Seventeen-year-old Charlie Davis is wrapped in bandages and refuses to talk in an inpatient hospital for young women following a failed suicide attempt. Charlie engages in self-harm, a way of coping following years of emotional and physical abuse, and later, sexual abuse. She is a girl in pieces. She bears the guilt of letting down her best friend, Ellis, of being unloved by her mother, of her father’s death. For Charlie, self-harm helps the bad thoughts go away but it is also a way of releasing the pent-up emotions she cannot understand. When she can’t afford to stay in the hospital anymore, she is discharged back into the care of her mother who does not want her. Her mother gives her money to go to Tucson where her friend, Mikey now lives. As Charlie travels to the hot midwest, she tries to figure out her life. The move comes with trials of its own as she finds a job washing dishes, meets a guy who is probably not good for her, tries to work on her art while occasionally slipping into old patterns of coping.
This book was intense and amazing all at once. Charlie’s story is heartbreaking and one that I’m familiar with given I work with a lot of adolescents who engage in self-harm. The emotional invalidation she experiences, the hurt, the rejections, the fears – they were all raw and extremely real. I had to smile at the strategies she has to use to help herself and how sometimes it can seem so futile as I’ve had teenagers tell me. It’s a great book about mental health, about friendship and redemption, about courage and finally, knowing that you are worthy of being loved even if you’ve grown up thinking you are unloveable.
I really liked the protagonist Charlie. She’s not perfect by any means and it’s her flaws and brokenness that make her endearing. The psychologist in me wanted to protect her, to help her, to support her and tell her that things do get better. Like I said, she could have been one of the many young people I’ve seen in my ten years in this profession. The other girls she encounters in therapy are well drawn as are the people she works with. Her motives, her behaviours, her reactions all make perfect sense given her experience. The writing was pretty good too and I did note down some quotes that spoke to me. It’s a slightly different style with short chapters but it is an easy read. The ending had me in tears which I always think is a mark of a good book as I have obviously connected emotionally to the characters and the story.
If you like young adult novels about mental illness and overcoming the odds, you will enjoy this book.
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Until next time,