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Book Review: Light Filters In: Poems by Caroline Kaufman

Publisher’s description

light filters inIn the vein of poetry collections like Milk and Honey and Adultolescence, this compilation of short, powerful poems from teen Instagram sensation @poeticpoison perfectly captures the human experience. 

In Light Filters In, Caroline Kaufman—known as @poeticpoison—does what she does best: reflects our own experiences back at us and makes us feel less alone, one exquisite and insightful piece at a time. She writes about giving up too much of yourself to someone else, not fitting in, endlessly Googling “how to be happy,” and ultimately figuring out who you are.

This hardcover collection features completely new material plus some fan favorites from Caroline’s account. Filled with haunting, spare pieces of original art, Light Filters In will thrill existing fans and newcomers alike.

it’s okay if some things

are always out of reach.

if you could carry all the stars

in the palm of your hand,

they wouldn’t be

half as breathtaking

 

Amanda’s thoughts

I’ve been using this summer to try to catch up on a lot of the books from the past few months that I haven’t had time to read. This one has been sitting in my pile since May and I’m so glad I finally got around to it. Librarians, teachers, and booksellers, please get this book and put it out in various displays. This collection of poems about mental health, the aftermath of sexual assault, help, and hope is an important one. This is a beautiful, raw, and extremely moving book that so many will be able to relate to for so many reasons. There are references to self-harm and other topics that some readers will find triggering, FYI. Told in four parts, Kaufman moves from crisis to processing what she’s been through to help and treatment to hope and moving forward. The poems are short and sometimes feel unfinished or repetitive, but taken all together create a powerful and profound look at what it means to be a girl, to be a survivor, and to find help, support, and hope in the face of so much unhappiness. Though I am well past my teenage years, reading this really spoke to Teenage Me and I can only imagine how comforted I would have felt seeing someone so adeptly capture so much of what I felt at that time. A lovely, if not always easy to read, collection. 

 

 

Review copy courtesy of the publisher

ISBN-13: 9780062844682
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 05/22/2018

Book Review: Under Rose-Tainted Skies by Louise Gornall

Publisher’s description

underNorah has agoraphobia and OCD. When groceries are left on the porch, she can’t step out to get them. Struggling to snag the bags with a stick, she meets Luke. He’s sweet and funny, and he just caught her fishing for groceries. Because of course he did.
Norah can’t leave the house, but can she let someone in? As their friendship grows deeper, Norah realizes Luke deserves a normal girl. One who can lie on the front lawn and look up at the stars. One who isn’t so screwed up.
Readers themselves will fall in love with Norah in this poignant, humorous, and deeply engaging portrait of a teen struggling to find the strength to face her demons.

 

 

Amanda’s thoughts

This book was really a mixed bag for me.

 

We really get to see Norah’s various mental illnesses and how they affect her and her life. We get great, intense descriptions of panic attacks and the urge to harm herself and what it can feel like to have agoraphobia. We see how small her world has become—she has hardly left the house in four years. We see her have multiple therapy sessions in various places. We are right there with Norah in her panic and fear and distress. Gornall’s writing, for the most part, is great. The writing is also funny. Though Norah’s a wreck who is often really caught up in fighting against her own brain, she’s also really self-aware and clever. She’s funny and gives good banter.

 

Norah’s mental illnesses are BAD. They are in no way under control. Yes, she’s in therapy, but often it has to be at her house or in her mom’s car because she can’t get as far as the clinic. Just stepping one toe past her front door is terrifying. She’s unmedicated. She’s hoping to keep depression at bay and often gives in to the urge to harm herself. All of this, and her mother leaves her alone while she travels for work. Really? Yes, she’s 17, but she’s NOT OKAY. She should not be alone. And her mom’s two day trip turns into a week or more when she gets in some mysterious car accident that requires multiple days in the hospital and feels completely unrealistic/never satisfactorily explained. All of this is to say, as a person who both battles mental illness and parents another human with mental illness, I wanted her to be taken better care of. Yelling at her mom for leaving her alone took me out of the book. But, seeing her alone is what makes us really understand how bad her panic attacks and agoraphobia are.

