Bitter End by Jennifer Brown

Published By: Little Brown Books for Young Readers

Date of Publication: May 10, 2011

Categories: Contrmporary, Fiction, Mental Illness, YA

Pages: 359

Summary (from goodreads.com):

When Alex falls for the charming new boy at school, Cole, a handsome, funny, sports star who adores her, she can’t believe she’s finally found her soul mate-someone who truly understands her and loves her for who she really is.

At first, Alex is blissfully happy. Sure, Cole seems a little jealous of her relationship with her best friends, Zack and Bethany, but what guy would want his girlfriend spending all of her time with another boy? But as the months pass, Alex can no longer ignore Cole’s small put-downs, pinches, or increasingly violent threats. As Alex struggles to come to terms with the sweet boyfriend she fell in love with and the boyfriend whose “love” she no longer recognizes, she is forced to choose – between her “true love” and herself.

Review: I’ll start off by saying that I had a really hard time putting this book down. I found myself saying “just ten more pages”, but I couldn’t stop at ten, I had to read more. The pacing was great and it was well thought out.

The descent into the abusive relationship happened slowly and with Alex hardly even knowing what was going on. That’s how it happens in real life too. Once Alex does realize what’s going on, she can hardly believe it. Cole is her boyfriend, he wouldn’t treat her like that, would he? I thought it was very well researched. All the things that Cole does are warning signs for abuse.

I think Bitter End ends up tackling a really tough issue, but does so without being preachy or melodramatic. The characters all felt very genuine, and their actions and how they reacted to things that happened felt very real. Because of the amazing characters (especially Alex) it was a powerful read, one that I think most teen aged girls can relate to.

Image: goodreads.com

Disclosure: I received this book for review.

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Father of Lies by Ann Turner

Published By: Harper Teen

Date of Publication: February 8, 2011

Categories: Historical Fiction, Mental Illness, YA

Pages: 256

Summary (from goodreads.com):

Truth or Lies?

Lidda knew, with a clarity that was like a candle in a dark room, that all had changed; something was loosed in the village—Devil or not—and they would pay for it, every last man, woman, and child.

Fourteen-year-old Lidda has always known she was different. She longs to escape Salem Village and its stifling rules—to be free to dance, to sing, to live as she chooses. But when a plague of accusations descends on the village and witch fever erupts, Lidda begins to realize that she feels and sees things that others can’t, or won’t. But how will she expose the truth without being hung as a witch herself?

Gripping and emotional, Ann Turner’s retelling of the Salem witch trials captures one girl’s brave soul-searching amidst a backdrop of fear and blame.

Review: I reading about two things – the Salem Witch Trials and mental illness. Father of Lies combines them both, so I was bound to enjoy this book as much as I did.

Lidda was a great main character. I found her different than most of the female characters I’ve read about during time period. Lidda loves to do all the things that are looked down on in Salem. How dare a young woman want to dance! Absolutely shocking! Lidda definitely felt the confines of the expectations that were placed on her by her community.

All of the characters felt very real. Ann Turner did a great job of creating a cast that felt believable. I felt like I knew everyone, from Lidda’s family, to her friends. Lucien was a very creepy character. You were never really sure when he would pop up, but when he did, you knew there would be trouble coming.

I thought it was interesting that members of Lidda’s family had different reactions to the Witch Trials. It was great to hear differing point of view that I hadn’t heard before. I somehow sort of thought that everyone had been taken in, and no one could see what was actually going in.

It was a relatively quick read, which I think worked for this book. By the time I was finished reading it, I felt like all the answers were given, I didn’t feel like things were rushed or that I missed out on anything.

If you’re a fan of historical fiction or mental illness, I would definitely recommend this book.

Image: goodreads.com

Disclosure: I got this book from the library.

We All Fall Down by Nic Sheff

Published By: Little Brown Books for Young Readers

Date of Publication: April 5, 2011

Categories: Memoir, Mental Illness, Non-Fiction

Pages: 368

Summary (from goodreads.com):

In his bestselling memoir Tweak, Nic Sheff took readers on an emotionally gripping roller-coaster ride through his days as a crystal meth and heroin addict. Now in this powerful follow-up about his continued efforts to stay clean, Nic writes candidly about eye-opening stays at rehab centers, devastating relapses, and hard-won realizations about what it means to be a young person living with addiction.

Nic Sheff and his father, David Sheff, captured a nation of readers with their bestselling memoirs Tweak and Beautiful Boy. Those books explore teen drug addiction from two different points of view: a son’s and a father’s. Nic currently lives in Los Angeles, California.

