Book 26 – The Stranger on the Bridge by Jonny Benjamin


In 2008, twenty year-old Jonny Benjamin stood on Waterloo Bridge, about to jump. A stranger saw his distress and stopped to talk with him – a decision that saved Jonny’s life. Fast forward to 2014 and Jonny, together with Rethink Mental Illness launch a campaign with a short video clip so that Jonny could finally thank that stranger who put him on the path to recovery. More than 319 million people around the world followed the search. ITV’s breakfast shows picked up the story until the stranger, whose name is Neil Laybourn, was found and – in an emotional and touching moment – the pair re-united and have remained firm friends ever since. The Stranger on the Bridge is a memoir of the journey Jonny made both personally, and publicly to not only find the person who saved his life, but also to explore how he got to the bridge in the first place and how he continues to manage his diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder. Using extracts from diaries Jonny has been writing from the age of thirteen, this book is a deeply personal memoir with a unique insight on mental health. Jonny was recognised for his work as an influential activist changing the culture around mental health, when he was awarded an MBE in 2017. He and Neil now work full-time together visiting schools, hospitals, prisons and workplaces to help end the stigma by talking about mental health and suicide prevention. The pair ran the London Marathon together in 2017 in aid of HeadsTogether. Following the global campaign to find the stranger, in 2015 Channel 4 made a documentary of Jonny’s search which has now been shown in 14 territories.

Book 24 – The Vines We Planted by Joanell Serra


In the heart of the California wine country, secrets seem to grow on the vines that Uriel Macon’s family has tended for generations.

Uriel, the winery’s young widower, steers clear of complicated relationships. He prefers the lonely comfort of his vineyard and his horses. Until he is reminded of his love affair with Amanda Scanlon, a relationship that ended when she abruptly left the country years ago under a cloud of mystery.

When, due to a family crisis, Amanda returns to Sonoma, she tries to mend the broken relationships left behind. In addition, she seeks the truth about her parents’ complicated history and her own parentage.

But Amanda’s unveiling of the past has devastating consequences. In the midst of California’s beautiful Sonoma Valley, the Scanlon family struggles to overcome harsh realities with dignity and grace.

Both Amanda and Uriel stretch to take care of their families, who are facing immigration issues, marital crises, and illness. While navigating these challenges, the couple must decide if they trust themselves to love again, or to finally let each other go.

A Sonoma local, author Joanell Serra’s debut novel is captivating, poignant, and uplifting, demonstrating how seeds planted long ago continue to grow. Sometimes into a strangling weed, sometimes offering a bountiful harvest.

Book 23 – Are We All Lemmings and Snowflakes? by Holly Bourne


Welcome to Camp Reset, a summer camp with a difference. A place offering a shot at “normality” for Olive, a girl on the edge, and for the new friends she never expected to make – who each have their own reasons for being there. Luckily Olive has a plan to solve all their problems. But how do you fix the world when you can’t fix yourself?

Book 22 – Love and Remission by Annie Belasco

In her mid-twenties with a stable job, Annie Belasco was on the hunt for a man. She wanted to settle down, have children, buy a house; in other words, be a normal Essex girl. But then one day, she felt a lump. Breast cancer. The two words that would derail Annie’s life and cause her immense trauma. Suddenly, she realised how short her life had really been, and the very idea of finding love seemed impossible. As her hair fell out and her mental health deteriorated, she began to question if she would actually survive. Struggling with an identity crisis and worryingly low moods, she wondered if she’d ever be able to live the normal life that had been within her reach only months earlier. Love and Remission tells the tale of a young woman in search of love, remission, and mental wellbeing.

Book 21 – If I Could Tell You How It Feels: My Life Journey With PTSD by Alexis Rose


If I Could Tell You How It Feels is a series of essays and poems about living authentically with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Alexis Rose takes us on a journey into the reality of living with triggers, flashbacks, and the challenges of working through trauma. She writes with intimate vulnerability about the tough subjects of family, friendships, loss, grief, parenting, and therapy.
With a sense of universal hope and honesty, the author collaborated with artist Janet Rosauer to add a dramatic and soulful dimension to many of the chapters.

