Genre: Mental Illness

Book Review – The Anatomical Shape of a Heart by Jenn Bennett

December 4, 2015 Bonnie Book Reviews, Read in 2015, YA 2 Comments

I received this book free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review – The Anatomical Shape of a Heart by Jenn BennettThe Anatomical Shape of a Heart by Jenn Bennett
Published by Feiwel & Friends on November 3rd 2015
Pages: 304
Genres: Contemporary, Mental Illness
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley
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Also by this author: Binding the Shadows, Banishing the Dark

two-stars

A mysterious graffiti artist, an anatomy-obsessed artist, and a night bus that will bring the two together.

Artist Beatrix Adams knows exactly how she's spending the summer before her senior year. Determined to follow in Da Vinci's footsteps, she's ready to tackle the one thing that will give her an advantage in a museum-sponsored scholarship contest: drawing actual cadavers. But when she tries to sneak her way into the hospital's Willed Body program and misses the last metro train home, she meets a boy who turns her summer plans upside down.

Jack is charming, wildly attractive . . . and possibly one of San Francisco's most notorious graffiti artists. On midnight buses and city rooftops, Beatrix begins to see who Jack really is—and tries to uncover what he's hiding that leaves him so wounded. But will these secrets come back to haunt him? Or will the skeletons in Beatrix's own family's closet tear them apart?

style-3 review

The Anatomical Shape of a Heart introduces two uncommon artists that meet one another on the Night Owl bus. Beatrix “Bex” Adams is intent on spending her summer perfecting her scholarship entry, an intricate drawing of a cadaver. Jack Vincent is also an artist, but of the more secretive sort, seeing as his graffiti/art goes up on the walls of buildings all over the city. Bex’s focus from her scholarship entry to Jack and his intriguing nature and otherworldly good looks immediately switches and predictability ensues.

I’m a huge fan of this author and her adult Urban Fantasy series, Arcadia Bell. While I’m not a frequent reader of YA Contemporary I was still anxious to see how Bennett did with the switch to YA. Suffice it to say, it breaks my anatomical heart to not have loved this as much as I had hoped. Initially, this reminded me heavily of Graffiti Moon but I failed to fall for Bex and Jack as much as I fell for Lucy and Ed. So, if you’re looking for another love story + graffiti, this isn’t it. At first, I did love Bex. I loved her tales of kids at school calling her Wednesday Addams because of the way she dressed, her affinity for braids, and naturally because of her similar last name. I loved her quirkiness and her desire to do art that was outside of the norm. I loved her conviction and determination to win the scholarship. I wanted her romance with Jack to not completely devour all things interesting about her, but it did. She transformed into a total manic pixie dream girl with Jack fitting in completely as the manic pixie dream boy.

‘When the jacket stood back up, it grew arms and legs and a face that probably competed with Helen of Troy’s in the ship-launching department.
Jack.’

‘He was a walking figure study in beautiful lines and lean muscle, with miles of dark lashes, and cheekbones that looked strong enough to hold up his entire body.’

There is honestly nothing worse than a heroine waxing poetic about a boys looks,  ad nauseam. A sufficient description without going overboard or sounding like a swoony idiot would have been preferable. So Jack goes around the city of San Francisco in his 1958 Corvette tagging up the place. He has a “retro-rockabilly” look and wears mala beads but claims to be a bad Buddhist. As anticipated, he has a mysterious past where something somber happened but he can’t talk about it because sad.

Then there’s Bex and her sudden obsession with all things Jack. There’s one point in the story where the duo hadn’t been talking because Jack was going through his sad things. A new piece of Jack’s art appears with a single word: ENDURE. Bex begins mulling over the meaning and of course immediately made it all about her.

‘ENDURE. Did it mean anything? Was he expressing something about whatever he was going through? Was it a sign that he was ready to communicate again?’

Oh, come on. His art/graffitti/whatever you want to call it clearly has personal meaning for him and he was doing it long before he met you. The answer is the very definition of the word: to suffer (something painful or difficult) patiently. The whole psuedo-mystery surrounding Jack’s past (including his romantic past) could have all been resolved over a nice, simple heart-to-heart. But that’s too rational to actually happen and where would we get the requisite drama? I don’t know, I don’t mean to hate on it so much but it was all just so predictable, pretentious, and overdone.

