Under Rose-Tainted Skies by Louise Gornall

“Mental health is usually the last place people go when they think about someone being sick… I’ve heard you don’t look mentally ill at least a half a dozen times in the past four years, a couple of those times from my former friends. I blame the media, stereotyping ‘mentally ill’ and calling every murderer since Manson crazy. People always seem to be expecting wide eyes and a kitchen knife dripping with blood.”
**
Goodreads | Book Depository

/TRIGGER WARNING FOR SELF-HARM/

(I, myself, am a recovering agoraphobiac living with severe anxiety and depression so I was very hesitant about going into this novel, purely because I didn’t want to get triggered. Luckily, despite connecting to Norah on a very deep level, I was able to deal with it. However, I would advise people like me to only read this book if you’re able. No book is worth risking your mental health.)

We follow the story of seventeen-year-old, Norah who lives with agoraphobia and because of this, the story mainly takes place within her home and safe place. She also battles with OCD and self-harming tendencies (this story also focuses on what it means to self-harm and the different categories it falls under.) If you’re looking for a plot-based book, you won’t find it here but if you’re looking for a book about mental-health and its effect on daily life, you’ll find it here. Louise Gornall, in my opinion, absolutely nailed living with these conditions and has done it justice. Yes, Norah meets a boy and she falls in love but her mental illness is never glossed over, not even at the end.
The relationship between Norah and Luke was lovely, healthy and realistic. I love how they chose to communicate sometimes by writing on windows or on their hands when Norah wasn’t feeling up to talking. I saw a review saying that it was unrealistic to find a boy who would accept your mental illness *insert eye roll* but they actually do exist, guys?? I am so done with people saying people who live with mental health issues cannot find happiness. Another highlight was definitely Norah’s relationship with her mum and her mum is the coolest (I mean, she wore her hair in space buns??) They have such a strong relationship that reminds me of my mother and I so I loved their moments together. They truly were heartwarming, you can see how much her mum supports her and yet never pushes her too much. Norah also has regular visits with her therapist, Dr. Reeves and I wish I had a therapist as lovely as her. A lot of advice that was given by her, I definitely took on board myself which is something I’m incredibly grateful to the author for.
Overall, this is a very quick read (if I didn’t have a migraine for three days) and if you’re searching for a book to either help you learn about mental illness or to see yourself in Norah, then I would definitely recommend this. It’s a hard story to read, especially when Norah relapses and the event that takes place near the end of the book made me anxious and uncomfortable but that was because of good writing and a relatable main character. We go deep into the inner mechanics of Norah’s mind, the questions she is constantly asking herself, her worries about germs and disasters but she also has the ability to laugh at herself, to have your typical teenage-girl issues and that is why she is a character you can immediately jump into your shoes of, even if you don’t particularly want to. This book shows the dark side to mental health that isn’t romanticised or at all stereotypical despite its MC falling in love. There isn’t a cure or a happy ever after, Norah is still ill and still recovering at the end of the story. Give this book a shot but look after yourselves.
Love from,
Angharad

Mental Health Fiction

Mental illness is becoming more and more common in fiction, especially YA. Many books, such as contemporaries, feature characters suffering with their mental health and they are even hinted at in some fantasy novels (Feyre’s PTSD in A Court of Mist and Fury, etc) As the stigma is slowly being removed in real life, it is creeping into our books too. Whereas some authors romanticise mental illness or portray it incorrectly and disrespectfully, these are some that we think are the exception. More importantly, these characters make us remember that we are not alone in this.
Girl in Pieces by Kathleen Glasgow
(TW: Self Harm)