Whether you are a survivor, someone living with a mental or chronic illness, a professional working within the mental health industry, or you are simply interested in learning more about the intricacies of living and thriving with PTSD, this book will provide new insights and an appreciation of this invisible illness that affects millions of people around the world.

Book 20 – Insane: America’s Criminal Treatment of Mental Illness by Alisa Roth

An urgent exposé of the mental health crisis in our courts, jails, and prisons

America has made mental illness a crime. Jails in New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago each house more people with mental illnesses than any hospital. As many as half of all people in America’s jails and prisons have a psychiatric disorder. One in four fatal police shootings involves a person with such disorders.

In this revelatory book, journalist Alisa Roth goes deep inside the criminal justice system to show how and why it has become a warehouse where inmates are denied proper treatment, abused, and punished in ways that make them sicker.

Through intimate stories of people in the system and those trying to fix it, Roth reveals the hidden forces behind this crisis and suggests how a fairer and more humane approach might look. Insane is a galvanizing wake-up call for criminal justice reformers and anyone concerned about the plight of our most vulnerable.

Book 19 – A Tiny Piece of Something Greater by Jude Sierra

Reid Watsford has a lot of secrets and a past he can’t quite escape. While staying at his grandmother’s condo in Key Largo, he signs up for introductory dive classes, where he meets Joaquim Oliveira, a Brazilian dive instructor with wanderlust. Driven by an instant, magnetic pull, what could have been just a hookup quickly deepens. As their relationship evolves, they must learn to navigate the challenges of Reid’s mental illness—on their own and with each other.

Book 18 – A Beginner’s Guide to being Mental: An A-Z from Anxiety to Zero F**KS Given

‘Am I normal?’
‘What’s an anxiety disorder?’
‘Does therapy work?’

These are just a few of the questions Natasha Devon is asked as she travels the UK campaigning for better mental health awareness and provision. Here, Natasha calls upon experts in the fields of psychology, neuroscience and anthropology to debunk and demystify the full spectrum of mental health. From A (Anxiety) to Z (Zero F**ks Given – or the art of having high self-esteem) via everything from body image and gender to differentiating ‘sadness’ from ‘depression’.

Statistically, one in three of us will experience symptoms of a mental illness during our lifetimes. Yet all of us have a brain, and so we ALL have mental health – regardless of age, sexuality, race or background. The past few years have seen an explosion in awareness, yet it seems there is still widespread confusion. A Beginner’s Guide to Being Mental is for anyone who wants to have this essential conversation, written as only Natasha – with her combination of expertise, personal experience and humour – knows how

Book 17 – Stand Tall Little Girl by Hope Virgo

‘I know how anorexia makes you feel: you think she is your friend, you think she can solve everything and make you feel amazing … but she will destroy you and everything around you, piece by piece.’ – Hope Virgo.

For four years, Hope managed to keep it hidden, keeping dark secrets from friends and family. But then, on 17th November 2007, Hope’s world changed forever. She was admitted to a mental health hospital. Her skin was yellowing, her heart was failing. She was barely recognizable. Forced to leave her family and friends, the hospital became her home. Over the next year, at her lowest ebb, Hope faced the biggest challenge of her life. She had to find the courage to beat her anorexia.

In Stand Tall Little Girl, Hope shares her harrowing, yet truly inspiring, journey.

Book 16 – Birth of a New Brain: Healing from Postpartum Bipolar Disorder by Dyane Harwood

After the birth of her baby triggers a manic maelstrom, Dyane Harwood struggles to survive the bewildering highs and crippling lows of her brain’s turmoil. Birth of a New Brain vividly depicts her postpartum bipolar disorder, an unusual type of bipolar disorder and postpartum mood and anxiety disorder.

During her childhood, Harwood grew up close to her father, a brilliant violinist in the Los Angeles Philharmonic who had bipolar disorder. She learned how bipolar disorder could ravage a family, but she never suspected that she’d become mentally ill—until her baby was born.

Harwood wondered if mental health would always be out of her reach. From medications to electroconvulsive therapy, from “redwood forest baths” to bibliotherapy, she explored both traditional and unconventional methods of recovery—in-between harrowing psychiatric hospitalizations.