But before I morph into a complete asshole, I’m going to end on a happy note and talk about the one thing I did appreciate about this story: the sex-positive message. We have two teen characters that actually make it a point to have a discussion about sex before diving straight in. There’s also a parent that’s open about sex talks and brings home mass quantities of condoms… just in case. View Spoiler »

I’m clearly not the targeted reader and sometimes I feel I do books a disservice by attempting to explore these genres that I don’t typically read, just in an attempt to branch out. Nothing wrong with reading outside of your comfort zone but I think it’s time to accept that YA contemporary love stories are simply not my cup of tea.

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National Book Award 2015 Finalist – Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman

November 14, 2015 Bonnie Book Reviews, Read in 2015, YA 3 Comments

National Book Award 2015 Finalist – Challenger Deep by Neal ShustermanChallenger Deep by Neal Shusterman
Illustrator: Brendan Shusterman
Published by HarperTeen on April 21st 2015
Pages: 320
Genres: Mental Illness, Realistic YA Fiction
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library
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four-half-stars

Caden Bosch is on a ship that's headed for the deepest point on Earth: Challenger Deep, the southern part of the Marianas Trench.

Caden Bosch is a brilliant high school student whose friends are starting to notice his odd behavior.

Caden Bosch is designated the ship's artist in residence, to document the journey with images.

Caden Bosch pretends to join the school track team but spends his days walking for miles, absorbed by the thoughts in his head.

Caden Bosch is split between his allegiance to the captain and the allure of mutiny.

Caden Bosch is torn.

A captivating and powerful novel that lingers long beyond the last page, Challenger Deep is a heartfelt tour de force by one of today's most admired writers for teens.

‘Sometimes the darkness beyond is not glorious at all, it truly is an absolute absence of light. A clawing, needy tar that pulls you down. You drown but you don’t. It turns you to lead so you sink faster in its viscous embrace. It robs you of hope and even the memory of hope. It makes you think you’ve always felt like this, and there’s no place to go but down, where it slowly, ravenously digests your will, distilling it into the ebony crude of nightmares.’

Caden Bosch’s descent into schizophrenia takes readers on an unforgettable adventure that blurs the line between what’s real and what’s mere fantasy. Caden is a gifted artist at the age of fifteen years old yet he possesses an inner drive, a compulsion, that he can no longer keep quiet. His art becomes frenetic and he begins walking his town for hours based on a uncontrollable desire to fill the empty sidewalks with his presence. And sometimes his mind takes him elsewhere, where he’s a part of a crew on a galleon and their mission is to reach the deepest point of the Marianas Trench, a place called Challenger Deep.

‘The things I feel cannot be put into words, or if they can, the words are in no language anyone can understand. My emotions are talking in tongues.’

Ironically, this was my first read in my National Book Award experiment, yet it’s the last one I sat down to review. This was such a staggering read for me that it really took me some time to fully process Caden’s story and how it made me feel. I suppose the expected response is sadness and pity, but it was so authentically told that it transformed this story into something truly substantial for me. Despite the fantasy world that Caden lived in, his struggle becomes something real. We glimpse just enough of the outside world to realize how much his loved ones are also impacted and how they struggle to understand his inner turmoil. How his parents plead with him to change his behavior when it’s well past the point of his ability, so he’s placed in a mental institution when they don’t know what else to do for him. Almost in defiance of such a melancholy story, is the subtle (yet effective) humor that is laced throughout.

“If you continue making progress,” one of the nurses told me earlier today, “I see no reason why you shouldn’t be going home in a couple of weeks.” Then she added, “But don’t quote me on that.” Noncommittal is rampant among the committed.

Sprinkled throughout this story are various pieces of art which are original pieces from the authors son,
Brendan Shusterman. The story itself exists solely because of the experiences of Brendan who has personally struggled with mental illness, which makes sense as to why this story rang so true for me. Challenger Deep will certainly leave readers who haven’t suffered personally to gain more of an understanding and compassion for those that do.

