Detached by Christina Kilbourne Review

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Synopsis

Anna has always been so level-headed, so easy-going, so talented and funny. How could anyone have guessed she wanted to die?

Anna is not like other people. For one thing, she’s been an accomplished artist since she was a preschooler. For another, she’s always felt like she didn’t belong: not with other kids, not with her family, not in her body. It isn’t until her grandparents are killed in a tragic accident, however, that Anna starts to feel untethered. She begins to wonder what it would be like if she didn’t exist and the thought of escaping the aimless drifting is the only thing that brings her comfort.

When Anna overdoses on prescription pain killers the doctors realize she has been suffering from depression and start looking for a way to help her out of the desperate black hole she never thought she would escape. It’s then that rock bottom comes into sight and the journey back to normal begins.

Review

I want to begin this review by first recognizing the author’s dedication to writing a book of hope rather than writing for the purpose of glamorizing mental illness. While I believe that there can be tremendous value and inspiration found in the pages of books about mental illness, I also believe that if authors are not careful, their work can do more harm than good. Christina Kilbourne not only recognizes this fact, but she does a wonderful job of harnessing the power of written words in a way that inspires the reader to seek help or empathize with the character rather than triggering copycat behavior.

While I was in the initial stages of researching this book, I came across a quote from the author which states, “I wanted a story that would be sensitive, but not suggestive. I wanted a story that would appeal to teens, yet not scare off parents, teachers or librarians. I wanted a story that would show the despair suicide brings to family and friends without being preachy […] I wanted to write a book about suicide that would bring hope, understanding and perhaps a measure of comfort to anyone who might be reading and want to end their life. At the same time, I wanted those who had lost a loved one to suicide to realize it wasn’t their fault”.

My reader’s note to the author (if she ever happens to read this…) is that Detached absolutely 100% without a doubt achieves each and every one of these goals. I did not find the book to be the least bit suggestive or preachy and as a mid-twenties reader I could definitely see myself referring Detached to teenagers and older adults alike. The story is written with such finesse and the reader truly gets to experience an inside look at depression, suicide, and the debilitating reality of mental health conditions. If you are someone who has personally experienced depression, suicidal ideation, or suicidal behaviors, you might just find yourself feeling incredibly understood  and inspired by the pages of Detached. Alternatively, if you are someone who has not personally struggled but has a loved one who does, you might begin to better understand what your loved one is feeling by reading Kilbourne’s novel.

Detached is both deeply saddening and yet somehow powerfully inspiring. I felt such a strong connection to the main character, Anna, due to my own experiences with mental illness and I can honestly say that Kilbourne did an excellent job of depicting Anna’s struggles realistically rather than glamorizing it for a more dramatic storyline. But don’t let that statement convince you that the story is not dramatic; on the contrary, I found Detached to be an entirely gripping novel to read. I could NOT put this book down! In fact, when my alarm woke me up at 9am the morning after I finished Detached I mentally scolded myself for staying up until 3am reading, but it was definitely well worth staying up to finish!

One unique element to this book which I have not previously found in any young adult fiction about mental illness is the inclusion of an adult point of view. The story is told from the rotating perspectives of Anna, her best friend, and her mother. This aspect of the book is both intriguing and functional because it allows the reader to approach the story from their own perspective whether they are the person who is struggling or the person who is looking in trying to help. In my opinion, this element of the novel makes it more appealing to a wider audience because adults might actually find it easier to relate to the story from the adult perspective. Of course, this is just a theory as I am not a parent nor an “adult” (I refuse to embrace that title until I’m at least 25) but I might test this theory by referring the book to a few of the more “adultier” adults in my life to see what they think!

On another note, I also wanted to take a moment to appreciate the applicability of the title of Detached. When I think of my own experiences with depression, the first thing that comes to mind is the overwhelming feeling of being detached and isolated from the world around me. While no two people will experience mental illness in the same way, I know many people who have expressed a similar feeling of detachment from both themselves and those around them. I can think of absolutely no better word to describe Anna’s story in this novel and if I’m being completely honest, it was the title which initially drew me to this book and inspired my decision to contact the publisher for an advanced reader copy. So in this respect, I suppose you might say that I began empathizing with this book before I even turned the first page.

