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Book Review: A Danger to Herself and Others by Alyssa B. Sheinmel

A Danger to Herself and Others

 

Disclaimer: This book was sent to me by the publisher, SOURCEBOOKS Fire, via NetGalley for an honest review.

Genre: YA/Teen, Fiction, Contemporary, Mental Health, Suspense

Plot: Only when she’s locked away does the truth begin to escape…

Four walls. One window. No way to escape. Hannah knows there’s been a mistake. She didn’t need to be institutionalized. What happened to her roommate at her summer program was an accident. As soon as the doctors and judge figure out that she isn’t a danger to herself or others, she can go home to start her senior year. In the meantime, she is going to use her persuasive skills to get the staff on her side.

Then Lucy arrives. Lucy has her own baggage. And she may be the only person who can get Hannah to confront the dangerous games and secrets that landed her in confinement in the first place.

Opinion:

My heart just cracked wide open.

This book is beauty and sorrow.

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Hannah has just been institutionalized for something she didn’t do. Soon they will realize that this is all a mistake, that she’s innocent, and they will let her go home, right? After all, Agnes was her best friend. She would never do anything to hurt her. Well, not intentionally anyway. It’s all just a big misunderstanding. Hannah is a straight-A student after all. She might even know more than the people that work in this institution, but she has to be smart. If she wants to get out, she must follow along with their tests and show them just how sane she is. They will see the truth when Agnes wakes up. It was all just an accident…wasn’t it?

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A Danger to Herself and Others is everything, and nothing, I expected it to be.

Hannah is the most fascinating character I have come across in SO long, and it’s precisely because of the multitude of layers and substance that she possesses. As soon as you think you have this girl pegged, you will be told to keep listening. As soon as you think if she is innocent or guilty, you will be told to be quiet and to sit back down. As soon as you think the last sentence of each chapter is a tell-all for what the point of this story is…well. You’d just be wrong.

I love nothing more than a blindside, and A Danger to Herself and Others is just that.

Hannah is every single opinion and idea I had for her while reading, and that is EXACTLY how she was designed to be. I found her to be slightly arrogant and a know-it-all, but also humbled for the extravagant life she had led before the institution. She is focused and sharp, but is easily pulled into her thoughts and fantasies. In one instance she comes across as incredibly rational and straightforward, but in the next she is breaking apart and analyzing things in a highly erratic way and repeating phrases over and over in her head. Every time she would say or do something, my opinion of her innocence and person would change. She’s innocent and sane, she’s guilty and insane. Back and forth, back and forth.

But what I can say is true for Hannah, is that she is BOTH of EVERY side.

She is sane and insane.

Rational and irrational.

Content and irate.

Morbid and Neutral.

Happy and Miserable.

Lonely and comforted.

She is all these things and none of them. And as soon as you figure that out, you start to wonder just how different and not so different you are from her.

Because Hannah is every single one of us, and none of us at once.

She is the victim, and she is the villain.

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The author, Alyssa Sheinmel, has a gift for entwining suspense into this story and making me question every single aspect of it. She would beautifully make a statement from Hannah or Dr. Lightfoot that sounded factual, whilst turning it with a flick of her wrist so you questioned every single sentence thereafter. I couldn’t help but dissect EVERYTHING that was said, because I was completely caught up in finding out the truth as quickly as possible. I kept comparing myself to her, thinking about what I would do or say in her situation, and then usually coming to the conclusion that she’s being framed or she deserves to be there. I didn’t actually believe the outcome until the book finished.

Making a reader continually question a book until the end takes SERIOUS talent.

As I read through my notes on this book, I am noticing every single instance where my opinion is thrown around, and every time I question something I thought I knew was true. But as I move down my notes of wishy-washy-ness, it comes to a sudden halt at the bottom when I realize that this isn’t the mystery/suspense story I thought it was. Because suddenly my notes change from accusing Hannah of WHAT and WHO she IS, to only this:

I think this just broke me.

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Hannah at the end of A Danger to Herself and Others is…heartbreaking. I kept saying “oh honey..” out loud and wanting nothing more than to reach into the pages and hold her. I think it can be quite easy for an author to make a reader love and care for a character. But to make the reader feel empathy, loneliness and sorrow when the character feels those things?

That’s just magical.

At the beginning of this read the publisher has a letter to the reader, in which they state how they only strive to publish books that change lives. I can confidently say this book has shifted my thoughts and being into one with much more compassion and love. This story isn’t just a work of fiction, it’s a message and an alarm clock to wake you up.

Read this.

 

And to Sourcebooks Fire I say this:

You succeeded in your goal.

 

5-stars

 

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Book Promo · Book Reviews · Books · Netgalley · New Releases · Pre-order · Reviews

Book Review: The Dark Beneath the Ice by Amelinda Bérubé

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The Dark Beneath the Ice will be available for purchase on August 7, 2018

Pre-order a copy through the links below:

Amazon.com – The Dark Beneath the Ice by Amelinda Bérubé

Barnesandnoble.com – The Dark Beneath the Ice by Amelinda Bérubé

Goodreads.com – The Dark Beneath the Ice by Amelinda Bérubé

Bookdepository.com – The Dark Beneath the Ice by Amelinda Bérubé

Disclaimer: This book was sent to me by the publisher, Sourcebooks Fire, via NetGalley for an honest review.