Girl in Pieces tells the story of seventeen-year-old Charlie, a girl who is no stranger to pain and loss. In order to cope, she self-harms to the point that we meet her at a rehabilitation centre where she is on her way to recovering. She shares her experience with a bunch of other, complex females and it all seems to be on the right track until Charlie is told that she is being released. Faced with the reality of living on the outside again, she must find her way alone but is she ready to let people back in?
Kathleen Glasgow isn’t afraid of delving into the dark world of mental illness. She doesn’t skirt over Charlie’s self-harm, Riley’s addiction or Linus’ alcoholism. Although these aren’t light-hearted subjects in themselves, she still manages to maintain a layer of hope throughout the novel. She makes you root for Charlie and the other characters, hoping that they can heal and keep going. Nothing is romanticised in this novel and I am so grateful for that. It is evidently clear that Kathleen Glasgow put her heart and soul into this book. 
This novel reminds me that we need to extinguish the stigma that is attached to mental illness. It should not be a taboo subject and it’s heartbreaking that it is something that is so common and I include myself in that. Charlie is a young girl who lost her father and her best friend, has an abusive and distant mother, is almost the victim of sexual assault, experiences homelessness and hunger but keeps going. She survives it and although her journey to recovery is far from over, she shows that you can do it. You can pull yourself out of it and I think that is such an important message, especially to the younger generation. 

Falling into Place by Amy Zhang
(TW: Suicide)

This book tells the story of Liz Emerson as we find out why she chose to drive her Mercedes off the road and try to kill herself. The story is arranged in ‘snippets’ from Liz herself, her friends, her teachers and other people but overall, much like ‘The Book Thief’ by Markus Zusak, it is narrated by an omniscient presence. The book is non-linear which may confuse a few people but in my opinion, everything came together and it was very easy to follow.
I want to first talk about Liz herself. She is by no means your typical, kind YA character. She is the most popular girl in school and has used that to her advantage, such as bullying people. One of the main reasons she tries to kill herself is because she realises what sort of person she is and regrets everything she has done. The book displays her depression and will to die so frighteningly well. She feels as though she can’t redeem herself and take back all the pain she has caused. She’s angry that she has got away with everything. I found that so powerful and really felt like Liz was such a real character which made it all the more heartbreaking.

Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson
(TW: Eating Disorders)

Wintergirls follows the story of Lia, a girl who suffers from severe eating disorders. It is written in a diary style, which, although not unique to this book, works incredibly well. It allows you to truly get into Lia’s head, and feel what she is experiencing. With Lia being portrayed as the author of the book, you also are able to understand her character a lot more than if it had been written in a different style.
Alongside the insight into the mind of someone with serious anorexia and body dysmorphia, Wintergirls highlights the drastic need for improvement in todays mental health services. Lia is beyond underweight, and yet she has been declared as stable. It isn’t until things begin to turn even worse that her illnesses are finally given the attention they need. 
I’m not sure that saying I enjoyed this book would exactly be the right way to describe how I felt during and after reading it. I think, instead, saying that I found it a powerful experience and learned a lot would be a far better way to put it.

Am I Normal Yet? by Holly Bourne
(TW: Obsessive Compulsive Disorder)

Am I Normal Yet? follows the story of Evie, a sixteen year old girl suffering from OCD and an anxiety disorder. We meet her as she is starting her recovery after hitting rock bottom and all Evie wants is to be normal and to do normal things. This is a coming-of-age story, mixed with her recovery. It is raw and honest. It deals with mental health scarily well. I don’t suffer with OCD but I do have an anxiety disorder like Evie and it really hit close to home in some moments but that is how it’s supposed to be. If you have a mental health issue and you read a book about mental health, it is supposed to be relatable. 
If I could, I would stand in front of secondary school doors and hand this book out to everyone I saw. It is a book I wish I had in my early teens, it’s a book I wish existed more and it’s a book I would recommend to anyone.
Often the text was split up whenever Evie had a ‘bad thought.’ I know some would find this distracting but suffering with anxiety and unwelcome thoughts myself, this is realistic! These thoughts do invade your mind at unwanted and random moments. I loved that, especially when we see Evie trying to turn them into ‘good thoughts.’ Her mental illness is never sugar-coated, there are some moments towards the end of the book that are really difficult to read but this is reality. 

