The Storm Crow ARC Review

the storm crow

Number of pages:  352

Rating (out of five stars): 5

Release Date: July 9th, 2019

*Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for providing a copy in exchange for a review. My opinions are honest and my own.

This is the book I’ve been searching for my whole life. This book is everything I wanted from a book as a teen and barely missed having. Like I both have so many words and not enough words for how much this book means to me and how much I loved it.

I never thought I would actually get a YA fantasy book with a MC who struggles with depression. I love mental health fiction because it’s relatable to me as someone who struggles with depression, but contemporary has never been my genre. So having the same level of rep in a fantasy about magical crows brings tears to my eyes.

That’s the thing. I related to Thia so hard. Not just because of her depression. She has trouble controlling her emotions. She cares so much that despite being smart, she sometimes thinks with her heart before thinking with her head. She’s loyal and determined. It’s kind of weird to say the usual stuff I say when I love a character, like that I’ll protect them and that they are my new children because she felt so similar to me. And I got to see her, a girl with depression, be a bad*** and fight for what she believes in.

Her depression also doesn’t magically go away. It’s there throughout the whole book. She doesn’t start getting stuff done and is cured; she recognizes that this is a battle she’s going to have to fight for the rest of her life.

I’ve had the complaint in the past that using terms like anxiety and depression in fantasy books takes me out of the story, but I genuinely burst into tears when Thia told her sister that she was depressed in plain terms. I take back what I said about those other books. Having the rep on the page in words, rather than just descriptions means so much.

The romance was interesting. I liked the love interest as a person, but I was kind of hoping the love interest would be not him so hard that I wasn’t okay with it until I skipped ahead to the last few pages and accepted my fate. He’s a nice guy and is probably better for Thia in the long run (plus he has a kitten), but like the banter with the other guy was so good, and you could tell he was really trying. I know Thia doesn’t like  him in that way, but I can’t help it. Like I actively celebrated at the slightest suggestion that the love interest was not being entirely truthful with her.

I loved seeing Thia’s friendship with Kiva. It was nice to know Thia had a strong support network. It was also nice to see how their friendship ultimately came before some of the other relationships they formed throughout the book. Strong female friendships always get a yes from me.

When I was a kid, every book I read was like watching a movie in my head. As I got older, it didn’t really work like that for me anymore. Well, it worked like that with The Storm Crow. I could picture everything, and it was amazing. I was already so hooked while reading, but there was the added bonus of needing to see more of this world. In particular, I can still see the thing I pictured at the end of the prologue in my head about a week after finishing the book.

Speaking of the world-building, it was absolutely incredible. There was everything from myths, to a coherent magic system, to the politics and histories of nations, and it just came together so beautifully. I haven’t had a chance to go through it yet, but the back of the e-ARC has even more information about the different nations, and I can’t wait to nerd out over it.

I am practically bursting with theories from both while I was reading and afterwards. I was wrong about a lot, but I think that says more about my investment in the story than anything. I’m normally pretty good at predictions because I’ve read so much YA fantasy, so I always love when a books get me invested enough to confuse me.

Overall, The Storm Crow was everything I wanted it to be (and I went in with way too high expectations). It has therefore earned 5 out of 5 stars and a place on my bookshelf as my current all-time favourite book.

Advertisements

Dear Evan Hansen DNF Review

dear evan hansen

Number of pages: 368

Rating (out of five stars): 0 (technically 1 star on Goodreads)

I love the musical Dear Evan Hansen, so it made sense that I would read the novelization. Waving through a Window is a song I feel in my soul. So, that it is my first DNF in years comes has a huge surprise. That I’m also reviewing a book I stopped reading at 114 pages should pretty much tell all you need to know, but let’s get into this.

One of the main reasons I DNFed this was how gross reading it made me feel. There were multiple jokes made about Connor potentially being a school shooter and how much of a freak he was. Like most of the jokes are made by a guy Evan calls a dick, but Evan isn’t much better. Evan makes a similar comment about Connor being the person most likely to be a school shooter later on. It was so gross, especially considering Evan went on an out of place rant about school shootings before we even met Connor.

Evan also is about a step away from stalking Zoe. I got the impression from the songs that he just sort of noticed her and had a crush on her, but the way it’s presented in the book was disturbing and uncomfortable to read about.

There were other gross jokes made, but I think that mostly comes down to the fact that this is clearly written by an adult who has no idea how teenagers talk. I have a teenage brother who makes jokes he shouldn’t all the time, but it’s just to get a rise out of me. It isn’t presented as him actually trying to be funny, and he wouldn’t say 90% of what these characters say even to make me upset.

There was a girl at my high school who died when I was in grade 9 (I didn’t know her), so I know how people react when someone they go to school with passes away, and it certainly isn’t how it’s presented in the book. There is a valid argument to be made about social media here, but it doesn’t accomplish it even as well as the musical does (based on the songs included in the soundtrack). People wore plaid in her memory the next day at school, and there were condolences directed to the family and friends, but no one posted about her like the kids in this book post about Connor. No one who didn’t know her posted about how much they would miss her. People were respectful.

