mental health

Review: Countless by Karen Gregory

Countless
Countless by Karen Gregory

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**Disclaimer: Copy received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review**

I’ve been excited for this book for a while, and thank you goes to the publisher, Bloomsbury (Hooked on Books) for sending me a proof copy!

Hedda is struggling with anorexia, and then she discovers she is pregnant. She’s scared and in the grips of an eating disorder, who she calls Nia. Hedda suddenly has some difficult decisions to make.

This isn’t an easy read, and might be triggering for some readers. This is an account of an eating disorder from inside the mind of Hedda, and I believe this is an OwnVoices novel in regards to anorexia. We see flashbacks to when Hedda was in hospital with her eating disorder, and Hedda talks to her friends who are still in the grips of eating disorders themselves.

I liked how this book was raw and didn’t have any easy, fairytale solutions. This was a really unique book, with an interesting living situation and backstory, and I liked the structure of the story. We see grotty flats and dysfunctional families, a love interest who isn’t some fairytale prince come to sweep Hedda off her feet. Hedda has to face her problems head on throughout the book, which I really liked.

This book took me two days to read – it was complelling as it was a welcome addition to the UK YA landscape.
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annalsie

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Spoiler-Free Review: …And a Happy New Year? by Holly Bourne

...And a Happy New Year?
…And a Happy New Year? by Holly Bourne

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’ll hopefully write up about YA Shot in another post, but something really cool happened yesterday which was (kinda) unrelated…

I got my hands on a copy of …And A Happy New Year?, the Spinster Club novella by Holly Bourne. And I’m quoted in the back! And I got it signed!

Any of you loyal readers/twitter followers will probably know I’m a huge fan of these books. The Spinster Club Trilogy follows three girls (Evie, Amber and Lottie) on their separate journeys and experiences with feminism, mental health, and friendship. These books are hugely powerful with their introduction to these issues, and they’re so funny and relatable. These girls feel so real – they’re far from perfect, they struggle with their feminism and how they think they should feel or act, and it’s been so great to get to know these girls and their stories.

…And A Happy New Year? is the first time we have all three girls speaking in one book. Holly cleverly weaves a story where the girls react to each other in a realistic way, and their friendship in this book is far from perfect. This book is a little sad at times, because the reality is, their lives, and their friendship, is far from how they imagined.

I loved this as a story of the (often difficult) transition from sixth form to university, and how easy it is to drift away from old friends. I particularly enjoyed Lottie’s arc, and I think it’s important to show that things often turn out the way you don’t expect. Not to spoil anything, but Lottie is having a tough time with her new housemates, and I’ve personally experienced this – I think the risk is often higher in your first year of university when you’re living with complete strangers, but living with friends at university in my later years there was surprisingly tough. I also loved how the girls were all doing their own thing, and not all going to a top university.

This is the perfect book for Christmas, and the cover is incredibly beautiful – it’s a gorgeous hardback with a gold spine (and the book inside is blue!).

If you haven’t read the Spinster Club Series, get on it! I can’t wait for Holly Bourne’s next book (out 2017!) My reviews for the first two books are here – Am I Normal Yet? and How Hard Can Love Be?.
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annalsie

Review: Under Rose-Tainted Skies by Louise Gornall

Under Rose-Tainted Skies by Louise Gornall

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Under Rose-Tainted Skies has to be my favourite debut of the year so far – and it will definitely feature on my Top Books of 2016!

I was lucky enough to win a copy of the US ARC from Louise herself – so many thanks to Louise both for writing this book and for sending me a copy!

Under Rose-Tainted Skies is an #OwnVoices novel about agoraphobia and OCD. Norah suffers from extreme anxiety which means she can’t leave the house, and this is her story as she deals with what life throws at her – namely her mum gets involved in an accident, and when a boy moves in next door who takes an interest in her.

What I loved so much about this book (and it was something I was genuinely worried about) was that Norah’s mental illness doesn’t magically go away when confronted by a hot boy. Her behaviour is still frustrating and self-destructive, she doesn’t magically improve because she has a crush on the boy next door, and this was so refreshing and felt realistic. The entire book felt real to me as it is an OwnVoices book, and this really is something special that should be on your TBR list.