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Ominous October – A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay

October 24, 2015 Bonnie Adult, Book Reviews, Ominous October, Read in 2015 5 Comments

I received this book free from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Ominous October – A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul TremblayA Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay
Published by William Morrow on June 2nd 2015
Pages: 304
Genres: Horror, Mental Illness
Format: ARC
Source: the Publisher
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three-half-stars

A chilling thriller that brilliantly blends domestic drama, psychological suspense, and a touch of modern horror, reminiscent of Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves, John Ajvide Lindqvist’s Let the Right One In, and Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House

The lives of the Barretts, a normal suburban New England family, are torn apart when fourteen-year-old Marjorie begins to display signs of acute schizophrenia.

To her parents’ despair, the doctors are unable to stop Marjorie’s descent into madness. As their stable home devolves into a house of horrors, they reluctantly turn to a local Catholic priest for help. Father Wanderly suggests an exorcism; he believes the vulnerable teenager is the victim of demonic possession. He also contacts a production company that is eager to document the Barretts’ plight. With John, Marjorie’s father, out of work for more than a year and the medical bills looming, the family agrees to be filmed, and soon find themselves the unwitting stars of The Possession, a hit reality TV show. When events in the Barrett household explode in tragedy, the show and the shocking incidents it captures become the stuff of urban legend.

Fifteen years later, a bestselling writer interviews Marjorie’s younger sister, Merry. As she recalls those long ago events that took place when she was just eight years old, long-buried secrets and painful memories that clash with what was broadcast on television begin to surface—and a mind-bending tale of psychological horror is unleashed, raising vexing questions about memory and reality, science and religion, and the very nature of evil.

“I have to fill my head with something other than the ghosts.”

Fifteen years ago, 14-year-old Marjorie Barrett began to manifest signs of schizophrenia. Her parents, John and Sarah, took her to doctors and psychiatrists even though the financial burden was great since John was unemployed at the time. When the medication only seems to make her worse, her father who recently discovered religion, becomes convinced that Marjorie is possessed and enlists the help of a Catholic priest. The Barrett family also gains the interest of a producer interested in helping with their financial troubles by turning their domestic nightmare into a reality show.  Marjorie’s little sister Merry was only 8-years-old and now fifteen years later she’s telling the whole sordid story of what truly happened.

In addition to the recollections of now 23-year-old Merry who is rehashing her childhood for the purpose of a non-fiction novel being written about her, we’re given posts by a blogger by the name of Karen Brissette who scrutinizes each and every aspect of the six-episode run of the simply named show The Possession. References to pop-culture are constant, comparing Marjorie’s actions to The Exorcist and various other movies of the same ilk. She makes many other valid points regarding the validity of Marjorie’s actions making you wonder if she’s simply following a script. Is she truly possessed? Is she actually mentally ill? Or is she simply a 14-year-old girl that is acting out for some unknown purpose? But the most interesting question of all is why this Karen Brissette is interested so much in this family in the first place.

With this story written not only through the eyes of an 8-year-old who immediately becomes an unreliable narrator, we’re given that additional overlying haze with everything being filmed. It’s difficult to differentiate between fact and fiction, who is mentally ill and who is simply acting. Your mind will constantly churn out possibilities to clear the overall ambiguity, but the veil won’t fall until the very end. Tremblay has constructed an intricately built story about simple truths and just how convoluted people can make them.

Do you wanna know a secret?
Will you hold it close and dear?
This will not be made apparent,
But you and I are not alone in here.

My head is full of ghosts.

My Head Is Full Of Ghosts” – Bad Religion

 

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Early Review – We’ll Never Be Apart by Emiko Jean

September 17, 2015 Bonnie Book Reviews, Early Review, Read in 2015, YA 4 Comments

I received this book free from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Early Review – We’ll Never Be Apart by Emiko JeanWe'll Never Be Apart by Emiko Jean
Published by HMH Books for Young Readers on October 6th 2015
Pages: 288
Genres: Mental Illness, Mystery
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
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two-stars

Murder.