Evan is also just his anxiety. He doesn’t have hobbies or interest; all he has are anxiety spirals. Like people with social anxiety just have trouble interreacting with people. It doesn’t mean we’re devoid of personality and goals. There were parts of Evan’s anxiety I related to, but at the point I stopped reading, relating to those things just made me feel gross about myself because of how gross of a character Evan was. And it was normal anxiety stuff I was relating to like having anxiety spirals and having trouble eating in the cafeteria.

The addition of Connors POV was weird. It made Evan (our supposed hero who rights his wrongs in the end) look even worse, it didn’t do a great job on representing his mental health struggles, and it felt out of place. I know Connor’s ghost (or rather Evan’s imaginary Connor) is a part of the musical, but this wasn’t the way to do it.

I only got to the part where For Forever is referenced, but the inclusion of the lyrics was not well done. It felt like the book wanted to just stick the song lyrics on a page in the middle of the book but couldn’t, so it did… that? (That being awkwardly shoving exact lyrics into internal monologue and conversation). It didn’t work, and it wasn’t necessary.

Overall, I still like some of the songs from the musical, but oh boy can I not support this, earning Dear Evan Hansen a DNF.

Imagine Us Happy ARC Review

imagine us happy

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.

Words on Bathroom Walls Book Review

Words on Bathroom Walls

Number of pages: 304

Number of times read (including the time before this review): 1

Rating (out of five stars): 4.5

There’s something about reading mental illness books when you have a mental illness that’s strangely comforting. For me, it’s like snuggling up in a warm blanket. I don’t even have schizophrenia like Adam does. Depression is a completely different mental illness, but there just always seems to be something for me to relate to with characters with mental illnesses.

Words on Bathroom Walls is told in a unique format; it’s told in journal entries written by Adam to his therapist. Despite this meaning Adam could easily be an unreliable narrator, the account appears to be fairly unchanged, since Adam doesn’t always appear in the best light.

Adam as a character was well done. He has the same self-aware, dry humour that I have and love, and he has so many human moments. Sometimes he comes off as a jerk, and sometimes he comes off as a genuinely caring character. I can’t speak to the accuracy of the portrayal of Adam’s schizophrenia, but from what I could tell it seemed well researched.

Since everything is told through journal entries that focus heavily on Adam, the side characters aren’t as present or well developed as they normally would be. Because of the format, this wasn’t as big of a deal it would have been if Words on Bathroom Walls had been written differently.

Like many other mental illness books I’ve read, Words on Bathroom Walls perfectly balances humour and the hardship that comes with living with a mental illness. It has you laughing out loud one moment, and near tears the next.

With all the good, there is some bad. I was really bothered by how Adam often referred to himself as crazy. I really don’t like applying the term ‘crazy’ to anyone, but I especially don’t like applying it to people with mental illnesses. I refer to my brain as “stupid” often as way of dealing with my depression, but for me, crazy is different. I’m especially bothered since Words on Bathroom Walls does not appear to be own voices (please don’t quote me on this). I would love to know how others feel about this.

Overall, Words on Bathroom Walls was a really solid and enjoyable read with a few minor issues, earning it 4.5 out of 5 stars.

 

Counting Wolves ARC Review

Counting Wolves.jpg

Number of pages: 216

Number of times read (including the time before this review): 1

Rating (out of five stars): 3

Release Date: August 14th 2017

*Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for providing a copy in exchange for a review. My opinions are honest and my own.

I’m going to do an updated review for Counting Wolves once I get my hands on a finished copy and find the time to read it, because I think this one deserves a second chance. I think the reason this is only getting 3 stars is mainly because I kept expecting it to be something it wasn’t. The synopsis on Goodreads makes it sound like a fairy tale retelling adventure type book, and the first few chapters make it seem like something it’s not.

Let’s get this out of the way; this is a mental illness book, plain and simple. That is not a spoiler. If that is intended to be a spoiler, I will think twice about supporting this author. I’m not going to share with you what Milly’s mental illness is, not because it would spoil the book for you, but because it’s really not necessary for me to do so, and I cannot speak to the accuracy of the portrayal. However, as a person with depression, I can say that the character with depression was well done based on my experience with the illness. I cannot speak on the representation of OCD, PTSD, or bipolar disorder (I am also going off what is stated in the book for the diagnosis of the characters).

The first chapter opens with a scene in a high school that is frankly over-described. Within the chapter, it seems like the author is trying to set a fairy tale esque tone for the novel, but this dies after the first few chapters. This is where my perception of what I thought the book was trying to do got in the way. I thought the fairy tales would have more meaning than they did, especially the ones thrown in along with commentary from Milly on the moral of the tale, leading to confusion on my end. Some of the tales included simply did not need to be there.

From what I remember of being 15, Milly as a character was well done. At times her voice was young, while at other times she was fairly mature. She also makes mistakes and experiences a lot of growth in Counting Wolves.

Overall, while it almost made me emotional a few times, my perception of what Counting Wolves was about made the novel less enjoyable, earning it 3 stars out of 5. I will give it another try at some point in the future.