Overall, Detached is an incredibly remarkable story about grief, suicide, substance abuse, and learning to rebuild a shattered life. Upon further reflection I realized that this book is reminiscent of one of my favorite quotes by J. K. Rowling which states, “rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life”.  This quote has been something of a mantra that I have adopted into my own life when I am struggling and I found myself relating to Detached in the same way that I relate to the quote. The story allowed me to feel as though my struggles are valid while still recognizing the fact that it is possible to overcome even the darkest of depressive episodes.

I honestly believe that this story has the potential to save lives. If you or someone you know is struggling, perhaps you might consider reading this novel. It might just help you shine a light on all the darkness in your life.

Lastly, I would also like to point out that the Detached blog tour is perfectly timed to align with the approaching World Suicide Prevention Day which occurs on September 10, 2016. I can think of no other book which would be better suited to raising awareness about suicide so it seems especially fitting that Dundern Press has arranged for this book tour to take place in alignment with such an important day. I am so thankful for the opportunity to be part of this book tour and I would like to encourage all of my readers to not only read Detached which was recently released, but also to raise awareness and start conversations on World Suicide Prevention Day. Every voice counts in the fight to end mental health stigma!

xo
Ayla

Note: I received a complementary copy of this book from Dundurn press in exchange for an honest reader review and participation in the Detached Book Tour. The opinions expressed herein are entirely my own. 

Bookworm Bloggin’: Highly Illogical Behavior

26109391Synopsis

Sixteen-year-old Solomon is agoraphobic. He hasn’t left the house in three years, which is fine by him.
Ambitious Lisa desperately wants to get into the second-best psychology program for college (she’s being realistic). But is ambition alone enough to get her in?
Enter Lisa.
Determined to “fix” Sol, Lisa steps into his world, along with her charming boyfriend, Clark, and soon the three form an unexpected bond. But, as Lisa learns more about Sol and he and Clark grow closer and closer, the walls they’ve built around themselves start to collapse and their friendships threaten to do the same.

 

Review

I first came across Highly Illogical Behavior when I noticed it on a table at work for staff to read. Later on, I saw the book on one of our “books about mental health” feature tables and I decided to give it a shot. After reading the book over the course of two days, I can honestly say that this was one of the best decisions I have made this summer!

I absolutely adored this book! It is a strange mix of humor and serious suffering that managed to make me laugh one moment and then feel deep empathy for Sol’s experiences with agoraphobia the next. While I have not personally experienced agoraphobia, I have experienced panic disorder so I know first-hand just how debilitating panic attacks can be. So with that in mind, I think that it’s safe to say I know a thing or two about anxiety and panic attacks and in my opinion I believe that John Corey Whaley did an excellent job of accurately depicting the reality of agoraphobia and anxiety in general.

Additionally, I think this story has a lot to teach the reader about friendship and trust when it comes to developing relationships with individuals who experience mental illness. More specifically, I think Lisa and Clark’s willingness to make sacrifices and be patient with Soloman as he struggled to work through his illness is in direct opposition to the widespread stigmatization that we see in society. Therefore, I felt as though these characters served an important purpose in the book by demonstrating that people who are suffering from a mental illness can get better with the right support system and a tremendous amount of acceptance and compassion.

In short, I loved this book. I cannot praise this book enough and I will absolutely be recommending it to my friends as well as my customers at the bookstore. If you are looking for an entertaining book that also has a lot of deeper meaning then you should look no further than Highly Illogical Behavior by John Corey Whaley. What a truly amazing book.

As always, thanks for stopping by!
Ayla

Bookworm Bloggin’: Frayed by Kara Terzis

29057066Synopsis

Dear Kesley,

My therapist tells me I should write you a letter. Like flushing all my thoughts and feelings out of my system and onto paper. I tell her it’s a stupid idea.

