REVIEW: Girl in Pieces by Kathleen Glasgow

REVIEW: Girl in Pieces by Kathleen Glasgow

Hello, lovelies!

I hope you’re all having a lovely week so far. This week I’m reviewing Girl in Pieces by Kathleen Glasgow.

I just want to make it clear before you read any further, that this review contains references to self-harm, suicide, and mental illness which may be triggering to some readers.

GoodReads Synopsis:

Charlotte Davis is in pieces. At seventeen she’s already lost more than most people lose in a lifetime. But she’s learned how to forget. The broken glass washes away the sorrow until there is nothing but calm. You don’t have to think about your father and the river. Your best friend, who is gone forever. Or your mother, who has nothing left to give you.

Every new scar hardens Charlie’s heart just a little more, yet it still hurts so much. It hurts enough to not care anymore, which is sometimes what has to happen before you can find your way back from the edge.

 

My Thoughts:

Don’t let the pretty cover fool you as Girl in Pieces is far from a light-hearted YA read. It is a detailed fictional account of struggling with a mental illness, self-harm and the road to recovery.

Mental illness has become a common trope across YA, arguably overtaking the recently neglected and controversial love triangle trope. This is both a blessing and a curse as on the one hand, mental illness is getting the representation in literature that it needs but on the other hand there are times when it is clear that an author is only using mental illness as a secondary plot devise, with no intention or desire to fully explore the subject matter.

Often, we read to know that we are not alone in what we feel which is why it is so important that authors take the time to consider their reader and the message they want to send before deciding to include such a sensitive yet critical subject.

Girl in Pieces is one of the best novels I have ever read that deals with the topic of mental illness. It isn’t a plot device that takes a back seat to romance or teen drama. It is woven into every chapter, page, and sentence of this novel so thoughtfully and carefully. It is the very heart of this novel, providing readers with the honest and raw representation that so desperately needs to be seen in literature.

I won’t lie, it was a difficult read. It was upsetting, heart-breaking but it really resonated with me.

The novel follows Charlie, a young girl recovering from a suicide attempt who is just trying to navigate this often challenging world, with the weight of her past still hanging on her shoulders. When we meet Charlie, she is in a rehab/psychiatric ward following her suicide attempt. She is silent, bandaged up and broken. Surrounded by other young girls all suffering from the same affliction, Charlie begins to heal, begins talking again and tries to face up to her past.

 

“Everyone has that moment I think, the moment when something so momentous happens that it rips your very being into small pieces. And then you have to stop. For a long time, you gather your pieces. And it takes such a very long time, not to fit them back together, but to assemble them in a new way, not necessarily a better way. More, a way you can live with until you know for certain that this piece should go there, and that one there.”

 

All of the girls Charlie is surrounded by are different. They are each in their own way, in pieces. Glasgow slowly develops each of their characters to highlight that there is no one way that mental illness affects people. For Charlie, she cuts herself away with shards of broken glass, for Blue, she sticks needles in her body to get away from the pain and for Isis there is fire leaving circular scars across her body. They all feel their pain in their own way just as they all must recover in their own way.

For Charlie, recovery is a rollercoaster of ups and downs. When she leaves the safety net of the rehab/psychiatric ward, she finds herself under the blazing sun in Tucson and soon begins to try and get her life back on track. She finds a job, a place to live and tries to begin to heal but her past is always close behind her. It is here that she meets Riley West, an ex-musician, alcoholic and a drug user battling his own demons. It is at this point that Glasgow could easily have taken this down the root that so many other authors do (girl is struggling, boy is struggling, girl meets boy, they fix each other and drive off into the sunset) but she doesn’t. She makes it clear that Riley is not the answer to all of Charlie’s problem, in fact, he becomes part of the cause.

Glasgow’s deeply emotional and at times witty writing style complimented the story perfectly. There was just the right amount of dark humour coupled with beautifully written philosophical observations for this story to grip me completely. I couldn’t put this book down because I needed to know what happened to Charlie and whether she was okay. I would love to tell you that this book has a happy ending, but it is more realistic that is doesn’t. It does, however, offer the reader a hopeful ending. Charlie is still dealing with her mental health problems, fighting off the urge to turn away from the world and to self-harm, but she is trying.

So, whilst this is a powerful yet painful read, it is also a hopeful one. For anyone out there struggling with mental health issues, this story may make you feel less alone and more understood.

 

Thanks for reading! I know this has been a particularly long and serious review but I felt I had to do this book justice. This book deals with a lot of sensitive subjects that may be harmful to some readers so do bear this in mind before picking it up. If you’ve read this book then let me know what you thought in the comments below!

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Mini Review: Happier Thinking by Lana Grace Riva

Mini Review: Happier Thinking by Lana Grace Riva

Hello, lovelies!

I hope you’re all having a great week!

I’m switching things up on my blog this week with an extra mini review on Happier Thinking by Lana Grace Riva. I must start by saying a massive thank you to Lana for sending me a copy of this book in an exchange for an honest review.

Lana describes her short but lovely little book in the following words:

‘Changing how you think is possible. I wasn’t always so sure that was true until I experienced it myself, but I know now we don’t have to just accept unhappiness. Not always anyway. This book is my collection of tips and suggestions that have helped me achieve happier thinking. It’s sort of a gym for my mind. I’d love to tell you it was easier than the real gym but well… it’s not really. It takes time, effort, and practice but it’s absolutely well worth the rewards.’

 

My Thoughts:

I want to start by saying that this definitely is not one of those preachy self-help books. Reading through ‘Happier Thinking’ is like having a conversation with Lana herself. The tone is warm, inviting and honest which is refreshing in a book like this. I don’t read many books like this but I know that this has become more of a favoured approach by authors with the likes of Fern Cotton and Matt Haig writing more relaxed and open self-help style books that are promoting a more active attitude towards positive mental health.