Harwood reveals how she ultimately achieved a stable mood. She discovered that despite having a chronic mood disorder, a new, richer life is possible. Birth of a New Brain is the chronicle of one mother’s perseverance, offering hope and grounded advice for those battling mental illness.

Book 15 – Clown and I: Riding the Wildling Spirit – A Bipolar Memoir by Ryan Heffernan

Clown & I is a dangerous, steamy and soulful memoir from Ryan Heffernan, a man with bipolar disorder. Ryan really should have lived in another time. International celebrities get sweaty and spanked and life can be grandiose. But personal ruination forever lurks in this confronting exploration of how one man tries to fit in and make sense of the elusive “real world”. Laced with love, lust, heartbreak, bad boozing and poverty, Clown & I is a one-of-a-kind entry from a man in this genre. It is a dreamy and philosophical global odyssey – a diamond sparkle, spiritual and sensual insight into bipolar, stormy personal relationships, and the hard, street truths of dicey mental health in a society that won’t always yield. But hope, beauty, dreamchasing, and Ryan’s wondrous son, are the undisputed emperors in his eccentric universe. This is one little boy laid bare…

Book 14 – Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

You can’t stop the future.
You can’t rewind the past.
The only way to learn the secret . . . is to press play.

Clay Jensen returns home from school to find a strange package with his name on it lying on his porch. Inside he discovers several cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker–his classmate and crush–who committed suicide two weeks earlier. Hannah’s voice tells him that there are thirteen reasons why she decided to end her life. Clay is one of them. If he listens, he’ll find out why.

Clay spends the night crisscrossing his town with Hannah as his guide. He becomes a firsthand witness to Hannah’s pain, and as he follows Hannah’s recorded words throughout his town, what he discovers changes his life forever.

Book 13 – Sugar by Deirdre Riordan Hall

I’m the fat Puerto Rican–Polish girl who doesn’t feel like she belongs in her skin, or anywhere else for that matter. I’ve always been too much and yet not enough.

Sugar Legowski-Gracia wasn’t always fat, but fat is what she is now at age seventeen. Not as fat as her mama, who is so big she hasn’t gotten out of bed in months. Not as heavy as her brother, Skunk, who has more meanness in him than fat, which is saying something. But she’s large enough to be the object of ridicule wherever she is: at the grocery store, walking down the street, at school. Sugar’s life is dictated by taking care of Mama in their run-down home—cooking, shopping, and, well, eating. A lot of eating, which Sugar hates as much as she loves.

When Sugar meets Even (not Evan—his nearly illiterate father misspelled his name on the birth certificate), she has the new experience of someone seeing her and not her body. As their unlikely friendship builds, Sugar allows herself to think about the future for the first time, a future not weighed down by her body or her mother.

Soon Sugar will have to decide whether to become the girl that Even helps her see within herself or to sink into the darkness of the skin-deep role her family and her life have created for her.

 

Book 12 – Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella

From the bestselling author of the Shopaholic series comes a story of humour, heart and heartache. Finding Audrey is Sophie Kinsella’s first novel for teens, sure to appeal to her legions of adult and young adult fans all over the world.

Audrey can’t leave the house. she can’t even take off her dark glasses inside the house.

Then her brother’s friend Linus stumbles into her life. With his friendly, orange-slice smile and his funny notes, he starts to entice Audrey out again – well, Starbucks is a start. And with Linus at her side, Audrey feels like she can do the things she’d thought were too scary. Suddenly, finding her way back to the real world seems achievable.

Be prepared to laugh, dream and hope with Audrey as she learns that even when you feel like you have lost yourself, love can still find you . . .

I think it is a good portrayal of mental health issues but there are certain things that are a bit strange – her almost immediate love for Linus and her mother’s behaviour general but I think that is meant to be humorous

Book 11 – My Courage to Tell: Facing a Childhood Bully and Reclaiming my Inner Child

It was more than sibling rivalry.
“This is a story about hope, resilience and strength for anyone experiencing psychological abuse.