But here I am, writing a letter to a dead girl. Where do I start? Where did our story begin? From the moment you were born…or died?

I’ll start with the moment I found out the truth about you. Your lies and my pain. Because it always begins and ends with you.
And that end began when Rafe Lawrence came back to town…

Ava Hale will do anything to find her sister’s killer…although she’ll wish she hadn’t. Because the harder Ava looks, the more secrets she uncovers about Kesley, and the more she begins to think that the girl she called sister was a liar. A sneak. A stranger.

And Kesley’s murderer could be much closer than she thought…

A debut novel from Wattpad award-winner Kara Terzis, Frayed is a psychological whodunit that will keep you guessing!

Review

Last week I received a copy of FRAYED in the mail and I was beyond excited because I was not expecting to receive a physical copy of the book from the publisher. I had originally requested a copy of Kara Terzis’ debut novel because I was looking for a good young adult suspense-filled read to spice up my summer reading list. FRAYED certainly did not disappoint in this regard. Over the past few weeks I’ve been going through a bit of a reading slump and I really needed a good page-turner to get me back into my reading challenge. Thankfully, FRAYED contained just the right combination of teenage tragedy and suspenseful mystery to grab my attention and keep me interested right up until the last page.

Overall, I really enjoyed this novel. I found the author’s writing style to be engaging and suspenseful without losing the reader in unnecessary details. Terzis did an excellent job of laying down a trail of breadcrumbs that lead the reader to a total plot twist towards the end of the book. I definitely did not see that ending coming! In fact, I had this book pegged as one with a predictable ending because I was so sure that I knew who was responsible for Kesley’s death. Evidently, I could not have been more wrong. For this, I have to commend the author. It is not often that I find a good book that keeps me guessing right up until the very end!

With all of that being said, the one criticism that I have of this book is that an extremely important detail of the plot is based on the common misconception that mental illness leads to violence. While I appreciate the fact that the book was full of suspense, I’m hesitant to wholeheartedly support something which is in direct opposition to my passion for ending the stigmatization of mental illness. While depicting psychiatric illnesses in a criminalized way might make for a thrilling story, I think it’s important to recognize that it is completely fictionalized and not based on facts at all. As a mental health advocate and social work graduate student, I have done a tremendous amount of research regarding the damaging effect of such misrepresentation in media content. Therefore, while I appreciate the fact that the author did not likely intend to perpetuate stigma, I think it is imperative that we recognize the misrepresentation of mental illness in order to prevent the propagation of a misinformed society.

Despite this downfall, I appreciate the author’s attempt to emphasize the ability of sufferers to gain control over mental health conditions as demonstrated by Margo/Ava’s improvement in the final pages of the book. So while there were certainly aspects of the book that I didn’t completely agree with, I don’t think the book was entirely misguided or misinformed when it comes to recovering from mental illness.

I could easily see this book becoming extremely successful and I will certainly be keeping an eye out for future works by Kara Terzis. The author clearly has a talent for writing and an incredible knack for storytelling. I would recommend this book to anyone looking for a young adult novel with a gripping story line. FRAYED would go great paired with a warm cup of coffee and a rainy day.

Let me know in the comments below if you have read or are planning to read FRAYED by Kara Terzis. I would love to hear your thoughts on the book!

Thanks for reading,

Ayla

Note: I received an advanced reading copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest reader review. The opinions expressed herein are my own.

“HER” by Felicia Johnson: Bookworm Bloggin’

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The most recent book that I’ve been reading (and absolutely LOVING) is HER by Felicia Johnson. 

The book follows the life of a soon-to-be eighteen year old woman named Kristen who is in a short-term psychiatric facility after attempting suicide. As you progress through the book you will learn that Kristen’s younger brother, Nicholas, was sexually abused by his father (Kristen’s step-father), Jack. Throughout the story Kristen shares feelings of grief and guilt over her inability to stop the abuse after discovering that it was happening. As a means of coping, Kristen uses self-injury in the form of cutting in order to punish herself for not protecting Nick. Her self-harm is later identified as a symptom of a larger issue when Dr. pelchat, her psychiatrist at Bent Creek,  diagnoses her with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). Essentially, the book follows Kristen’s life as she navigates the trials and tribulations of recovery and makes strides towards reclaiming her life and her happiness.