 

What I loved the most about this short read is that I already know it is something I can go back to time and time again. If I’m struggling or feeling down I can carry it with my bag and easily pick it up and start reading some of Lana’s reassuring words to help me feel better. I am not saying that this book is going to cure depression or anxiety but it might help people to cope with some of the symptoms and even if you don’t struggle with mental health issues, this book still has lots to offer.

 

You can find out more about Lana and her book here and ‘Happier Thinking’ is available to buy on Amazon now. 

Thanks for reading! Have you read any self-help books like this before that you would recommend? Let me know in the comments below!

REVIEW: All The Bright Places – Jennifer Niven

REVIEW: All The Bright Places – Jennifer Niven

WARNING: This review contains spoilers and references to suicide and mental illness

Hello, lovelies!

It’s Sunday and that means its review day! Today’s review is on All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven (currently being made into a film starring Justice Smith and Elle Fanning!) I actually read this book a few months ago but never got around to posting my review but better late than never! Unfortunately, this isn’t going to be the most cheery of reviews as this book deals with some serious topics. If you didn’t notice the warning above, this review will contain references to suicide and mental illness so please bare this in mind before reading.

 

Synopsis:

Theodore Finch is fascinated by death, and he constantly thinks of ways he might kill himself. But each time, something good, no matter how small, stops him.

 Violet Markey lives for the future, counting the days until graduation, when she can escape her Indiana town and her aching grief in the wake of her sister’s recent death.

 When Finch and Violet meet on the ledge of the bell tower at school, it’s unclear who saves whom. And when they pair up on a project to discover the “natural wonders” of their state, both Finch and Violet make more important discoveries: It’s only with Violet that Finch can be himself—a weird, funny, live-out-loud guy who’s not such a freak after all. And it’s only with Finch that Violet can forget to count away the days and start living them. But as Violet’s world grows, Finch’s begins to shrink.

 

Thoughts:

I have wanted to read this book for so long and after constantly picking it up and putting it down in every bookshop I went in, I finally purchased it mid supermarket shop in Asda of all places. I started reading it as soon as I got home, and I couldn’t put it down. I did want to do this review without spoilers, but I couldn’t find a way to do this book justice without mentioning specifics.

Jennifer Niven sums up All the Bright Places best with the line included on the front cover of the book. It is ‘the story of a girl who learns to live from a boy who wants to die’. It is an opposites-attract love story that paves the way for important conversation about mental health and its effects, specifically in young people.

I really loved the dual narrative Niven used throughout the book. I’ve always loved this approach to writing as I think it adds something to the book to hear the story from different characters perspectives. It was particularly effective in this book as it allowed us to see how mental illness affects people in different ways. Finch and Violet are both struggling with mental health issues and they both find themselves on top of the school’s bell tower contemplating their lives. This event changes both of their lives but not always for the better.

In Violet’s narrative, we see her mental health slowly start to improve. She has Finch to talk to, someone to listen and to care and understand which is essential in her making it out of that dark place. Finch on the other hand still seems to sink further and further into himself and his illness because he is unable to talk about it which ultimately results in his tragic suicide. The dual narrative allows the reader to actually feel Finch’s absence through the silencing of his voice after he takes his own life, we only hear Violet’s voice and this leaves a powerful impression on the reader.

I also liked the way that Niven used a lot of common tropes that are often found in YA fiction but in an extremely clever way that allowed her to comment on the effects of mental illness. The popular girl falls for an unpopular boy is a well known and arguably tired plot line that is so frequently used that it had me rolling my eyes when I first started reading but I was definitely too quick to judge. Niven doesn’t use this to sell the love story, she’s using it to show how anyone can be affected by mental illness. Violet is loved by everyone and Finch is the outcast, yet both are struggling.

There is also the trope of the ‘mean girl’ Amanda that Niven powerfully turns on its head when Finch goes to a suicide support group after attempting to take his life and sees Amanda there. I loved this for 2 reasons, the first being it shows that everyone has their own cross to bare and the second being that it shows the other side of mental illness. Amanda has survived. She struggled like Finch and Violet and she has made it through like Violet does. This was really important for me in the book, I think it definitely needed that hope and light at the end of the tunnel.

“The thing I realise is, that it’s not what you take, it’s what you leave.” 

I think the best thing that this book does overall is not to show suicide as a selfish or cowardly thing to do. Niven really shows how much Finch is struggling. She writes about it so powerfully that you can understand the reason why he wanted to take his own life. There is little done to help Finch by the adults around him including those at school. He doesn’t get the help and the support that he desperately needs and so his illness becomes too much for him to deal with which is sadly what happens to a lot of people who take their own lives. There is just not the resources and support to help people, especially young people who are often disregarded as being hormonal or just moody. This is where this book really resonated with me.

I think it’s extremely important that so many YA authors are tackling the issue of mental health in their novels. In the UK, approximately 1 in 4 people will experience a mental health problem each year with statistics suggesting that 50% of mental health problems are established by age 14 and 75% by age 24*. The more this is recognised, and the more action is taken to provide the resources and support that is so desperately needed for people of all ages and genders, the more that people like Finch won’t think that suicide is their only way out of their illness.

 

Thanks for reading! Have you read this book? Let me know what you thought of it in the comments below!

 

If you have been affected by anything I have mentioned in my review, then please check out the following links for support: 

https://www.mind.org.uk/

https://www.samaritans.org/

 

 

*https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/statistics-and-facts-about-mental-health/how-common-are-mental-health-problems/#.W3lov-hKjIU

https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/statistics/mental-health-statistics-children-and-young-people