 

Then there’s Luke, the new neighbor boy. At first all Norah can really do is spy on him from the windows. Then they start talking through the door (closed and open). It’s pretty much insta-like. Norah is consumed with thinking about him, considering her appearance (after lots of time not really worrying about it). She forgets therapy appointments because her head is so in the clouds. She feels something small and awake inside of her thanks to him. He adorably slips notes through her front door when she can’t handle talking. She describes him as “10 percent human, 90 percent charisma” and she’s right. He feels too good to be true. It’s not that I don’t think there isn’t a chance that a charming and super understanding boy could fall for a girl who can hardly interact with other humans, but Luke just doesn’t feel real. He’s too good. And, while he doesn’t magically or instantly cure her, it very much does feel like Luke, and love, do save her and speed up her progress in ways that other things can’t. The hopeful ending is necessary, but also feels rather unbelievable.

 

So. Like I said, mixed bag. Here’s the thing: minus the “love will fix you” story line and the worrisome fact that I think Norah needs way more care than she’s getting, this is a good book. It’s well-written. It’s amusing. The clever banter between Norah and Luke and Norah and her mother is good. But I am a hard one to please when it comes to mental health plots. I want to see good work being done in multiple ways. And it IS being done here, but I really felt the story needed more. Norah is VERY UNWELL. You can tell, even without reading Gornall’s author’s note about her own mental health experiences, that she knows what she’s writing about. I really wanted to feel like there was more to Norah than just her mental illness. And, most importantly, I want her to get better because of what she’s doing and for her own sake, not because of a boy. I don’t know that any of these issues were a flaw in the story or writing, necessarily, so much as my own desire for more out of Norah, for more concern over her mental health.

 

All of that said, I hope this book finds an audience because of its vivid and powerful descriptions of what living with mental illness can be like. And while I wanted more out of this book than I got, I really did enjoy the writing and look forward to future books from Gornall. 

 

Review copy courtesy of the publisher

ISBN-13: 9780544736511

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Publication date: 01/03/2017

#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

#MHYALit: This Book Will Save Your Life, a guest post by author Kathleen Glasgow

Today we are honored to host author Kathleen Glasgow as part of the #MHYALit Discussion. Her book, GIRL IN PIECES, releases in September from Delacorte Press. You can read all the #MHYALit posts here.

MHYALitlogoofficfial

I could not feel my fingers. And then I could not feel my arms. And then my shoulders, and then, and then, and then….how does the body do it, anyway? I’m still not sure, but it was something, a gift, really, that my body gave me at an early age, in order to escape what was happening in my home. Dissociation made it easier for me to do things that caused me great fear and stress. And I was about to do something that was going to cause me great fear and stress. I was going to be brave. I was going to ask for help.

I had been up all night, pacing my room, listening to music on my headphones in an attempt to calm down, to plan my strategy, my line of reasoning. The minutes stretched into hours, which stretched into black periods of sobbing, of scratching and pinching myself, of waiting, waiting, for bravery.

My mother’s favorite nighttime ritual was settling into her big bed with a glass of wine and a thick book.  When I walked into her room, the sun was rising outside the patio door, pink and creamy orange. The perfect Tucson sunrise. Her book was splayed on the nightstand. There was still some wine in her glass. I drank it. Then I reached out and shook her shoulder until her eyes blinked open.

girlinpieces

“Mommy,” I said, my voice sounding strange and far from me. “If you don’t take me to the hospital, right now, I am going to kill myself.”  I was sixteen. I meant it.

What followed was my mother slipping into robot-mode. She made calls, she smoked cigarettes, she argued with my father on the phone, and by the end of the day I was a new patient at small and somewhat seedy psychiatric hospital.  I was lumped in with adults. There was no separation by disorder, age, or “problem.” As one of my new colleagues put it during a dinner of slimy green beans and something resembling partially-heated Salisbury Steak, “We all fucking crazy in the same fucking crazy salad. You the tomato, she’s the lettuce, I’m the damn dressing.”

I had never felt so safe in my entire life.

