Book review: Clean by Amy Reed

Simon Pulse, 2011

Clean by Amy Reed

This YA novel is told with a five-person narrative in addition to the patients’ detailed personal essays and compelling substance abuse questionnaires. While I both like to read and write from alternate viewpoints, I was concerned five would be too much but then remembered how much I enjoyed The Poisonwood Bible. That was also five perspectives being the mother and the four daughters caught up in the Belgian Congo in 1959. Well besides both being five viewpoints, they couldn’t be any more different. These five patients in a rehab center come together not on their own accord but end up enhancing the lives of the other characters, if only for a brief moment in time.

Olivia, Kelly, Christopher, Jason, and Eva have hit the rock bottom of addiction. The individual voices were unique, honest and intriguing and portrayed their distinct frame of minds as they confronted their pasts amidst forced introspection in this new group of strangers. The difficult, often gut-wrenching concepts of the danger of drugs and the necessity of help were well written, albeit occasionally choppy because of the format. But it was heartening to know that there is hope out there, so you don’t have to be alone once they stopped resisting treatment as is common with teens.

All in all, the characters were relatable in this fast-moving story about hope and guidance despite bad backgrounds and experiences. It was reminiscent of the 1985 teen movie, The Breakfast Club as to how the five teens were thrown together, not knowing they needed one another and ultimately touched each other’s lives amidst the harrowing nature of life’s circumstances and sometimes obstacles.

Until my next post, why not check out my YA novels about mental illness, my memoirs, or Native American mystery series on Amazon, or follow me on TwitterInstagramFacebookGoodreadsLinkedInBookbub , or AllAuthor.

Book review: When We Collided by Emery Lord

Bloomsbury, 2016

In this intensely romantic and emotional rollercoaster of a story, Vivi is the type of girl who wants to live her life to the fullest and to record her passage through life, but she has a disease: bipolar disorder. Although she wants to live, the treatment leaves her to be miserable and so she stops taking her medications. Jonah is a boy who lost his father to a heart attack. He and his two older brothers have to take care of the house and their three little brothers. Jonah doesn’t really get to experience everything other kids his age do while Vivi does whatever she possibly can. Throughout the novel, the two characters learn a lot from each other and learn to engage in a lot of new things they usually wouldn’t.

This YA novel was filled with many moments of suspense and joy as it brought out so many different perceptions of each character and overall was just a very exciting read as its storyline is magnificent with its appreciated details that take you into Vivi and Jonah’s world. This well-written experience about accepting yourself and helping others while continuing to live on even though things might not be at their best right now and taking life rain and shine. It’s about how sometimes even our scars can help others and give a little bit of light to those we meet. This book shows how lives can be messy but beautiful while still leaving an impact on so many others, too.

Enjoyed this post? Why not check out my YA novels about mental illness or Native American mystery series on Amazon, or follow me on TwitterInstagramFacebookGoodreads, LinkedInBookbub , or AllAuthor.

Book review: Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira

Farrar Straus Giroux, 2014

When Laurel starts writing letters to dead people for a school assignment, she begins to spill about her sister’s mysterious death, her mother’s departure from the family, her new friends, and her first love. —adapted from cover

Clever approach used in telling this compelling and well-written story. This book was beautiful with a wonderful protagonist, and an amazingly intricate and complex cast of supporting characters. Laurel starts a school assignment by writing a letter to a person who has died. So, it’s told solely through letters to different famous dead people, (such as Kurt Cobain, Judy Garland, Heath Ledger, and Amelia Earhart Laurel) as it explains her life after her older sister dies. She keeps writing more stories to work out her feelings of all the events she has had in her life like the “fairy” moments and witchcraft that she and her sister shared.

The story reminds me of Speak at some points. The events slowly reveal what happened to her and she learns how to help herself. After the accident Laurel wants to start fresh so she starts at a new high school, meets new friends and starts to act like her sister to feel like she’s still there. And it’s through these letters she begins to be able to talk about what happened and Laurel finds out who she really is.

