Mentalhealthathon Wrap-Up | 2020


I partook in Nicole's month long readathon in May, and it was so much fun. I used to solely read contemporaries written about mental illnesses but fell out of love with the sub-genre after so many YA books disappointed me. The Mentalhealthathon rekindled my love for books like this, which I'm so happy about. I originally aimed to read books based on the prompts that Nicole gave us on the Bingo card, but alas, I did what I always do and strayed away from the list. Where are my fellow mood readers at?

My Lovely Wife In The Psych Ward
by Mark Haddon
Prompt: MH non-fiction
This is a harrowing memoir written by a man who's wife has been committed to a psych ward twice for spurts of manic depression. Not only was this book a truly eye-opening look at what it's like for the people surrounding those who struggle with suicidal tendencies, but it was also wonderfully written that at times it felt almost like lyrical fiction. This is a book that will stick to my heart for years to come, and I urge almost anyone to pick it up. It did trigger some darker thoughts for me, so go in with caution if you've had a past of depression.

Every Last Word
by Tamara Ireland Stone
Prompt: Learn more about
Samantha "Sam" is your average high school girl - she's popular, a champion swimmer, and has an enviously close friendship group. At least, that's what she hopes to portray to the world. In reality she's been struggling with Purely-Obsessional OCD for years. Nobody knows, until Caroline, a girl Sam had never spoken to before, seems to carry all the answers Sam needs. Through Caroline Sam becomes a member of a secret poetry group made up of the strays of the student body. As I mentioned about, over the last year or so, I've fallen out of love with YA contemporaries. They all started to become too samey for me, without any great rep for whatever mental illness they were dealing with. However, Every Last Word has rekindled my faith in this sub genre. Did it do a perfect job at dealing with OCD? No, but did it enlighten me to a form of the illness that I hadn't previously known about? Yes. Which is what you really need to take from books like these. I liked Sam as a protagonist, she was a cliche but not in an irritating way. Her love interest, AJ wasn't a wet blanket and had his own backstory. He wasn't just there for Sam's story, which was a refreshing change. I wasn't a huge fan of the 'twist' at the end, as it felt rushed and a little unnecessary. However, I still rate this book highly for YA and would urge anyone who's interest in learning more about OCD to pick it up.

That's Not What Happened
by Kody Keplinger
Prompt: YA mental health book
On the anniversary of the school shooting that killed Sarah's best friend, she finds out that the religious parents of her deceased friend are planning on selling a book to put a spotlight on their daughter's dying moment - voicing her faith in God as she was shot. However, that's not what happened. Struggling to know whether or not she ought to come clean, Sarah begins to talk with the other students who survived that deadly day. This was a very authentic look at a school shooting without ever really taking us to the school on that day (Like Hate List). This was a book of afters, in the best possible way. Each character had a unique voice and though there were a few questionable plot choices, I wouldn't ever not recommend this to someone wanting a hard-hitting-ya-contemporary. However, my only real quim was how unnecessary the eventual romance was. It felt like it was added to the story just to be able to market the book as more than what it was, and because of that, it pointlessly filled out a lot of the overall story. It made it feel cheap. 

Maybe You Should Talk To Someone
by Lori Gottlieb
Prompt: Newest MH book on your TBR
This is a memoir written by a therapist who sought out therapy herself after a sudden break-up left her feeling broken. In this collection of what is essentially snippets of her days, she writes about her own sessions and the sessions of her ongoing patients. This is a book that has been making the rounds on both Booktube and Bookstagram for a while now with a good backing of positive reviews, so naturally, I was daunted. However, I really enjoyed it. Lori paints such a clear picture of herself that you can't help but root for her happiness, yet saying that, I was much more invested in her patients stories. I've never read about therapy through the eyes of the therapist before, so that aspect was especially interesting. The only thing stopping me from giving this a glowing 5 star rating is that I personally found the middle to drag a little. The book could've easily lost 100 pages.

The Way I Used To Be 
by Amber Smith
Prompt: Green on the cover
This is a hard-hitting YA contemporary looking at the aftermath of rape. Eden is 13-years-old when her brothers friend, Kevin, comes into her room one night and assaults her. From there we watch as the young girl goes through high-school carrying this secret with her. Naturally she begins to lose herself in alcohol, drugs, and meaningless sex in an attempt to fill the void Kevin left her with. In a similar style to 'That's Not What Happens' this talks more about the aftermath of rape rather than the moment itself. It's unflinching, heart-breaking, and one of those books that you don't want to read but in a sense have to. It was very reminiscent of Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson.

The Silver Linings Playbook
by Matthew Quick
Pat's life has taken a turn that he doesn't remember it taking. He was a teacher, with a wife who he loved, and a life of his own. But a terrible event that he's blocked from his memory resulted in him being in a psych hospital for years. Now, upon his release, he's living with his parents and trying to find solace in routine. Obsessive exercise, meds, football, and his newly formed friendship with Tiffany. A woman who has her own inner battles. Can two lost souls help each other? This has been on my bookshelf for years now, as I wanted to read the book before watching the movie adaption (famous last words, right?). I really liked this novel, for me Pat's voice was very reminiscent of Charlie's from The Perks Of Being a Wallflower which made it impossible to not feel sympathy for him. The book seemed to have more of a focus on football rather than dance (as the movie trailer makes it seem), but it was still a touching book about the aftermath of a breakdown and how important it can be to have a support system when you're in recovery.

The Picture Of Dorian Gray
by Oscar Wilde
Dorian Gray is a man cursed. A portrait of him seems to give him a look into his soul, and what a dark soul it is. I picked up this classic without the intention of it being for the Mentalhealthathon, but I'm including it on this list as I'd argue that the story was a bewildering look at an inner battle of darkness. For me, the ugliness that seeped into Dorian's portrait was a look at how depression can corrupt someone in ways that aren't often spoken about. Sadness can darken every aspect of you, slowly, without you ever realizing. I'm not too sure whether that was the intention of Wilde, but this is what I want to take from this novel. Aren't the best books up for interpretation? 


The Behavior Of Love
by Virginia Reeves
I randomly started listening to this on Scribd, thinking it would be a great book for the readathon. A book about a psychiatric hospital? Sure. What a load of garbage this story was. All the men were absolutely vile, it seemed like each male wanted to assault a woman at some point in the story. And above all else, I think that the author truly did an injustice when writing about mental illness. It was somehow a mix of both glorifying and villainizing the patients. She belittled them in a way that I've never had the displeasure of reading before. Would not recommend, I'm not even writing a proper synopsis as the book itself was a far cry from what it said it was. Do not waste your time.

So, yeah! I'm so glad I participated int his readathon as it pushed me to pick up books that are now some of my favourites. What's a mental health topic that you want to learn more about? 

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