Fire.

Revenge.

That’s all seventeen-year-old Alice Monroe thinks about. Committed to a mental ward at Savage Isle, Alice is haunted by memories of the fire that killed her boyfriend, Jason. A blaze her twin sister Cellie set. But when Chase, a mysterious, charismatic patient, agrees to help her seek vengeance, Alice begins to rethink everything. Writing out the story of her troubled past in a journal, she must confront hidden truths.

Is the one person she trusts only telling her half the story? Nothing is as it seems in this edge-of-your-seat psychological thriller from the debut author Emiko Jean.

‘So where does a story that ends in fire and death begin? It begins in the snow on the coldest day of the coldest winter of the last fifty years, with two girls on their sixth birthday in silent house. It begins with a body.’

Alice and Celia are twins who have had an arduous life, but fortunately they’ve had each other to get through it. After their grandfather died when they were six, they’ve bounced around to various different foster care homes, some worse than others. When Alice is seventeen years old, Celia intentionally sets a fire  that almost kills her but does kill her boyfriend, Jason. She wakes in a mental health hospital called Savage Isle to find herself recovering from burns and a definite lack of memory surrounding the incident. All Alice knows is Celia killed Jason and revenge begins to consume her thoughts.

Honestly, the summary gives it all away and if you didn’t bother to read the summary then the prologue definitely will. Sometimes there’s nothing wrong with a mystery that’s predictable because the story itself can make it all worth it, but I have a hard time becoming sympathetic towards characters and their plights when I know more than they do. Their mental stumbling, trying to uncover obvious clues becomes more obnoxious than tragic.

We’ll Never Be Apart could have been saved with some tension but I never felt a sense of urgency from Alice to uncover the mystery. She finds herself in a mental hospital being charged with a crime that she knows in her heart she didn’t commit, yet instead of attempting to work through her memories she becomes resigned to her plight and instead focuses her attention on her crush. Nevermind that her boyfriend of several years just died in a fire a few weeks ago. Becoming resigned to the situation she finds herself in would have been one thing, because can you imagine waking up in a mental hospital being blamed for something you didn’t do and being force-fed medication? That would be terrifying and I think we’d all mentally shut down to some extent, but the focus on the boy was what really ruined it for me. And all the security card stealing so that the two can carouse the halls of the hospital at night. Because that’s totally legit.

I kept reading, hoping for a twist that I maybe hadn’t foreseen. Alas, the end came, and it was less twisty and suspenseful than I had been hoping for. The resolution was also far more tidy than I would have expected given the topic. All in all, this one is far from being a terrible read, but I’ve read too many books that touch on the same topic that have just been done better.

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Early Review – The Dead House by Dawn Kurtagich

September 12, 2015 Bonnie Book Reviews, Early Review, Read in 2015, YA 0 Comments

I received this book free from The Novl in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Early Review – The Dead House by Dawn KurtagichThe Dead House by Dawn Kurtagich
Published by Little Brown Books for Young Readers on September 15th 2015
Pages: 432
Genres: Horror, Mental Illness, Mystery
Format: ARC
Source: The Novl
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three-stars

The Dead House is a chilling psychological horror that will keep you guessing even after the final page, from debut author Dawn Kurtagich.

Welcome to the Dead House.

Three students: dead.

Carly Johnson: vanished without a trace.

Two decades have passed since an inferno swept through Elmbridge High, claiming the lives of three teenagers and causing one student, Carly Johnson, to disappear. The main suspect: Kaitlyn, "the girl of nowhere."

Kaitlyn's diary, discovered in the ruins of Elmbridge High, reveals the thoughts of a disturbed mind. Its charred pages tell a sinister version of events that took place that tragic night, and the girl of nowhere is caught in the center of it all. But many claim Kaitlyn doesn't exist, and in a way, she doesn't - because she is the alter ego of Carly Johnson.

Carly gets the day. Kaitlyn has the night. It's during the night that a mystery surrounding the Dead House unravels and a dark, twisted magic ruins the lives of each student that dares touch it.