Asking For It by Louise O’Neill
(TW: Rape)

Asking For It tells the story of Emma, a young, confident Irish girl, and what happens to her one night when she goes to a party. When she wakes up the next day with no memory of what happened or how she got home, photos from the night before begin to circulate the internet and accusations and rumours start to spread. Emma is the victim of the situation, but in the eyes of her community, she becomes the perpetrator. 
Honestly, I really struggled with this book. I’m not saying that because I disliked it but because it was just so painfully true to life that I really felt for Emma, the main character, and it hit me hard how the plot of this book could easily be the reality of so many girls around the world right now. It is a must read. It delves into rape culture, slut shaming, and the dangers of social media in a way that I’ve rarely seen done in a novel before. I cannot emphasise the importance of this book. 
Emma becomes a completely different person – she has been ostracised by all her friends and the entire community, she has stopped going to school, her family is falling apart and Emma herself is just an empty shell. This is not an easy book, it hasn’t got a happy ending, it hasn’t even got a ‘satisfactory’ ending but it’s realistic. 
Are there any books you guys would recommend that portray mental illness respectfully? If so, let us know in the comments!
Love,

Asking For It by Louise O’ Neill Review

Thank you to Netgalley for providing us with a digital copy.

Taking place in Ireland, Asking For It tells the story of Emma O’Donovan, an eighteen year old girl full of confidence and life. She is popular, beautiful and happy – and she knows it. One night there is a party and everyone is there but the next thing Emma remembers is waking up on her front porch with no memory of the night’s events. What follows is a series of explicit photographs surfacing on social media of Emma and what happened to her. However, like many victims of sexual assault, Emma isn’t believed and her community take the side of her attackers.
(TW: Sexual Assault)

Angharad’s thoughts:
This book is important. This book is horrific. This book will make you angry. It deals with rape culture and the affects of social media. It shows us how much gets taken away from the victims and how half of the time, nobody believes them anyway. It makes you think of how many victims haven’t made their voices heard because they are afraid. Most importantly, it shows that no matter what sort of person you are, no matter what gender, no matter what situation you are in, rape is rape and it is never your fault.

‘I make my mind go blank. I am not that girl anymore. I am an It. I am a collection of doll parts, of pink flesh, of legs spread open for all to see.’

For obvious reasons I know that going into this book, I was going to spend majority of the time being angry. I wasn’t wrong. The story starts with Emma being a very confident young girl. She’s beautiful and she knows it. She has many friends, she’s popular and she’s sexually aware. I really love that Louise O’Neill wrote Emma like this. Yes, she was sexually active, confident and beautiful but does that mean she was asking to get raped? Absolutely not. The only complaint I have with the beginning of this book is that there are a lot of characters, who are all named. This made it difficult during the party scene because there were so many names floating about. I got quite confused but this was such a minor annoyance that I couldn’t mark the book down. 

The second half of this book was heartbreaking, especially when the story continues a year after the event. Emma is a completely different person – she has been ostracised by all her friends and the entire community, she has stopped going to school, her family is falling apart and Emma herself is just an empty shell. She keeps having invasive thoughts, she still blames herself. This is not an easy book, it hasn’t got a happy ending, it hasn’t even got a ‘satisfactory’ ending but it’s realistic. This is happening all over the world and whether it’s in the media or not, it is too common. It makes me angry to read these books but I feel a need to so I can spread the word. 

‘My body is not my own any more. They have stamped their names all over it.’


Becky’s thoughts:
Honestly, I really struggled with this book.

I’m not saying that because I disliked it (as you can probably tell from the five stars that I gave it) but because it was just so painfully true to life that I really felt for Emma, the main character, and it hit me hard how the plot of this book could easily be the reality of so many girls around the world right now. 

Asking For It tells the story of Emma, a young, confident Irish girl, and what happens to her one night when she goes to a party. When she wakes up the next day with no memory of what happened or how she got home, photos from the night before begin to circulate the internet and accusations and rumours start to spread. Emma is the victim of the situation, but in the eyes of her community, she becomes the perpetrator. 
(How many boys?)
(What were you wearing?)
(How much did you have to drink?)