Laura really does something incredible with this book. She finds the strength and courage to tell a story about abuse – a story that will be all too familiar for millions of men and women – a story that often never gets told. She shines a spotlight on an area that demands our attention. Her brave account of suffering psychological abuse at the hands of an older brother, under the watchful eyes of her mother, is heartbreaking, riveting and empowering. It is a story that needs to be told.”


Dr. Anita Federici, Clinical Psychologist (Foreword)

*************
My Courage to Tell
My Courage to Tell is the story of one woman’s struggle to overcome a childhood of abuse at the hands of her cruel, bullying brother. Memories of this abuse remain deeply buried until an Aunt dies in Manhattan, leaving an estate Laura Corbeth must settle with her estranged brother. As she tries to administer the estate, Laura is plagued by symptoms of post-traumatic stress. Suppressed memories start to rise to the surface.

Laura begins to remember, and to face, a childhood of psychological and physical abuse. No cuts. No bruises. No scratches. Her brother was sly, constraining her to spit in her face, lick her or perform tickle torture. He took pleasure in dominating her and playing on her fears – relishing his control over his younger sibling. His lies and manipulations terrified her. Witnessing his torture of animals, left no doubt in Laura’s mind that her tormentor would follow through on his threat that he would kill her if she told.

And, where were her parents? Rather than investigating Laura’s deteriorating situation, they believed their son’s continuous lies as he denied his abuse of Laura. When they did catch glimpses of their son’s cruelty, they put it down to sibling rivalry. But it was not sibling rivalry. It was ruthless, relentless, psychological and physical abuse. And, by not dealing with it, her parents were complicit. Unheard, unprotected, Laura was completely on her own. My Courage to Tell is one of the first memoirs to shine a light on abuse from a sibling’s perspective. It also reveals how families that buy into the lies and manipulations, ignore the problems and stonewall, enable the abuser and foster mental illness.

Travel with Laura as she uncovers her past, finds the help and courage to face that past and ultimately confronts her abuser and her family.

************
“Psychological and emotional abuse (terms I use interchangeably) are often misunderstood, minimized, or ignored. Over the past decade alone, there have been substantial advances with respect to identifying, preventing and treating those who have suffered sexual and physical abuse; however, there has much less attention to identifying and addressing psychological abuse.

My Courage to Tell makes the invisible visible. Reading Laura’s account of healing and recovery is inspirational and is an outstanding contribution to the literature on psychological abuse in families. Her willingness to confront and share the scary and painful reality of her childhood and detail how various treatment interventions allowed her to work through distressing memories, emotions, and beliefs will pave the way for others who recognize themselves in Laura’s story.

Book 10 – Etched on me by Jenn Crowell

Book Blurb

Girl, Interrupted meets Best Kept Secret in this riveting, redemptive coming-of-age story about a young woman who overcomes a troubled adolescence, only to lose custody of her daughter when her mental health history is used against her.

On the surface, sixteen-year-old Lesley Holloway is just another bright new student at Hawthorn Hill, a posh all-girls’ prep school north of London. Little do her classmates know that she recently ran away from home, where her father had spent years sexually abusing her. Nor does anyone know that she’s secretly cutting herself as a coping mechanism…until the day she goes too far and ends up in the hospital.

Lesley spends the next two years in and out of psychiatric facilities, where she overcomes her traumatic memories and finds the support of a surrogate family. Eventually completing university and earning her degree, she is a social services success story—until she becomes unexpectedly pregnant in her early twenties. Despite the overwhelming odds she has overcome, the same team that saved her as an adolescent will now question whether Lesley is fit to be a mother. And so she embarks upon her biggest battle yet: the fight for her unborn daughter.

Book 9 – The Quiet Room: A Journey Out of the Torment of Madness by Lori Schiller and Amanda Bennett

Book Blurb

At seventeen Lori Schiller was the perfect child — the only daughter of an affluent, close-knit family. Six years later she made her first suicide attempt, then wandered the streets of New York City dressed in ragged clothes, tormenting voices crying out in her mind. Lori Schiller had entered the horrifying world of full-blown schizophrenia. She began an ordeal of hospitalizations, halfway houses, relapses, more suicide attempts, and constant, withering despair. But against all odds, she survived. Now in this personal account, she tells how she did it, taking us not only into her own shattered world, but drawing on the words of the doctors who treated her and family members who suffered with her.

