolutely not funny to me.



Additional Info

Published: 17th October 2016
Pages: 320
Publisher: Kailash
Genre: Adult / Non-Fiction / Biographies & Memoirs
ISBN: 978-3-424-63130-2

Synopsis:
"In LET'S PRETEND THIS NEVER HAPPENED, Jenny Lawson baffled readers with stories about growing up the daughter of a taxidermist. In her new book, FURIOUSLY HAPPY, Jenny explores her lifelong battle with mental illness. A hysterical, ridiculous book about crippling depression and anxiety? That sounds like a terrible idea. And terrible ideas are what Jenny does best.

According to Jenny: "Some people might think that being 'furiously happy' is just an excuse to be stupid and irresponsible and invite a herd of kangaroos over to your house without telling your husband first because you suspect he would say no since he's never particularly liked kangaroos. And that would be ridiculous because no one would invite a herd of kangaroos into their house. Two is the limit. I speak from personal experience. My husband says that none is the new limit. I say he should have been clearer about that before I rented all those kangaroos."

"Most of my favorite people are dangerously fucked-up but you'd never guess because we've learned to bare it so honestly that it becomes the new normal. Like John Hughes wrote in The Breakfast Club, 'We're all pretty bizarre. Some of us are just better at hiding it.' Except go back and cross out the word 'hiding.'""(Source: Goodreads)


What's your favorite Non-Fiction read?

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Monday, July 25, 2016

Recommendation: Nice Girls Endure - Chris Struyk-Bonn: Fat Rep, Anxiety, and Body Positivity


In NICE GIRLS ENDURE, everyone is telling Chelsea to start losing weight. When vicious bullies get violent, Chelsea has to make a choice: Endure or stand up to them.

What intrigued me: Beautiful cover and also fat representation, I love body positive books.

Lovely Characters

NICE GIRLS ENDURE is a very quiet, yet fascinating read. The writing and voice suck you in immediately and I was absolutely invested. I almost finished this in one sitting. 

Protagonist Chelsea is an incredibly lovable sweetheart that you can't help but fall a little in love with while reading. Her struggles are heartbreaking to read, but all the much more worth reading, because these things do happen in real life. It's such an important book that I will keep on recommending to people.

I suffered with Chelsea, I smiled about the friendship with the dorky and eccentric Melody, who wears strange homemade costumes and loves Chelsea so much. Their relationship is the heart of this book. I just wish I could be friends with her in real life. 

In general, Struyk-Bonn writes such fantastic character relationships. This is in my opinion the biggest strength of this fantastic book - the fact that her characters do seem extremely realistic and more importantly lovable. Chelsea's father, who always supports her is this fantastic role model, he's fat like her and absolutely unbothered by it and always tries to cheer her up. My heart aches just thinking about their wonderful loving relationship because it's such a moving highlight whenever they interact. 

Heartbreaking and Empowering

Because NICE GIRLS ENDURE is about fat representation and body positivity it also tackles difficult topics like abuse and bullying. Chelsea is never really uncomfortable in her body, there is this really great quote that I'll just paraphrase quickly. "She wasn't bothered by her weight, but by how much it bothered other people." 

This is essentially what you'll find in this book. A really strong protagonist that struggles with how much other people butt in on what she does with her body. It's heartbreaking. There is one pretty graphic scene (during the school dance) that I recommend you skip if you're triggered by rape scenarios and physical abuse. 

NICE GIRLS ENDURE doesn't kid around. It shows how ugly people can be on the inside. It's an incredibly powerful and empowering story that I love dearly and will keep on thinking about for weeks to come. An absolutely clear recommendation. 




Rating:

★★★★½

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

Yes. You need this book in your life. Read it.



Additional Info

Published: August 1st 2016
Pages: 256
Publisher: Switch Press
Genre: YA / Contemporary
ISBN: 9781630790455

Synopsis:
"Chelsea Duvay is so many things. 

She's an avid musical lover, she's a gifted singer, and she has the most perfect, beautiful feet. But no one ever notices that. All they notice is Chelsea s weight. Daily, Chelsea endures endless comments about her appearance from well-meaning adults and cruel classmates. So she keeps to herself and just tries to make it through. 

Don't make waves. Don't draw attention. That's how life is for Chelsea until a special class project pushes the energetic and incessantly social Melody into Chelsea's world. As their unlikely friendship grows, Chelsea emerges from her isolated existence, and she begins to find the confidence to enjoy life. 

But bullies are bullies, and they remain as vicious as ever. One terrible encounter threatens to destroy everything Chelsea has worked so hard to achieve. Readers will be captivated by Chelsea s journey as she discovers the courage to declare her own beauty and self-worth, no matter what others might think."(Source: Goodreads)


Can you recommend some body positive reads?

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