Genre: YA/Teen/Paranormal

Plot: Something is wrong with Marianne.

It’s not just that her parents have finally split up. Or that life hasn’t been the same since she quit dancing. Or even that her mother has checked herself into the hospital.

She’s losing time. Doing things she would never do. And objects around her seem to break whenever she comes close. Something is after her. And the only one who seems to believe her is the daughter of a local psychic.

But their first attempt at an exorcism calls down the full force of the thing’s rage. It demands Marianne give back what she stole. Whatever is haunting her, it wants everything she has—everything it’s convinced she stole. Marianne must uncover the truth that lies beneath it all before the nightmare can take what it thinks it’s owed, leaving Marianne trapped in the darkness of the other side.

Opinion:

Black Swan meets Paranormal Activity in this compelling ghost story about a former dancer whose grip on reality slips when she begins to think a dark entity is stalking her”

So this was…interesting.

Marianne’s life has never been more out of control. With her parents announcing their divorce despite seeming to be so in love, her mother’s recent hospitalization, and the drama surrounding Marianne’s decision to quit dance; it feels like Marianne is drowning.  As she is sent to live with her aunt, strange things begin to happen in Marianne’s quiet world. Losing time, objects being moved without her moving them, strange knocking and banging on the walls, and the never-ending feeling of being watched. After a loss of time happens in one of Marianne’s classes, she attempts to reach out to the goth girl named Ron in hopes that her psychic mother may help her. But when communicating with whatever haunts Marianne only strengthens it, everyone close to Marianne is in danger. Something is coming for Marianne, and its angry at her for being shoved down and drowned. But in the end, Marianne may be the one being dragged beneath the ice.

Intriguing concept and idea, but a bit of a miss for me.

Don’t get me wrong, there were definitely some positives! The story started out great in regards to the writing style. It was so descriptive and beautiful, I felt as if I was reading a more relaxed form of poetry. The writing feels like a well-choreographed dance, and I found myself having to read between the lines to figure out what these characters were hiding. It was constructed well, had an even tone throughout, and was a very quick and easy read. The theme that the author kept with through this story (as you can tell from the title) is a theme of being drowned or shoved down beneath ice. Marianne uses her memories of the river near her aunt’s house as a meditative tool when she begins to feel overwhelmed or scared. She pictures the calming feeling of her being submerged in the water, and the silence and security that comes with hiding under the surface.  The water is her safe place, and the ice on top of the water becomes her shield against anything negative. This theme is carried throughout the entire book, but becomes less of a symbolism and more of a….sighit honestly just becomes ridiculous.

As I started this read, I was really into it and devouring the words in order to find out WHAT exactly was going on. Is this a ghost story, is it a story of delusions and misconceptions, or is it a fantastical read about demons?! Halfway through the story I had decided that this was a ghost haunting/exorcism story that was about to be twisted and wild, and it was proving to be just that. Marianne would wake up at the piano in her aunt’s house banging on the keys in the middle of the night, or she would find herself up in front of her class at school being scolded by her teacher but having no recollection of what had happened. Things got worse after Ron, the goth/emo girl from school, tries to give Marianne a tame version of an exorcism. But even after enlisting the help of Ron’s mother, the physic, things turn dangerous. Knives floating in the air and being aimed at herself, bruises on her body, and a distinct pulling feeling that tries to drag her into the river and drown her.

However, how this turns out just DOES NOT ADD UP.

*Watch out, there’s a puddle of SPOILERS down there*

Nearing the end of this story I had a thought that MAYBE this was all just a symbolism for Marianne figuratively drowning herself in her hardships and woes and BLAH BLAH BLAH. MAYBE there isn’t actually a ghost or anything haunting her, MAYBE it’s just her.

Well, guess what?

It was literally both of those things.

It was her own “shadow self” trying to drown her because Marianne had pushed her “shadow self” beneath the figurative surface, and the “shadow self” wanted out because the “shadow self” was actually the original Marianne, and the Marianne that is now Marianne isn’t actually the original Marianne. The “shadow self” is actually the first Marianne, but in the end they are actually both Marianne.

Makes total sense right?

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Apart from that complete mess, the character of Marianne that the reader follows during this read proves to be another negative in my eyes. Marianne is, simply put, annoying as all hell. She felt a bit dull, emotionally confusing, and extremely desperate and needy in a way that made me scrunch my face up in a “WTF” sort of way. She has this fabricated idea of friendships in her head that I just didn’t follow. She was so worried about looking needy all the time, but it just made her look doubly needy and a little stalkerish. She just wasn’t my cup of tea. Ron on the other hand, was a more agreeable character for me. This could be because of my tendency to favor the weird gothy kids though. But Ron proves to be a strong character, she is willful and a “take no s**t” kind of gal, and I love her for it.

Also as a heads up, there is a bit of LGBT moments that happen in this story. They are very tame and mild, so if this is your thing or isn’t, just a warning in advance.