Debut author Dawn Kurtagich masterfully weaves together a thrilling and terrifying story using psychiatric reports, witness testimonials, video footage, and the discovered diary - and as the mystery grows, the horrifying truth about what happened that night unfolds.

‘Some people say that night blooms. But night descends self-consciously. Night cuts slowly.’

Is it possible for two souls to inhabit a single body? By day, Carly is in control but as soon as the sun sets Kaitlyn takes over. Every day, the same pattern. The two are aware of the other’s existence, calling one another sister, writing notes back and forth to each other. When they lose their parents in a car accident and they are committed to a mental hospital after being diagnosed with dissociative identity disorder, Kaitlyn doesn’t handle this very well. The counselor sees her as the “wrong” identity, the one that needs to be dealt with and gotten rid of. Kaitlyn begins hearing voices, seeing a frightening girl that she’s not sure is real or simply a figment of her imagination, and nightmares of a house of terror. Kaitlyn has to deduct exactly what is fact and what is fiction in order to find out the truth about Carly and of herself.

Flash forward to two decades later and we learn that a tragic fire took place at Carly’s school killing several students with Carly herself being declared missing. Not until Kaitlyn’s diary is uncovered do we learn of what really caused the fire and what took place that disastrous day. It uncovers much more than a simple psychological mystery; there is dark magic and murder and horror. The story unfolds through a series of e-mails, medical transcripts, diary entries, and notes between the duo. Epistolary stories are a favorite of mine, giving me the feel that I’m sorting through documents attempting to uncover the mystery and solve the investigation and The Dead House definitely gave me that feel. The writing was terrific and while it didn’t necessarily scare (few stories do these days though) several passages did leave my skin crawling.

‘I am lucky to be here. The Dead House descended like music curdling into time, and as it did I grew wet and cold, and it was dark and I was so alone… It had devoured me.’

While I loved the feel of this novel I did feel it bit off more than it could chew adding a few too many side stories that weren’t ultimately necessary to the already tangled mystery and the strangeness of the dark magic inclusion that never felt fully fleshed out. The romance(s) were equally trivial putting a melodramatic spin on things that definitely could have been omitted to maintain clarity and focus on the real story. What really brought this one down for me was the ending. I’m all for endings of ambiguity that leave me to make up my own mind about how things turned out, but this one ends like you ran into a dead end. There were just far too many unresolved questions and too few answers for my liking, but if you like concocting your own ending then this is the book for you. I still very much enjoyed the premise and the execution and look forward to reading more from this debut author.

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Waiting on Wednesday – We’ll Never Be Apart by Emiko Jean

June 3, 2015 Bonnie Waiting on Wednesday 5 Comments

Waiting on Wednesday – We’ll Never Be Apart by Emiko JeanWe'll Never Be Apart by Emiko Jean
Published by HMH Books for Young Readers on October 6th 2015
Pages: 288
Genres: Mental Illness, Mystery, Thriller
Format: Hardcover
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
Goodreads

Also by this author: We'll Never Be Apart

Murder.

Fire.

Revenge.

That’s all seventeen-year-old Alice Monroe thinks about. Committed to a mental ward at Savage Isle, Alice is haunted by memories of the fire that killed her boyfriend, Jason. A blaze her twin sister Cellie set. But when Chase, a mysterious, charismatic patient, agrees to help her seek vengeance, Alice begins to rethink everything. Writing out the story of her troubled past in a journal, she must confront hidden truths.

Is the one person she trusts only telling her half the story? Nothing is as it seems in this edge-of-your-seat psychological thriller from the debut author Emiko Jean.

About Emiko Jean

Emiko Jean is the author of the forthcoming YA psychological suspense novel WE’LL NEVER BE APART (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Children’s), which was inspired by her work with children in the foster care system. Aside from reading, writing, and teaching math to elementary school students, Emiko is passionate about bugs. She can often be found in the remote forests of the Pacific Northwest, where she lives with her husband, hunting giant moths and cataloguing rare insect colonies.

