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#MHYALit Book Review: Girl in Pieces by Kathleen Glasgow

girlinpiecesPublisher’s description

Charlotte Davis is in pieces. At seventeen she’s already lost more than most people do 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.
A deeply moving portrait of a girl in a world that owes her nothing, and has taken so much, and the journey she undergoes to put herself back together. Kathleen Glasgow’s debut is heartbreakingly real and unflinchingly honest. It’s a story you won’t be able to look away from.

 

Amanda’s thoughts

Do you like nearly unremittingly bleak stories? Then do I have a book for you! Now don’t jump ahead and assume that I mean that in any kind of damning way. I like bleak. I like real bleak. I like books where I think, good lord, more bad stuff? So keep reading, okay?

 

We meet Charlie as she is just getting settled in a treatment facility. She’s a cutter who has done too thorough of a job and just spent a week in the hospital. At the facility, she’s silent—selective mutism. She’s been through a lot. Prior to landing in the facility, she was homeless for nearly a year. Now in treatment, she’s getting the help she so desperately needs, grateful to be indoors, warm, and fed. But money and/or insurance doesn’t last forever, and way too soon she’s being cut loose, released to her abusive mother. Instead of going home with her mother, she’s handed some money, her birth certificate, and a bus ticket to Arizona. Great parenting. Charlie heads out there alone. Her friend Mikey is there, but Mikey’s tied to a lot of her past. He’s also not around much, so when he leaves on tour with a band, Charlie is truly alone. She gets a job washing dishes at a cafe, where she meets Riley, a sometimes charming junkie ten years her senior who quickly gets into her head, heart, and pants. Riley is horrible for Charlie. She’s trying so hard to move on from her past, but that’s not easy. Every day is a struggle for her to not cut herself. She makes a lot of crappy choices around and because of Riley. There are small good things mixed in among all this bleakness. Charlie finds solace in drawing and is going to have some of her art in a show. She’s making… I wouldn’t say “friends” at work, but she’s interacting with her coworkers and coming out of her shell a little. And when things fall apart in a pretty epic way, Charlie learns she has more support, resources, and hope than she had imagined.

 

Glasgow’s writing is stunning, moving from lush and poetic to choppy and spare. We’re in Charlie’s head a lot and slowly learn about her background—her father’s suicide, her best friend’s near-suicide, her abusive mother, her life on the streets. She isn’t much for talking, even with Riley, who’s far too self-absorbed to really think to ever ask her anything  about herself. Glasgow’s story is gritty and grim and at times almost too much to bear. I admit to taking lots of breaks while reading this one. People bend, break, leave, disappoint, hurt, die, suffer, and harm. In most cases, they also heal, change, recover, and hope in this astoundingly sad, astonishingly poignant debut.

 

For more on Girl in Pieces, see Glasgow’s previous piece for our blog, “This Book Will Save Your Life.”

 

Review copy courtesy of the publisher

ISBN-13: 9781101934715

Publisher: Random House Children’s Books

Publication date: 08/30/2016

Book Review: Rebel, Bully, Geek, Pariah by Erin Jade Lange

Publisher’s description

rebelThe Rebel: Once popular, Andi is now a dreadlocked and tattooed wild child.
The Bully: Sick of being the less favorite son, York bullies everyone, especially his brother.
The Geek: Boston, York’s brother, and obsessed with getting into an Ivy League school.
The Pariah: Sam, now that her mom is sober, she just wants to get through one day at a time.

Andi, Sam, York, and Boston find themselves in the woods together when a party gets busted by the cops. Trying to run rather than get caught, they hop into the nearest car they see and take off . . . until they realize the car they’ve taken has a trunk is full of stolen drugs. Now they must rely on each other or risk their lives. Should they run or turn themselves in? Would anyone even believe the drugs aren’t theirs? Every decision could determine the rest of their lives . . . but how can any of them trust people they barely know.

In a cinematic, heart-pounding race against time, four teens learn more about one other in a few hours than they ever knew in all the years they attended school together. And what they find out isn’t at all what any of them expected . . .

