It all started in the morning, or early afternoon. Louise O’Neill tweeted an article about Holly Bourne. I read it, I bought this book, I sat down, I read it, and now here I am. You see, Louise’s book Asking For It is a magnificent example of issue-driven YA, and one that’s making waves, and when I read that Holly was driving her frustration and feelings of hearing stories like this through her work into writing, I simply had to read it.
At some point last year, I was going to buy this while on a YA binge, and I can’t for the life of me remember what stopped me. But after reading the article, I knew I wanted to read it: All Evie wants is to be normal. She’s almost off her meds and at a new college where no one knows her as the girl-who-went-crazy. She’s even going to parties and making friends. There’s only one thing left to tick off her list…
Relationships are messy, and when you’re battling with mental health, problems that you believe no one will understand, they become even messier. Bad thoughts are abundant: it goes beyond ‘Do I look good?’ or ‘Will he like me?’ to dark ideas that pierce through.
“Mental illnesses grab you by the leg, screaming, and chow you down whole. They make you selfish. They make you irrational. They make you self-absorbed. They make you needy. They make you cancel plans last minute. They make you not very fun to spend time with. They make you exhausting to be near.”
Evie wants to be normal, dreams of being normal, but simply isn’t. She can’t be around people, she can’t block out the bad thoughts, she finds herself acting the same way as those who she fears would judge her when in certain situations. As she enters the world of dating at college, all while on the road to recovery as her meds are lowered, it’s a crash course in the ups and downs, how it impacts family and friendships, and how mental health can add strain to these already fraught things.
A one sitting book. I just really enjoyed it. Their Spinsters feminist club was just rad, and while talking of ~the patriarchy~ it always covered the two sides: the impacts on both men and women from sexism. I do hope that word gets reclaimed in the same vein as the book, because Spinster clubs sound brilliant.
The upsurge of issue-driven YA is setting a high bar. This is the kind of book I read and thought, See if this was around when I was a teenager… A fun teen plot alongside real issues, and a lead character you root for (and a Guy you want to dropkick). Really enjoyed.