This book was heartbreaking and stunning in every aspect and reminiscent of Perks of Being a Wallflower and 13 Reasons Why. Its honesty as it deals with grief and growth struck me as wholeheartedly beautiful. The story was dark at times, anxiety-inducing as you watch the main character deal with her issues in not-so-healthy ways but empowering in the end. Not only that, but this book gives some really great music suggestions. Fans of any John Green novel should definitely give this book a try. And the author is currently writing a screenplay—this would make an excellent film!

Book review: Impulse by Ellen Hopkins

Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2007

Three teens who meet at Reno, Nevada’s Aspen Springs mental hospital after each has attempted suicide connect with each other in a way they never have with their parents or anyone else in their lives. This was a very good book, well-written in free verse format, that described the repercussions of suicide.

Their distinct character’s lives unfold in alternating chapters which might be confusing at times remembering whose mind you’re in. The dynamic of the 3 characters was also a little confusing because the 2 boys were supposed to be gay, but then fell in love with Vanessa.


I blame the parents for what happens to Conner. after his sister read the letter I got the sense that he was going to kill himself because that letter screamed you have to be perfect when the reason he killed himself is because he wasn’t perfect. Nobody’s perfect. And his mother never seemed to think it was her fault, she just thought going to a mental hospital could fix him, but its hard to fix someone who felt empty inside to begin. I wonder if she really loved her son at all. I’ve got to say I like the father more; he is also to blame but I think he was a really good person inside, deep down but he just didn’t know how to show it and that’s why he was so distant.

The story was interesting from the very beginning, easy to read, realistic, and connectable. There wasn’t a moment where I didn’t feel close to the characters!

Ellen Hopkins writes in such a unique format. The books may be thick but don’t let that stop you. Her books just flow along about serious issues and get right to the heart of the topics, no matter she chooses to write on. The characters are so well explored and distinct. I’d recommend this for those who like darker YA fiction about mental illness.

Book review: All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

Alfred A. Knopf, 2015

Violet and Finch both attend the same high school, and their first encounter takes place atop the Bell Tower, where Violet attempts suicide after surviving a car accident that kills her sister. Finch, a troubled kid with an abusive father, arrives there with the same intention but he saves her. This heartfelt YA fiction is about Violet and Finch’s friendship, love and mental illness. She’s the popular kid and an online blogger; he is the high school weirdo.

Violet struggles with survivor’s guilt and her parents refuse to acknowledge her trauma. Finch is quirky, fun, tortured, misunderstood, poor, easy to pity child bursting with originality, vigor, and enthusiasm. 

Violet and Finch are forced together to work on a school project where they must explore Indiana. Finch, with his carefree, spontaneous attitude, takes the assignment to heart and they set out to find all of the bright places in Indiana. In doing so they explore their relationship.

The book, similar in tone to The Fault in Our Stars, explores falling in love and that same love but fading some months later. The two characters try to fix each other but Violet is filled with regret and Finch is obsessed with death which the novel continuously explores. Ultimately, I agree with one of the reviewer’s blurbs at the front of the book that said something to the effect of this book isn’t meant for those suffering with mental illness but instead their friends.

Book review: Our Chemical Hearts by Krystal Sutherland

G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2016

This story about first love is not only heartwarming, but also raw and emotional. It follows Henry Page, a bookish high school senior that has never had a girlfriend, is unexpectedly attracted to new student Grace Town, who brooding and mysterious, enters the school with a conspicuous limp, unwashed and unkempt, and wearing boys’ clothes that are obviously too big for her. After they end up co-editing the school newspaper, an attraction ignites.

Henry becomes quite enamored with Grace as she seems to be hiding a very broken part of herself. But Grace sends mixed signals and has a mysterious upbringing and when grief and love mix together, the outcome is unpredictable. It’s a roller coaster of emotion, and an inside look at how a teen might deal with grief after losing a loved one. It’s a bittersweet, believable look at unrequited love because as their romance blossoms, secrets about Grace’s past, and more importantly her present circumstances are revealed. Is she beyond his help?

This book has teen angst for days. I think what I did like about this teen love story is it was very messy. Young and everlasting love isn’t realistic, and this book touches on even if that is the case, an individual can still impact you immensely. The diverse characters with realistic motivations including endearing friendships and family relationships really make this YA romantic tearjerker that much more enjoyable.

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