Review: Once I started reading We All Fall Down, I couldn’t stop. I was immediately drawn into Nic’s world.

And it’s definitely a tough, scary world. You feel like you’re right there with him, going through everything with him. This makes parts of it tough to read, because at times it feels like there’s no hope for Nic, or any other addict. It was definitely interesting to get inside of the head of an addict, to see the world as he saw it.

I’d definitely recommend this book for an older YA reader. It deals with some pretty heavy duty topics. Nic doesn’t hold back talking about the realities of being an addict – it’s not pretty.

While the writing wasn’t amazing, one thing that I did really enjoy about it was that Nic’s voice really came through loud and clear. Some parts almost felt like a conversation between him and I. It felt very genuine and real.

Although I haven’t read his previous memoir, Tweak, also about addiction, or his father’s book about Nic’s journey, Beautiful Boy, I really did enjoy reading We All Fall Down. So if you’re wondering if you need to read either of those ones first, I would say no (cause I didn’t, and I felt like I understood what was happening). But now that I’ve read We All Fall Down, I’m kind of interested in the first part of Nic’s story.

If you’re looking for a book about addiction, from an addict’s perspective, I would definitely recommend We All Fall Down.

Image: goodreads.com

Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher for review.

Purge by Sarah Darer Littman

Published by: Scholastic

Year of Publication: 2009

Categories: Contemporary, Mental Illness, YA

Pages: 240

Summary (from Goodreads): Janie Ryman hates throwing up. So why does she binge eat and then stick her fingers down her throat several times a day? That’s what the doctors and psychiatrists at Golden Slopes hope to help her discover. But first Janie must survive everyday conflicts between the Barfers and the Starvers, attempts by the head psychiatrist to fish painful memories out of her emotional waters, and shifting friendships and alliances among the kids in the ward.

Review: I really enjoyed reading this book. I thought it was realistic and thought provoking.

I thought it gave the reader an inside look into what it’s like to have an eating disorder. It makes you understand the secrecy, shame, and guilt that comes with it. It was definitely interesting to be taken to an inpatient eating disorder unit in a hospital. Little things that you thought would be easy aren’t when you have an eating disorder.

Janie was a great character. I was still thinking about her a week or so after I had finished reading the book. I’m not sure what it was about her that made Janie stay with me, but I enjoyed reading about her and getting to know her.Even though the subject matter is quite serious, there was a lot of humor in the book. The humor didn’t feel like it stuck out or didn’t belong, it felt like it belonged there.

It would be easy I think, to get caught up in cliches and stereotypes when writing a book like this. It would very easily turn into a badly made after school special. I thought Purge managed to steer clear of most of that though. Sarah Darer Littman also didn’t sugarcoat eating disorders. The causes and consequences were dealt with.

The writing style was great too. The storyline was composed of scenes from the hospital, combined with Janie’s journal entries. I thought it was a great way to get to know Janie more and what she was thinking. It felt like a very natural progression. As you get further into the book, you get to know more about Janie and the events that led her to being admitted to the hospital.

Image: goodreads.com

Disclosure: I borrowed this book from the library.

Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson

Published by: Viking Juvenile

Year of Publication: 2009

Pages: 278

Summary (from goodreads.com): Eighteen-year-old Lia comes to terms with her best friend’s death from bulimia as she struggles with anorexia.

Review: I really enjoyed reading this book.While it was different from what I was expecting it to be, I still liked it. I had heard a lot about this book on blogs, so I was pretty excited about reading it.

Laurie Halse Anderson gave an authentic voice to someone who is dealing with an eating disorder. I think a lot of times it’s easy to get stuck in stereotypes when dealing with mental illness, but I thought Lia’s character was very authentic – no stereotypes here.

I also enjoyed the other characters as well – Lia’s mom and dad, stepmom, and most of all her little sister Emma. It was interesting to see her illness reflected in each person, to see how it effected them all differently. I felt myself drawn to the relationship between Lia and Emma.

I thought the ending was great. While the all the threads weren’t tied up perfectly, you knew the direction Lia was headed in. I thought that if things were tied up too nicely it wouldn’t be very realistic, so I really like the way it was left.

One thing that I didn’t like was the author’s writing style. Things were crossed out, a technique that I think added to the reader’s understanding Lia better, but made it seem kind of disjointed to me. I’m not sure if it’s just this book that the author uses that with, or with her other ones too.

All in all I would recommend this book. I’m definitely going to be reading another book by Laurie Halse Anderson.

Disclosure: I borrowed this book from the library.

Image: goodreads.com