Asking For It is a must read. It delves into rape culture, slut shaming, and the dangers of social media in a way that I’ve rarely seen done in a novel before. I cannot emphasise the importance of this book. 

I thought it was intriguing how the author almost tries to turn the reader against Emma in the beginning of the book, emphasising her self confidence and her need to be the most beautiful girl in town, as well as bringing up her sex life. It brings up the question of, despite the way Emma acted or dressed, was she still asking to be raped? Of course she wasn’t.
I had liked it before. I had encouraged them.
(Maybe I had been asking for it.)

I almost knocked a star off my rating for this book, purely because I was dissatisfied with the ending, but then I realised – that’s not what this book is about. Despite using a fictional situation with fictional characters, this book tells a true story of possibly millions of girls, so many of whom would have been dissatisfied with the ending to the story of their trauma. 

As Louise O’Neill states in the afterword:
We need to talk about rape. We need to talk about consent. We need to talk about victim-blaming and slut shaming and the double standards we place upon our young men and women. We need to talk and talk and talk until the Emmas of this world feel supported and understood. Until they feel like they are believed.


Have you read this book? What were your thoughts? 
Let us know in the comments below!
Love,

Girl in Pieces Review

We were kindly sent an ARC by Delacorte Press in exchange for an honest review.

Girl in Pieces tells the story of seventeen-year-old Charlie, a girl who is no stranger to pain and loss. In order to cope, she self-harms to the point that we meet her at a rehabilitation centre where she is on her way to recovering. She shares her experience with a bunch of other, complex females and it all seems to be on the right track until Charlie is told that she is being released. Faced with the reality of living on the outside again, she must find her way alone but is she ready to let people back in?
The first thing that struck me about this book is its format. The author breaks the first few pages of the book into ‘pieces’ which I found genius. At the start of the novel, Charlie is metaphorically in pieces and the writing reminds us of this. As the story continues, the chapters get longer as Charlie has more to say. When she is in a bad way, the writing gets choppy again, it is quite literally linked to Charlie’s state of mind. As for the writing itself, it reads like a poem, it flows together. There are lines so heartbreakingly beautiful that they will take your breath away.
This isn’t just a story about self-harm – the author focuses on addiction, abuse, homelessness etc. Every character in her book has a story and none of them are ever made to feel unimportant, they all have a voice. Charlie comes into contact with many different people during this book – the girls at the hospital, her colleagues at work and even the people who live in her apartment block. This isn’t just a story about Charlie, it’s a story of all the people she meets and how they affect her.
My heart ached for Charlie. I haven’t felt that much sympathy for a character in a long time. Every time she found solace in her art, I wanted to cheer for her and I love that her art style changed as she healed. She is a survivor, she endures and sometimes she gets knocked down, but she gets straight back up. She starts off not talking and yet as she found her voice, she began to find herself. She starts the journey to loving herself and not being ashamed of her scars, she lets people in and she pulls herself away from rock bottom. I’m proud of Charlie, I’m proud that I could get to know her.
Kathleen Glasgow isn’t afraid of delving into the dark world of mental illness. She doesn’t skirt over Charlie’s self-harm, Riley’s addiction or Linus’ alcoholism. Although these aren’t light-hearted subjects in themselves, she still manages to maintain a layer of hope throughout the novel. She makes you root for Charlie and the other characters, hoping that they can heal and keep going. Nothing is romanticised in this novel and I am so grateful for that. It is evidently clear that Kathleen Glasgow put her heart and soul into this book. 
This novel reminds me that we need to extinguish the stigma that is attached to mental illness. It should not be a taboo subject and it’s heartbreaking that it is something that is so common and I include myself in that. Charlie is a young girl who lost her father and her best friend, has an abusive and distant mother, is almost the victim of sexual assault, experiences homelessness and hunger but keeps going. She survives it and although her journey to recovery is far from over, she shows that you can do it. You can pull yourself out of it and I think that is such an important message, especially to the younger generation. 

This book will be released on September 6th and keep tuned because we will be posting an interview with the author herself soon!