All in all, that ending really ruined the story for me. It started out promising, I loved the writing style, but the main character and the conclusion just didn’t hit the mark for me. I appreciate where the author was trying to take this story, but I don’t think she was able to take this book to the place it needed to go. The ending just didn’t feel completely thought through, and the delivery was a bit lacking. Of course, this is just my own opinion, and not all readers share my thoughts. If you think this might be a story that interests you, then I would love to hear your thoughts on it.

2-stars

 

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Book Promo · Book Reviews · Books · Netgalley · New Releases · Reviews

Book Review: The Dead Inside by Cyndy Etler

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~ Buy through the links below ~

Amazon.com – The Dead Inside: A True Story by Cyndy Etler

Goodreads.com – The Dead Inside by Cyndy Etler

Barnesandnoble.com – The Dead Inside by Cyndy Etler

Bookdepository.com – The Dead Inside by Cyndy Etler

Disclaimer: This book was sent to me by the publisher, Sourcebooks Fire, via NetGalley for an honest review.

Genre: YA/Non-Fiction

Plot: I never was a badass. Or a slut, a junkie, a stoner, like they told me I was. I was just a kid looking for something good, something that felt like love. I was a wannabe in a Levi’s jean jacket. Anybody could see that. Except my mother. And the professionals at Straight.

From the outside, Straight Inc. was a drug rehab. But on the inside it was…well, it was something else.

All Cyndy wanted was to be loved and accepted. By age fourteen, she had escaped from her violent home, only to be reported as a runaway and sent to a “drug rehabilitation” facility that changed her world.

To the public, Straight Inc. was a place of recovery. But behind closed doors, the program used bizarre and intimidating methods to “treat” its patients. In her raw and fearless memoir, Cyndy Etler recounts her sixteen months in the living nightmare that Straight Inc. considered “healing.”

Opinion:

WOW.

When I say WOW, I mean…Holy S*** WOW.

I have to say guys, I wasn’t expecting this story to turn out like that at all. A few months ago I was looking through the new books on Netgalley, found this story and immediately requested it. I had heard about these types of camps and institutions years ago, but I have never looked into them that deeply. This story follows Cyndy Etler as she recounts her adolescence and her time in a “tough love” style rehabilitation camp.

At the young age of fourteen, Cyndy is thrown into a boarding school by her mother, or so she thinks. Cyndy quickly realizes that her new home is called Straight Inc., and it is actually a drug rehabilitation center for youths. From her first moments stepping inside Straight, Cyndy begins to realize that the methods used in the facility are far from normal. From being dragged down hallways by her pant loops, group meetings where teenagers wave their arms around erratically chanting, and frightening moments of being broken down by her peers…Cyndy has to decide how she is going to survive in this program.

So let’s first begin with how SERIOUSLY BIZARRE these programs are. Cyndy explains the more than frightening and psychologically damaging rules and things that went on at Straight, and I am still in shock. Kids are lead around by the back of their pants, forced to believe they have drug problems even if they don’t, screamed at and put down by their peers, and encouraged to report each other in order to get ahead in the program. The rules that the program instills is even more absurd. If you lean on the back of your chair in group, a peer will roughly drag their first down your spine to remind you to keep your back straight. As a newcomer, Cyndy wasn’t allowed to look or speak to any boys, and she was monitored at all times…even in the bathroom.

I think the oddest aspect of this program for me was what they called “motivating”. “Motivating” entails all these kids to be sitting in plastic chairs, boys and girls separated on either side of the room. Basically what happens is they flail their arms around above their heads, jerking and screaming about. Cyndy describes this process as a way to motivate each other to want to share your experiences, but admits that many of the kids “motivate” so hard so that they won’t be called on. Once called on, the kids are expected to stand up and admit a story from their past…but in most cases these kids are forced to make something up in order to impress the staff. If you mess up or do something wrong, you are confronted. This is where a peer may run up to you and start screaming in your face, or even psychically harm you.

The list truly goes on and on with all of the strange things these kids were forced to do, and from the outside this program made it look like they were only using tough love and peer pressure techniques to get these kids off drugs (see the below video). Cyndy expresses that it took her years to get “back to normal” after all of the psychological abuse and brainwashing that she went through at Straight. She wrote her story in a way that it felt like the reader was actually with her at fourteen, listening to her describe the horrors that became her life. Her writing style becomes a little confusing when she starts to describe “THE BEAST” or her group when she is first introduced to the “motivating” technique. It got me a little jumbled up, but as I continued to read her writing started to feel like a horrifically beautiful style of poetry which I really began to enjoy.

Honestly, EVERYONE needs to read this. For parents who are thinking of giving this to their kids to read, please keep in mind that there is a bit of sexual abuse that happens in the beginning of the story. That aside, this is a tale that anyone would be enthralled by. As soon as I finished this book I immediately started researching Straight Inc. and other programs like it. This is a disturbing story that will make your heart droop, but it is a MUST read! GO GET THIS!! You will not be disappointed.

For more information and personal stories on Straight Inc., check out SurvivingStraightInc.com

4-5-stars

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