In this new edition, Lori Schiller recounts the dramatic years following the original publication — a period involving addiction, relapse, and ultimately, love and recovery.

Moving, harrowing, and ultimately uplifting, THE QUIET ROOM is a classic testimony to the ravages of mental illness and the power of perseverance and courage.

Book 8 – Am I Normal Yet by Holly Bourne

Our Review

Overall rating:

Sydney’s rating:

Becky’s rating:

Listen to our full review at:
Mental Health Book Club Episode 15

Book Blurb

All Evie wants is to be normal. She’s almost off her meds and at a new college where no one knows her as the girl-who-went-crazy. She’s even going to parties and making friends. There’s only one thing left to tick off her list…</span>

But relationships are messy – especially relationships with teenage guys. They can make any girl feel like they’re going mad. And if Evie can’t even tell her new friends Amber and Lottie the truth about herself, how will she cope when she falls in love?

Upcoming Books on MHBC

Audrey can’t leave the house. she can’t even take off her dark glasses inside the house.

Then her brother’s friend Linus stumbles into her life. With his friendly, orange-slice smile and his funny notes, he starts to entice Audrey out again – well, Starbucks is a start. And with Linus at her side, Audrey feels like she can do the things she’d thought were too scary. Suddenly, finding her way back to the real world seems achievable.

 

Girl, Interrupted meets Best Kept Secret in this riveting, redemptive coming-of-age story about a young woman who overcomes a troubled adolescence, only to lose custody of her daughter when her mental health history is used against her.

On the surface, sixteen-year-old Lesley Holloway is just another bright new student at Hawthorn Hill, a posh all-girls’ prep school north of London. Little do her classmates know that she recently ran away from home, where her father had spent years sexually abusing her. Nor does anyone know that she’s secretly cutting herself as a coping mechanism…until the day she goes too far and ends up in the hospital.

Lesley spends the next two years in and out of psychiatric facilities, where she overcomes her traumatic memories and finds the support of a surrogate family. Eventually completing university and earning her degree, she is a social services success story—until she becomes unexpectedly pregnant in her early twenties. Despite the overwhelming odds she has overcome, the same team that saved her as an adolescent will now question whether Lesley is fit to be a mother. And so she embarks upon her biggest battle yet: the fight for her unborn daughter.

 

My Courage to Tell is the story of one woman’s struggle to overcome a childhood of abuse at the hands of her cruel, bullying brother. Memories of this abuse remain deeply buried until an Aunt dies in Manhattan, leaving an estate Laura Corbeth must settle with her estranged brother. As she tries to administer the estate, Laura is plagued by symptoms of post-traumatic stress. Suppressed memories start to rise to the surface.

Laura begins to remember, and to face, a childhood of psychological and physical abuse. No cuts. No bruises. No scratches. Her brother was sly, constraining her to spit in her face, lick her or perform tickle torture. He took pleasure in dominating her and playing on her fears – relishing his control over his younger sibling. His lies and manipulations terrified her. Witnessing his torture of animals, left no doubt in Laura’s mind that her tormentor would follow through on his threat that he would kill her if she told.

And, where were her parents? Rather than investigating Laura’s deteriorating situation, they believed their son’s continuous lies as he denied his abuse of Laura. When they did catch glimpses of their son’s cruelty, they put it down to sibling rivalry. But it was not sibling rivalry. It was ruthless, relentless, psychological and physical abuse. And, by not dealing with it, her parents were complicit. Unheard, unprotected, Laura was completely on her own. My Courage to Tell is one of the first memoirs to shine a light on abuse from a sibling’s perspective. It also reveals how families that buy into the lies and manipulations, ignore the problems and stonewall, enable the abuser and foster mental illness.

Travel with Laura as she uncovers her past, finds the help and courage to face that past and ultimately confronts her abuser and her family.

