After initially reading this book I did give a higher rating before downgrading it as a result of doing some research about schizophrenia. Whilst the book is an easy read I felt that there were several issues with the portrayal of the mental illness and the two main plot twists.
Alex is a seventeen-year-old senior with paranoid schizophrenia in high school who has just arrived at a new school after being kicked out of her old school after having an “episode” where she spray painted the gym floor as a result of her delusions that the communists are out to get her. Alex now has a chance to make a fresh start where no one knows her history.
Alex’s symptoms have been present since she was seven, which in reality is extremely rare – but not impossible which results in her schizophrenia diagnosis. However, at the time this book was written (2015) the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental disorders (DSM-5) which was published in 2013 had dropped the paranoid classification as all schizophrenia has an aspect of paranoia.
The description of Alex’s symptoms seems to glamourise the impact that schizophrenia has on the person with the condition. A lot of focus is placed upon the aspects of delusions and hallucinations but I believe it fails to describe the true impact that they would have upon an individual. There is an issue where the author confuses delusions and hallucinations which is extremely disappointing.
I also felt that the two plot twists that occur are extremely unsettling. Her parents appear to be supportive of their daughter, however, due to their own issues they continue to perpetuate one of Alex’s hallucinations which would then make it more difficult for anyone to notice if her symptoms were increasing.
The second issue is Alex’s belief that there is something going on between the School Principal and the horrible cheerleader (which unfortunately turns out to be true) and I think would have been better served as an illustration of the impact of delusions on the individual’s reality.
It is fantastic that a book with a young adult protagonist is dealing with such an important mental health topic but I don’t feel that this book provides any kind of an accurate portrayal.
Find our full review at: Mental Health Book Club Episode 7
Alex fights a daily battle to figure out the difference between reality and delusion. Armed with a take-no-prisoners attitude, her camera, a Magic 8-Ball, and her only ally (her little sister), Alex wages a war against her schizophrenia, determined to stay sane long enough to get into college. She’s pretty optimistic about her chances until classes begin, and she runs into Miles. Didn’t she imagine him? Before she knows it, Alex is making friends, going to parties, falling in love, and experiencing all the usual rites of passage for teenagers. But Alex is used to being crazy. She’s not prepared for normal.
Funny, provoking, and ultimately moving, this debut novel featuring the quintessential unreliable narrator will have readers turning the pages and trying to figure out what is real and what is made up