Overall, I found this book to be deeply moving, extraordinarily raw, and ground-breakingly honest about the realities of mental illness. Johnson tackles so many taboo topics from incest to self-mutilation to suicide and so much more. Kristen experiences so much pain in her short life and I found myself empathizing with so many of her experiences. As someone who has many things in common with Kristen, I felt an immense amount of compassion for her character. Alternatively, looking at Kristen’s story from the perspective of someone who has experienced none of these challenges I believe that this book could serve as a learning tool to help people understand what it is like to live through traumatic experiences and deal with the consequences of others’ destructive actions.

I believe that this book is something that everyone should read. If society was more educated about the experiences of individuals who are victims of abuse (or otherwise exposed to abuse) then I believe there would be less stigma attached to mental illnesses that are a direct result of such abuse. As someone who has experienced childhood sexual abuse, I can attest to the fact that society teaches everyone to turn a blind eye to the suffering of victims. I personally survived years of abuse and developed multiple mental health conditions as a result, one of which was self-harm. However, due to the stigma attached to my illnesses, I suffered in silence until my mental and physical health had deteriorated to a potentially life-threatening state. This never should have happened and I honestly believe that books such as HER could prevent other’s from suffering in a similar manner by raising awareness about such issues and diminishing stigma.

If I’m being completely honest, I was initially a bit hesitant to read this book for fear that it would trigger my own self-harm urges. However, I think that Johnson does an excellent job of exposing the reader to the reality of self-harm without resorting to triggering language or imagery. She describes Kristen’s emotional suffering and her addiction to self-harm in a way that I believe readers might be able to empathize with. I personally empathized with Kristen in this respect as a result of my own experiences, but I believe that even people who have never resorted to self-injury might be able to imagine what Kristen was feeling in those moments. In fact, I think that the way Johnson describes Kristen’s self-harm urges would be useful to parents, friends, and care-providers who are supporting an individual struggling with self-harm. Readers could really learn to empathize and truly understand the struggle of self-harm addiction by reading this book.

I truly believe that this book could change the way that people understand mental illness. Books such as HER are bringing us one step closer to abolishing the stigmatization of mental illness and I must commend Felicia Johnson on her absolutely wonderful novel. I would recommend this book to anyone and everyone. Seriously, go read it!

As always, thank you for reading!

xo

Ayla

Is the need for perfection self-imposed or is it caused by external forces? “Perfect” Reflection #1

About ten minutes ago I finished reading a book by Ellen Hopkins entitled “Perfect”. At the back of the book there are pages upon pages of reflection questions and discussion points. One such reflection question asks “is the need for perfection self-imposed or is it caused by external forces”?

As a graduate of a Communication undergraduate program I’ve spent 4 years of my life critically reflecting on the impact of media outlets on the development of morals, self-image, and various other aspects of the human psyche.

In my opinion, the need for perfection begins as something external, but over time it morphs into something inherent within ourselves. In other words, I believe that the external becomes internal; therefore, the answer to the question is not as cut and dry as some might suggest.

When we are born, we begin learning from our environments even as tiny infants. Throughout our young lives we learn from our parents/guardians, siblings, and peers, but we also learn from other sources such as television, books, and school. Essentially, we are socialized by external forces. These external factors contribute to the development of who we are as people. This has been extensively researched and demonstrated time and time again for decades.

It is important to note that internal factors such as genetics can predispose us to be more susceptible to perfectionistic qualities; however, without being socialized to pursue perfection, these genetic predispositions would not be triggered. As a result, I believe that perfection is a learned habit or behavior. Seeking perfection is something that is ingrained in the minds of children from even the earliest years of life.