When I was younger, growing up in a house filled with violence and fear, I found my solace in books. I read and re-read books obsessively, looking for anything that could lift me away from the darkness of my daily life. I should have been a prime candidate for fantasy or science fiction, but that wasn’t my thing. I latched onto anything that even vaguely resembled what was happening in my life and at that time, the queen of all things realistic was Judy Blume. Being bullied at school? Blubber became my tome. Having body and anxiety problems? Deenie. Curious about sex? The holy grail was, of course, Forever.  Fuck the whole tesseract business (though that was cool, too): I latched onto A Wrinkle in Time for Meg Murry, the lonely outcast.

When I found my mother’s 1954 copy of The Catcher in the Rye, though, Holden Caulfield spoke to me like no one else had. Here was someone who was clearly depressed, suicidal, afraid  of the world, afraid of himself. I still have that book. I still reread that book, every year, because it was the first book that taught me that I was not alone. I saw myself in Holden. It was a salve, a balm, for a long time.

catcherintheryeUntil it wasn’t.

I started cutting myself at fifteen. Little nicks no one could see. Then bigger. Then deeper. It became a relief, a solace against what was eating me up in my mind and heart. My mother sent me to therapy. There were medications. I was expelled from school. My depression and harm were spiraling somewhere dark, somewhere very frightening.

There were no books for me for this, not then. Had I had a book like Girl, Interrupted, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, All the Rage, Cut, It’s Kind of A Funny Story, or All the Bright Places, even Speak, whose main character’s silence mirrored my own selective mutism, where would I be today? Would things have been different for me if I’d been able to find myself in a book and see just a glimmer, just a tiny smidge of creamy pink and orange, over the horizon?

alltherage

Maybe.

Those books, and others like them, didn’t come out until I was in my twenties and well after. I’d already been hospitalized numerous times and damaged myself in dozens of ways. When I found them, though, I devoured them. I became 12 again. I became 13. I became 14, 15, 16, 17, 18.  They talked to the teen I was and told her she was not alone, ever, even in retrospect. They talked about what it was like to be depressed, to be hospitalized, to have horrible things done to you, to feel horrible things, to do horrible things, to feel lonely, but that above all, you could survive.

I still struggle every day with depression. It’s lifelong, and I accept it. I haven’t harmed myself in over 20 years. When I decided to write Charlie’s story in Girl in Pieces, I wrote the book I wished I’d had when I was teenager and living in my own hell. I wrote the book I wished I’d had when I was in my twenties and thirties and crawling back to the light. I put the whole crazy salad in there: the tomato, the lettuce, the damn dressing, because I want readers to see themselves in there, somewhere, and feel that creamy pink and orange smidge of hope.

That’s the thing about books. You never know which one will save your life. Or when.

Meet the Author

Kathleen Glasgow’s debut novel GIRL IN PIECES will be published August 30, 2016, by Delacorte. She lives in Tucson, Arizona and write for the radio show, The Writer’s Almanac. She likes stand-up comedy, books, Tyrion and Shireen, and her kids. She is not team Captain America or Iron Man. She is Team Furiosa, all the way. You can find her on Twitter: (@kathglasgow), Instagram: (misskathleenglasgow), or (kathleenglasgowbooks.com).

About GIRL IN PIECES

girlinpiecesCharlotte 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 thick glass of a mason jar cuts deep, and the pain 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. (September 2016, Delacorte Press)

#MHYALit: The Truth I Forgot to Remember, a guest post by Sashi Kaufman

MHYALitlogoofficfialI’ve been in therapy since I was seventeen years old. My mother is a therapist and growing up, going to therapy just wasn’t that big of a deal. It was kind of like going to the dentist -something you could do preventatively or when plaque started to build up on your feelings.

I worked with a therapist in my late twenties and early thirties as I struggled with how to be an adult -the kind that wasn’t afraid of the dark or my heart stopping suddenly and inexplicably. Anxiety. But I didn’t know that then.

After my first child was born I went back into therapy as I limped out of the crushing depths of postpartum depression. I finally went on medication. And even though up to that point I had lived a pretty successful and fulfilling life by anyone’s standards, until I went on medication for anxiety, I had no idea how much I had been managing.  Managing is a funny word. Managing means you’re coping, you’re dealing. But at what cost?

