Number of pages: 384
Rating (out of five stars): 4
Release Date: October 23rd, 2018
*Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for providing a copy in exchange for a review. My opinions are honest and my own.
I would like to apologize to Harlequin Teen for taking so long to read this, because yikes am I ever late to reviewing this. I’m still catching up on stuff from August 2018 on my blog. I’m sorry for being a disaster.
Sometimes I forget why I love reading books with mental health rep and then I read them and remember exactly why I love them. They always feel like home. I get to see myself in a book and it feels amazing (#representationmatters). Imagine Us Happy was no exception.
The book follows Stella (who has depression and is taking medication and seeing a therapist for it) and Kevin (who also has depression and is seeing a therapist, but I forget if he’s on medication) and their relationship. It’s told from Stella’s point of view, but we still get to see both of their struggles with the illness that also controls my life. I loved getting see how depression affects them both similarly and differently. Normally with mental health YA you only get one mentally ill character and a neurotypical love interest, so it was really nice to get to see how depression affects two different people. Content warning for self-harm (discussion of scars, relapse)
There were also so many thing Stella does that I do. Struggling to get out of bed in the morning until the last second, getting angry as defense mechanism, and other things I’m blanking on. Not all of those necessarily have to do with depression. It was just nice to be able to see myself in these characters.
Going off that, the characters were well done. They all felt really complex and human, which is always nice to see. Kevin and Stella weren’t just their depression. They had interest, passions, goals. A lot of the side characters were also similarly complex.
Imagine Us Happy is told in non-chronological order and it really works for the story. There are no surprises. The reader knows Stella and Kevin aren’t together by the end at the beginning of the story, so it’s all about discovering how they got there. There are friendship breakups, neglectful parents, parent marriages dissolving, and even an acknowledgement that they probably shouldn’t try a relationship before they even start anything. You get to see how that all contributed to the ending, and it’s fascinating to watch.
Speaking of fascinating to watch, I was hooked for the majority of the book. I needed to know how this all went down. There were some spots where my enjoyment faltered, but for the most part I didn’t want to stop reading.
This book also made me beg Twitter for an explanation of the American school system, so it was also a learning experience. Our schools are very different (at least where I’m from), so thank you to the many kind people who explained things to me.
The one slight complaint I have is that I felt a sort of disconnect from the story. I have a similar complaint for a lot of the books I’ve read recently, so it could very well be my depression’s fault. It’s not that I wasn’t interested. It’s more that I never really latched on to anything in the story. Like I would recognize something I do in the characters, but I never had a moment of “Oh my god this is so me”. I hope that makes sense.
Overall, Imagine Us Happy is definitely worth the read if you’re looking for a book with depression rep, earning it 4 stars out of 5.