anxiety

Review: Mind Your Head by Juno Dawson

 

Mind Your Head is the kind of book which makes me want to invent time-travel just so I could go back and hand out copies to 14-year-old me and friends. It’s the kind of book I’m recommending to all of my friends now, even though I’m older than the target audience. And it’s the kind of book which may even save a life.

After some wonderful Twitter chats concerning Disability (#SundayYA) and Mental Health (#UKYAChat), I wished I could read a book which would guide me through the different terms and types of mental illness. Weirdly enough, I realised I already knew of one – Mind Your Head by Juno Dawson. After nipping down to my local bookshop, I devoured the book in one night – and felt more educated as a consequence.

Mind Your Head is a book I think teenagers have been crying out for. It’s non-fiction, written in a friendly and funny way, with fun illustrations and personal anecdotes throughout. It reminded me of a Horrible Science book (which I loved when I was younger) – it’s fun, informative, and you forget that you’re actually learning.

We all have mental health – you really don’t need to be diagnosed with a disorder to read this book.

When I was a teenager, I didn’t think much at all about mental health. I knew of a few girls who suffered from panic attacks in lessons, but I didn’t understand anything about them. As with all teenage girls, I was very conscious about my weight, and I did get bullied a bit. I also read a lot, watched a lot of TV – which I think helped as I navigated through exams, exams, more exams and an incredible amount of friendship drama. I probably wouldn’t have though I needed this book – but there’s something for everyone. Everyone’s bullied or been bullied (often both). Everyone’s felt sad or anxious or nervous. Everyone’s experienced some kind of emotion.

When I got to university (still a teenager, but an older one), mental health became a much bigger deal. It wouldn’t be an overstatement to say all of my best friends have mental health issues of some flavour – I have close friends battling depression, anxiety, panic attacks, self-harm… you name it, I know someone who has experience with it. Reading this book helped with understanding my friends (some of whom do not like to discuss their issues) and my own mental health. Did my friends problems start at 18? Some of them did, but most of them came to university with years of mental health issues under their belts. It wasn’t that my friends when I was at school didn’t have mental health problems, it was more that it wasn’t talked about.

Books like Mind Your Head make mental health easier to talk about. It’s easier to talk about what you read in a book than open up about your own feelings sometimes.

  • Highlights for me:
    Mentioning that the first doctor you see might not be the right one for you – in my experience, this applies to all health problems. You’ll be much more likely to get healthier (both mentally and physically) if you can get on with your doctor and get the help you need.
  • Support – it’s acknowledged that support comes from different places. It doesn’t have to be from a doctor or therapist, it can be as simple as talking to friends and family or reading.
  • There’s a really great section on academic success. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that at a top university (such as my own), mental illness is of epidemic proportions – and academic success is a huge source of stress for teenagers (and students of all ages).

TL;DR: This book is bloody brilliant, and I want to walk around handing out free copies (but unfortunately I probably can’t afford to do that).

Annalise x

P.S. I would love to see a similar book discussing things that affect teenage girls in more detail – periods, pregnancy, masturbation (I spent most of my teenage years convinced I had miraculously conceived) – and when to go to the doctor. Being taught about idealised biology (as an example, I was taught that every woman has a 28 day cycle – and I didn’t, so that was a source of stress and worry) can do some harm as well as good. What this books really excels in is being honest and talking about what is normal and what isn’t, and I think this would apply really well to other topics.

Have you read this book? What did you think? Comment below or tweet me at @AnnaliseBooks 🙂

Review: Am I Normal Yet? by Holly Bourne

Am I Normal Yet?
Am I Normal Yet? by Holly Bourne
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Before I start, I just want to point out that this is my first 5-star review, and for that reason, you should definitely go out and buy this book, RIGHT NOW. I’m serious.

I admit that I probably wouldn’t have bought this book if it hadn’t been free on iBooks. Am I Normal Yet? was a book I heard a lot of praise for at YALC back in July, but I didn’t look too much into what the book was about, and I didn’t think it was for me. I was wrong.

Am I Normal Yet? is the story of Evie, a 16-year-old who is starting sixth form after three years of battling severe OCD and anxiety. After being the weird girl at her old school, she’s looking forward to making new friends, and she’s slowly but surely coming off her meds – trying to become ‘normal’ again. Despite her therapist’s advice, she’s also interested in boys – and one boy in particular.

The characters are well-developed and interesting, and they all feel like people you know – the girl obsessed with her first boyfriend, the sex-obsessed teenage boy… this book is a genuinely great UKYA novel. I’ve not read too many books concerning sixth form/FE colleges which is a shame, because they’re an ideal setting – lots of new characters and character development, but still in the mindset of a teenager (and a solidly YA environment).

I especially loved that the characters are flawed – there is no ‘dream hottie’ but there is sexual tension and obsession. This book is a great reflection of teenage life, rather than some soppy sixteen-year-old who drops everything for an eternity with their 117-year-old vampire lover.

The layout of the novel is also good – there are therapist pages dotted throughout the novel, and Evie’s ‘bad thoughts’ are highlighted. The layout really adds to the feel of the novel.

In the Q&A at the back of the book, Holly Bourne writes that she was inspired by the Georgia Nicholson novels – which are the books that I was reminded of throughout this book. It’s funny, yet tackling some serious issues. As well as being an insight into living with OCD, the book has a great feminist theme (in fact, the characters form a feminist club) and is informative, as well as fun to read. It’s refreshing to read a novel which discusses what it’s really like to be a teenage girl – menstruation, dickhead boyfriends, the whole bundle.

I read this thinking it would be a stand-alone novel, but, thankfully, it is actually the first of a series. The series will be called ‘The Spinster Club’, and the second novel, How Hard Can Love Be? will focus on Amber, with the third book focussing on Lottie. The next book is out February 2016 (and I will be pre-ordering!).

To summarise, this book is fantastic. It’s original, funny and realistic. It’s also incredibly cheap (it’s 59p on Kindle) so please please please go and read it.

View all my reviews

How did you find the novel? Comment below or tweet me at @annalisebooks 🙂

Annalise x