I’ve found so few YA psychological thrillers that really impress but I have yet to give up yet on the genre. This sounds like it certainly has serious potential though and I can’t wait to see for myself!

What are you waiting on this Wednesday? Leave me a link to your post and I’ll be sure to stop by!

dvd-pearl

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Jill @ Breaking the Spine

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Book Review – Unravel by Calia Read

October 17, 2014 Bonnie Book Reviews, New Adult, Read in 2014 1 Comment

I received this book free from Library Thing in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review – Unravel by Calia ReadUnravel by Calia Read
Published by Ballantine Books on August 26th 2014
Pages: 324
Genres: Mental Illness, Mystery, Suspense
Format: Paperback
Source: Library Thing
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
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two-half-stars

Six months ago, I was happy. I was simply Naomi Carradine.

One month ago, I was admitted into a psych ward.

Yesterday, Lachlan visited me. Kissed me. And told me that I’m starting to lose my mind.

Hours later, Max haunted my thoughts, reminding me I’m not crazy and that he needs my help.

A few minutes ago, I drifted further from reality, trying to unravel the past.

And now...everyone thinks I’m insane. But, I know he's real, and I know he needs me.

Do you believe me?

‘Listen closely. Hang on to every word. But most of all, please believe me.’

It’s been a full month since Naomi Carradine was involuntarily admitted to Fairfax Mental Health Institute. She’s adamant that she’s fine, healthy and ready to go home but the doctors are also adamant that it’s going to require more time for her to be ready. Her memories of the past leave her baffled and confused as to why her parents would ever put her in a place like this. As part of her therapy she begins to tell her story, her full story, and slowly the painful pieces of her life begin to piece back together.

Unravel was incredibly captivating from the very start. The story transitions between her present life in the mental health institute and various pieces of her past. I was thoroughly engrossed and eager to find out how Naomi got in the position she was in and with each new bit of information it continued to be intriguing but all conclusions I came to were shrouded in a haze and nothing made sense. I spent the majority of this book in a haze, questioning everything and disliking the character because of her actions.

It wasn’t pleasant, however, it still made for quite the page turner. It feels wrong to complain about the confusion the story causes only to have it all answered in the end, but I can’t help it. There were various instances where I was close to quitting, but as I said, it does make sense when you have the resolution but getting there is half the problem.

My main issue from the very beginning was the semblance of a love triangle that was happening. Naomi has returned home for the summer from college but is staying with her friend Lana’s parents as her parents are traveling Europe. Naomi went off to college, leaving behind Lachlan after the two professed their love for each other. Upon Naomi’s return, however, she meets Max and their tumultuous affair is sudden and instantaneous. It’s incredibly hot and super steamy but it came straight outta left field.

‘…if you listened very carefully, you would hear the sound of a faint tear. That was just the sound of my heart unraveling like a torn ribbon.
All from one touch.’

This is the 2nd time they’ve met.

‘The hunger I had for him was like an addiction. It controlled me. It took away the power I thought I had and controlled every single action I made.’

This is the 3rd time they’ve met.

It was an eye-rolling good time. In addition to their mad infatuation with one another right off the bat, Max was doing things for her that no new boyfriend would ever do, like get crazy angry when something bad happened to Naomi’s friend and subsequently helped her pay rent when she needed to move into her own place. Again, it all becomes justified in the end and makes much more sense in retrospect but there were sections that were so ill-fitting that it made it a tough pill to swallow overall.

Unravel is a New Adult novel that touches on the deep topic of mental illness. Having read books that featured similar storylines, I can’t say Unravel was my favorite or that it was even portrayed accurately. Not being a doctor, I could be completely off the mark but some things just didn’t seem logical. I did enjoy the psychological twists overall though because they were shocking and kept me guessing right up till the very end. Just a heads up, there is one, maybe two incredibly violent scenes of rape that were very hard to read about.

I’ve been very wary about branching out into New Adult because the subject matter never sounds like my cup of tea. Unravel seemed to possess an originality that I would enjoy so I took a leap of faith. While I wasn’t completely disappointed, I did expect more.

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