 

Amanda’s thoughts

The story starts at the end: Sam is visiting with her mother in jail. Sam’s mom, a drug addict, has spent significant time in both jail and prison. We quickly learn bits and pieces of the story—Sam’s mom could’ve been a big country music star, but addiction stole that dream from her. Sam makes oblique references to an accident and the resulting scars all over her head. When Sam pursues Andi, a good girl gone “bad” who steals the violin Sam is hoping to buy back from the pawn shop, she has no idea what she’s in for.

 

The publisher’s description sums up the plot pretty well. Andi and Sam end up at a party in the woods, where they encounter brothers York and Boston. When cops bust the party, the foursome decide to hide. They witness something shady going on with some police down by the dock. They’re not really sure what they’ve witnessed, actually, but they do know that getting out of the woods is priority number one. They steal the SUV by the dock, accidentally hit a police officer with it, are shot at by someone—the good cops or the potentially crooked cops, who knows—and flee. Panicking, Boston and York direct them to a rural cabin, where maybe they can write up a statement of how this big misunderstanding happened and clear this up. Add in a million dollars worth of heroin in the SUV, someone pursuing them, and the fact that everyone but Sam is now wanted for questioning, and you’ve got quite a mess. They’re not sure who might be on the good side or the bad side in this nightmare that’s just getting worse at every turn.

 

Short chapters labeled “before” fill in details of all four main characters’ lives, but also interrupt the pacing and the suspense. The four teens spend most of the book being pursued and without a whole lot of resources to save themselves. We sometimes spend a bit too much time inside Sam’s head, which slows the story down, but overall it’s a fast-paced adventure. Though the four initially don’t appear to have much in common or even hardly know each other (with the exception of the two brothers), they reveal a lot about their lives, pressures, expectations, and disappointments as they try to untangle the mess they’ve gotten themselves into. It is also a revealing look at addiction and what it’s like to live with a parent who’s a drug addict. Lange really ups the tension and the action in the last few chapters, and a twist to the story will make readers reevaluate what they thought was going on. This quick read will appeal to readers who like action and adventure, and don’t mind if the story sometimes lags or feels a little implausible. 

 

Review copy courtesy of the publisher

ISBN-13: 9781619634985

Publisher: Bloomsbury USA

Publication date: 02/16/2016

#MHYALit: Where Are the Books on Addiction for Your Mental Health Book List? by author Christa Desir

Today as part of the release day celebration for her third novel, OTHER BROKEN THINGS, author Christa Desir is joining us for #MHYALit to talk about addiction.

addiction6

Whenever I see lists of books about mental illness, I am always baffled by the complete omission of any books on addiction. But recently, a friend told me that she doesn’t consider addiction to be a mental illness since there is a choice in deciding to use, but not in what is going on with your emotions.

Wait…what?

I was completely shocked to hear this. First, drug use disorders and drug dependence are both catalogued in the DSM, which is sort of the preeminent book on all mental health disorders. Second, new research is being done every day to identify the cause of addiction (and why some are more susceptible to it) and many theorize there could be deficiencies in the brain reward systems of the people who are more likely to become addicts. Third, in many cases of addiction, there are numerous other mental health issues in play and it is often difficult to ascertain what is exactly causing different behaviors (for example: depressives who self-medicate with alcohol become more depressed because of the effects of alcohol). And finally, even if there is no absolute consensus on the cause of addiction, there is a tremendous amount of agreement on the distorted cognitive and emotional functioning of addicts.

But our country was founded on principles of strength and self-reliance and discipline, so more often than not, people have little empathy for addicts. I have heard over and over, “Well, they did it to themselves.” As if systems of oppression, marginalization, resource inadequacies, etc. don’t play a tremendous roll in drug/alcohol use. As if people wake up and think, “Today, I’m going to become an addict.”

Earlier this year, I served on a jury trial about a woman who had become addicted to prescription drugs and the doctor who had been treating her with these drugs for thirteen years. The woman OD’d and died. Half of the jurors in the case blamed the woman completely, and did not hold in any way responsible the doctor who had been enabling her habit in spite of his knowledge of her drug-seeking behaviors. I have never gotten such insight into people’s feelings about addicts as I did in that jury deliberation room.

