The second book on my trip down womenery lane is one that was part of my subscription to the book of the month club (which I will now shameless give you the link so I can get extra books if you join). It was an add-on to my first choice book for the month, The Mothers, but it wasn’t quite as good as in terms of plot. The writing was once again very good and made a pleasant read, but the more I thought about what I had read the less happy I was with the book as a whole. The book starts with a suicide, which is a good enough place to start, but what comes next is a smorgasbord of events that really don’t connect well and that don’t address the larger issue of mental health. I am all for a good book depicting depression, grief, anxiety, body dysmorphia or any other mental health issue in an accurate way. What it shouldn’t be used as, is a plot device for moving the story forward. It also should not be something that is magically fixed by pleasant moments or as Kylie Jenner might say by “realising stuff.”
I have lost a friend to suicide, and I have struggled through my own depression, anxiety, grief and eating disorder, so for me this book was really going to be hit or miss. It was a total miss, it skimmed over some tough topics while clinging onto the topics which although tough, were used solely as a plot device or a mechanism to add interest to the story. The characters in the book were all just archetypes and that was thoroughly disappointing. For example, you have the pedophile teacher sleeping with teenagers, and the teacher who is in love with english and is best friends with her students, but an outcast among her colleagues. You’ve got girls who dress like hippies, a male drug dealer too intelligent for his own good but still prone to youthful mistakes, athletes acting like assholes and a shy “good” girl who is convinced to throw a party that inevitably blows up into a disaster. It is a shame that a good writer chose such generic characters and the overly explored themes of youth that don’t actually represent anything. Johnson glamorizes the destructiveness of wealth and mental illness by creating unnecessary drama, bullying and hatred. If this book was meant to be a critique of society, the author has done a poor job of making that clear.
Overall, this book isn’t worth reading unless you really want a book with mindless teenage drama and generic characters. It is good to see someone try and address mental health issues, but ultimately it failed.
Next Read: Herland by Charlotte Perkins Gilman