We are taught that we should strive to be the best in school, sports, and many other aspects of life. Eventually, children learn that they must be the best that they can be at all times…or else. The threat of not being good enough is introduced to children at a young age, so it makes sense that over time we would learn to self-impose perfection on ourselves.

Essentially, what I’m trying to say is that we are socialized by external factors; everything that is internal is a direct result of something that was at one time external. So while perfection may become something that we impose upon ourselves later in life, it starts as something that we are socialized to attain, even if it is impossible to do so.

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What are your thoughts on this? Have any of you read “Perfect”? If not, I would recommend reading it!

xo

Ayla

50 Books of 2015

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Hey there readers!!

At the beginning of 2015 I set a goal to read 50 books in 2015. To be honest, I didn’t think I was going to make it when I still had 10 books to read at the beginning of December, but when I set my mind to something I make sure that I get it done!

So without further ado, here is my book list for 2015!!

  1. The Ruby Cirle- Richelle Mead
  2. Beautiful- Amy Reed
  3. Clean- Amy Read
  4. Side Effects May Vary- Julie Murphy
  5. Get Well Soon- Julie Halpern
  6. Fallout- Ellen Hopkins
  7. Zoe Letting Go – Nora Price (AMAZING READ!!)
  8. Asylum- Madeline Roux
  9. How to Save a Life- Sara Zarr
  10. Stick Figure- Lori Gottlieb
  11. Inside Out: Portrait of an Eating Disorder- Nadia Shivack
  12. Better is Not So Far Away- Melissa Groman, LCSW (AWESOME!)
  13. Brave Girl Eating- Harriet Brown
  14. Before I Die- Jenny Downham
  15. Faded Denim- Melody Carlson
  16. Skinny- Donna Cooner
  17. Reclaiming Your Life From Traumatic Experiences- Edna Foa (lent to me by my psychologist for therapy)
  18. Bladed Silver- Melody Carlson
  19. Blood Wounds- Susan Beth Pfeffer
  20. Two or Three Things I Forgot to Tell You- Joyce Carol Oates
  21. Stranger Than You Know- Jolene Perry
  22. Hold Still- Nina LaCour
  23. Sharp Objects- Jillian Flynn
  24. The Virgin Suicides- Jeffrey Eugenides
  25. Stolen- Lucy Christooher
  26. Without You- Saskia Sarginson
  27. Go Ask Alice- Anonymous
  28. Wildthorn- Jane Eagland
  29. Willow- Julia Hoban
  30. The Bear- Claire Cameron
  31. Skin Game- Caroline Kettlewell
  32. The Last Good Day- Jessica Warman
  33. By The Time You Read This I’ll Be Dead- Julie Anne Peters
  34. Girl, Stolen- April Henry
  35. You Are My Only- Beth Kephart
  36. To Be Perfectly Honest- Sonya Sones (Horrible.)
  37. Light in the Shadows- A. Meredith Walters (GREAT)
  38. Warmth In Ice- A. Meredith Walters
  39. Speak- Laurie Halse Anderson
  40. The Transfer- Veronica Roth
  41. The Initiate- Veronica Roth
  42. The Son- Veronica Roth
  43. The Traitor- Veronica Roth
  44. I’m Not Her- Janet Gurtler
  45. This Star Won’t Go Out- Esther Earl
  46. Binary Star- Sarah Gerard (Horrible.)
  47. The Disappearing Girl- Heather Tophan (GREAT READ!!)
  48. Never Eighteen- Megan Bostic (meh..wouldn’t read again)
  49. Paperweight- Meg Haston (AMAZING!! Best book of the list)
  50. I Was Here- Gayle Forman

As you might expect from a mental health oriented blogger, a lot of these books are related to or focused on mental health, particularly eating disorders and self-harm. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I am drawn to content about eating disorders especially; however, I recognize that this is not a healthy interest to engage with. With that being said, I encourage you to be cautious when reading any of the latter books relating to potentially triggering content. Don’t read anything that might jeopardize your recovery.

Happy Reading to anyone who decides to read any of these! Let me know what you think in the comments! I love hearing from all of you lovely people out there. 🙂

Ayla