Norah’s agoraphobia is all-consuming, and this really shows throughout the book. There isn’t a single scene where Norah’s mental illness doesn’t play a role, and this really is an unflinching and realistic depiction of living with agoraphobia and OCD. I particularly enjoyed how Norah’s mental health affects all of her relationships – especially with her mum. I honestly believe YA needs more parental figures who have actual wants and hopes and dreams and personality, and Norah’s mum is definitely one of those characters. There were a lot of interesting family dynamics in this book, which I enjoyed a lot.

On to the love interest – Luke is a really interesting (and attractive) character, who really seeks to care for and understand Norah, and, best of all, he’s human. He gets frustrated with Norah and her behaviour, which is understandable and realistic, and that’s what made him a great love interest – he really was human.

If I haven’t persuaded enough to drop everything and buy this book now, Louise’s writing is drop dead gorgeous. Like seriously, this book is so beautifully written, it gave me The Wrath and the Dawn vibes (and that book is seriously good too!).

Also, the cover is gorgeous. The UK edition comes in three shades of pink which are all seriously gorgeous. Go buy them!

Under Rose-Tainted Skies is a beautifully raw #OwnVoices depiction of agoraphobia and OCD, and my favourite debut of the year so far. Not one to miss!

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Also Louise will be at YALC this year!

annalsie

Review: Beautiful Broken Things by Sara Barnard

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Beautiful Broken Things by Sara Barnard

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I was brave
She was reckless
We were trouble

Best friends Caddy and Rosie are inseparable. Their differences have brought them closer, but as she turns sixteen Caddy begins to wish she could be a bit more like Rosie – confident, funny and interesting. Then Suzanne comes into their lives: beautiful, damaged, exciting and mysterious, and things get a whole lot more complicated. As Suzanne’s past is revealed and her present begins to unravel, Caddy begins to see how much fun a little trouble can be. But the course of both friendship and recovery is rougher than either girl realises, and Caddy is about to learn that downward spirals have a momentum of their own.

A huge thank you to Bea Cross and Macmillan’s Children’s Books/MyKindaBook for the copy of this book!

First things first, the cover is GORGEOUS – it can be hard to tell from the internet, but the cover is a beautiful dark teal, with gold and rose-gold detailing.

Beautiful Broken Things is the story of Caddy (Cadnam), a teenage girl who feels like nothing interesting every happens to her – and desperately wants to be interesting. She’s been best friends with Rosie for years – despite Caddy going to the local private school, and Rosie attending state school. They spend hours on the phone each night, and are virtually inseparable. Then Rosie meets Suzanne at school, and Rosie and Caddy’s friendship starts to change – and Suzanne’s secrets start to be revealed.

I’ve long said that friendships are often neglected in YA – the classic Mary Sue who meets the boy of their dreams at the tender age of 15 and quickly eliminate all other aspects of their lives is a character most of us have probably met more than once. When discussing whether YA is an accurate and realistic reflection of real life, the lack of meaningful friendships is a topic that often comes up. The vast majority of teenagers do not, in fact, meet the love of their life at 15 (who often just so happens to be a vampire/zombie/werewolf). They do, however, usually have at least one friend, whoever that might be. This is a book that focuses on female friendship, and the drama and jealousy that often occurs between teenage girls (and probably teenage boys, for that matter)

It’s not just the topic of female friendship which features in Beautiful Broken Things, the book also features mental health issues and abuse. These topics are becoming more featured in YA, but we still have a long way to go, and BBT treats these issues with care.

One thing I loved is the lack of romance. It seems, nowadays, that a book isn’t complete without an earth-shattering romance, when, realistically, a lot of teenagers (including myself) don’t come face-to-face with one – but complicated friendships are much more common. I’d like to see more books stand without a romance, especially when a romance feels forced or unnecessary. Less romance, please! (If you’re looking for another romance-less YA novel, Radio Silence by Alice Oseman is a great read)

Overall, Beautiful Broken Things is a pioneering, realistic, relatable tale of female friendship, and I can’t wait to read Sara Barnard’s future novels.

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Have you read Beautiful Broken Things? What did you think? Comment below or tweet me at @annalisebooks!

Annalise x

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 🙂