I’m a grown up now. I’m almost forty so I’d say it’s about time. But really, growing up has no set parameters. I like to think better late than never. And once you know enough adults you know that for some people it’s never. So as my adult self I was talking to my mother on the phone one day and I asked her, “Mom, why did I start going to therapy? It was because I was overwhelmed and confused about picking a college right?”

There was silence.

“No,” my mom said cautiously.

That was the story I told myself. That was what I remembered.

“It was because you were threatening to cut yourself.”

“I did?” How could I not remember? But as soon as she said it, it sounded right. How could this have gotten pushed so far back in my memory?

“Yes. You painted on yourself.”

I remembered the paint. Bright red streaks of it up and down my forearms.

There was paint in my room. I was working on a mural. There was a black angel and a cloud of poison -something I think even I recognized at the time as incredibly angsty and overdone. But there was paint in my room. And I remember feeling so miserable, so lonely and miserable. I remember going downstairs and staring at the knives in knife rack. I could picture the beads of blood that the serrated knife would create and the sharp line that the paring knife would draw if I pressed it into the soft flesh of my inner arm.

I wanted them to know. My parents. I wanted them to know how much I hurt and how miserable I was. I don’t even remember why -but I remember thinking they needed to know and I didn’t know how to make them take me seriously.

I walked away from the knives in the kitchen. I went upstairs and picked up a paintbrush instead.

It wasn’t until postpartum depression, almost 17 years later, that I felt that desire to cut again. When I told my therapist about it she told me something about cutting that resonated with me. She said that cutting has a biochemical trigger. That it’s the brain’s way of preventing you from doing something worse to yourself. There are as many reasons to cut as there are people who do it. But that made sense to me. After all, I never ever wanted to end my life. I simply wanted to do something so that my outside would reflect the emotional hemorrhage that was taking place inside. So that the people who loved me would see and help me do something about it.

God am I lucky they did. I am so lucky that my parents helped me find someone I could talk to. I am blessed that my husband, my family and friends helped me find the way forward when those knives began to sing their sweet seductive song to me again.

I am glad I know now that their song, for me, does not mean I want to die. For me it means that something is out of balance, that I am feeling overwhelmed in a way that is not healthy, that I need a release and I’m struggling to find it.

I had a story I told myself about why I started therapy. And it’s possible that my anxiety and fear about leaving home played into why I was so miserable in the first place. But I’m glad my mother reminded me about the other part. Because that’s the part people don’t talk about too much. That’s the part that most of my friends and family would be surprised by. I’m funny and loud and extroverted, calm and capable and communicative. Even I was surprised to remember the truth about myself. But if I’ve learned nothing else, and I’ve learned plenty, from living through anxiety and depression it’s that when you talk about it, everyone talks about it. All of a sudden, people you may not even know that well are telling you about their favorite meds or their latest diagnosis.

And the more we talk, the less lonely we feel. The less attached we are to the idea that any kind of normal exists and that we are somehow on the outside of that group.

————

You can find Sashi at wwww.sashikaufman.com . Her next book, Wired Man and Other Freaks of Nature, comes out this September.

wiredmanPublisher’s Book Description

Ben Wireman is partially deaf and completely insecure. The only two things that make him feel normal are being a soccer goalie and hanging out with his best friend, Tyler.

Tyler Nuson is the golden boy, worshiped by girls and guys alike. But Tyler’s golden facade is cracking, and the dark secrets hidden behind it are oozing to the surface. Ben has no idea what to do when Tyler’s memories of their past start poisoning everything, including their friendship.

Enter Ilona Pierce. With tattoos, blue hair, and almost no friends, she’s exactly the kind of weirdo Ben has tried to avoid his entire life. But without Tyler, Ben isn’t sure who he is anymore, and maybe, just maybe, hanging out with a freak is what he needs.

Wired Man and Other Freaks of Nature is a captivating and compelling story about the shifting dynamics between two best friends during their senior year in high school, as their loyalty to each other is tested by betrayal, secrets, girls, and the complex art of growing up. (Carolrholda Labs, September 2016)