The United States has a drug problem, one that spins out into lots of other areas (unemployment, mass incarceration, etc). Our country is in the midst of a heroin epidemic with its use increasing 63% in the last eleven years, but this isn’t what people want to talk about. Because at the heart of all addiction conversation is usually a finger-pointing blame that an addict “did this to herself.”

Addiction is a complicated thing, and there is no easy answer. But there is no doubt in my mind that if we treated it more as a mental illness, if we looked at addiction as a disease and not as a weakness, we would make more strides toward solving it.

Six books dealing with addiction/recovery:

addictionpic

Ellen Hopkin’s Crank: In Crank, Ellen Hopkins chronicles the turbulent and often disturbing relationship between Kristina, a character based on her own daughter, and the “monster,” the highly addictive drug crystal meth, or “crank.”

Nic Sheff’s Tweak: Nic Sheff was drunk for the first time at age eleven. In the years that followed, he would regularly smoke pot, do cocaine and Ecstasy, and develop addictions to crystal meth and heroin. In a voice that is raw and honest, Nic spares no detail in telling us the compelling, heartbreaking, and true story of his relapse and the road to recovery.

Amy Reed’s Clean: Olivia, Kelly, Christopher, Jason, and Eva have one thing in common: They’re addicts. Addicts who have hit rock bottom and been stuck together in rehab to face their problems, face sobriety, and face themselves.

Kelly Fiore’s Thicker Than Water: Cyrus wasn’t always the drug-addled monster he’d become. He was a successful athlete, but when an injury forced him off the soccer field and onto pain medication, his life became a blur of anger, addiction, and violence. All CeCe could do was stand by and watch, until she realized one effective way to take away her brother’s drugs while earning the money she needed for college: selling the pills.

Jacqueline Woodson’s Beneath A Meth Moon: Hurricane Katrina took her mother and granmother. And even though Laurel Daneau has moves on to a new life—one that includes a new best friend, a spot on the cheerleading squad, and dating the co-captain of the football team—she can’t get past the pain of that loss. Then her new boyfriend introduces her to meth, and Laurel is instantly seduced by its spell, the way it erases, even if only temporarily, her memories.

Christa Desir’s Other Broken Things: Nat’s not an alcoholic. She doesn’t have a problem. Everybody parties, everybody does stupid things, like get in their car when they can barely see. Still, with six months of court-ordered AA meetings required, her days of vodka-filled water bottles are over.

Meet Christa Desir:

Christa Desir is a YA author and rape victim advocate. Her YA novels, Fault Line and Bleed Like Me, are both honest and gutwrenching explorations of teens grappling with real world issues like rape (Fault Line) and cutting (Bleed Like Me). In January 2016 her next book, Other Broken Things, releases and it explores addiction in the life of a female boxer. I recently read a copy of Other Broken Things on Edelweiss and it has an engagingly authentic teen voice and I liked the way it honestly dealt with and talked about the topic of addiction. Our teen reviewer Lexi says, “I think every teen should read this book. Every kid who feels broken. Every girl who feels like they can’t make it. Every boy who feels like giving up. Every and any person who feels like they are the only ones broken, because they’re not. This book is so painfully honest that it hurts to read at points. But it’s so worth it.”

About Other Broken Things:

Nat’s not an alcoholic. She doesn’t have a problem. Everybody parties, everybody does stupid things, like get in their car when they can barely see. Still, with six months of court-ordered AA meetings required, her days of vodka-filled water bottles are over.

Unfortunately her old friends want the party girl or nothing. Even her up-for-anything ex seems more interested in rehashing the past than actually helping Nat.

But then a recovering alcoholic named Joe inserts himself into Nat’s life and things start looking up. Joe is funny, smart, and calls her out in a way no one ever has.

He’s also older. A lot older.

Nat’s connection to Joe is overwhelming but so are her attempts to fit back into her old world, all while battling the constant urge to crack a bottle and blur that one thing she’s been desperate to forget.

Now in order to make a different kind of life, Natalie must pull together her broken parts and learn to fight for herself.

Simon Pulse, 2016

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