 

I’m the fat Puerto Rican–Polish girl who doesn’t feel like she belongs in her skin, or anywhere else for that matter. I’ve always been too much and yet not enough.

Sugar Legowski-Gracia wasn’t always fat, but fat is what she is now at age seventeen. Not as fat as her mama, who is so big she hasn’t gotten out of bed in months. Not as heavy as her brother, Skunk, who has more meanness in him than fat, which is saying something. But she’s large enough to be the object of ridicule wherever she is: at the grocery store, walking down the street, at school. Sugar’s life is dictated by taking care of Mama in their run-down home—cooking, shopping, and, well, eating. A lot of eating, which Sugar hates as much as she loves.

When Sugar meets Even (not Evan—his nearly illiterate father misspelled his name on the birth certificate), she has the new experience of someone seeing her and not her body. As their unlikely friendship builds, Sugar allows herself to think about the future for the first time, a future not weighed down by her body or her mother.

Soon Sugar will have to decide whether to become the girl that Even helps her see within herself or to sink into the darkness of the skin-deep role her family and her life have created for her.

 

If I told you I’d been to twenty-four Countries (twenty-one by the time I was twenty-two), that I’d worked in Japan for nine months, toured Australia for six months, enjoyed seven months in Thailand and met and campaigned for the Orangutan in Borneo, you might think that I was pretty lucky.
If I told you I’d worked in the hotel industry, for a sexual health department in a hospital and with prisoners in a drug cell block of a male prison, that I’d worked as a recruitment consultant, in so many office jobs I’ve lost count, as well as having my own company and multiple websites, at age thirty-six, then you might think I’ve had an interesting life.
But if I added to that a mix of child rape, mental health problems, promiscuity, drug taking, alcohol abuse, eating disorders, self-harm, violence, mood swings, obsession, jealousy, loss of self worth, being raised by a mentally ill mother, bankruptcy, thyroid and gastro problems and public masturbation in school at age nine, then I am not sure what you’d think.
But this is me; Amanda Green. This is my life, my story; my journey back to me from depression, anxiety, panic attacks, OCD and Borderline Personality Disorder – mental illness which manifested during my life and came out ‘to it’s peak’ in my thirties.
I was able to use my collection of mementos, photos, diaries, journals, letters, emails and text messages of my past to finally see who I had become, and more importantly with a combination of therapy, medication and my writing, how I became that alien self and how I found the real me.

The editor (Debz Hobbs-Wyatt) adds…
This is the journey of a normal working class girl, trapped in a roller coaster world of disorder and excitement, love and joy, depression and anger – and her fight against stigma
While My Alien Self would be inspiring for any sufferer, their families or medical teams in its honest insights into living with a mental illness, it also has universal appeal. For who, at times, has not felt their life spin into chaos and wondered what is normal? This story effectively and openly highlights just how fine the line is between what is normal, and what is ‘mental illness’ And everyone who reads it will be able to relate to it.

Contains explicit language and sexual scenes

 

You can’t stop the future.
You can’t rewind the past.
The only way to learn the secret . . . is to press play.

Clay Jensen returns home from school to find a strange package with his name on it lying on his porch. Inside he discovers several cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker–his classmate and crush–who committed suicide two weeks earlier. Hannah’s voice tells him that there are thirteen reasons why she decided to end her life. Clay is one of them. If he listens, he’ll find out why.

Clay spends the night crisscrossing his town with Hannah as his guide. He becomes a firsthand witness to Hannah’s pain, and as he follows Hannah’s recorded words throughout his town, what he discovers changes his life forever.

 

At seventeen Lori Schiller was the perfect child — the only daughter of an affluent, close-knit family. Six years later she made her first suicide attempt, then wandered the streets of New York City dressed in ragged clothes, tormenting voices crying out in her mind. Lori Schiller had entered the horrifying world of full-blown schizophrenia. She began an ordeal of hospitalizations, halfway houses, relapses, more suicide attempts, and constant, withering despair. But against all odds, she survived. Now in this personal account, she tells how she did it, taking us not only into her own shattered world, but drawing on the words of the doctors who treated her and family members who suffered with her.

In this new edition, Lori Schiller recounts the dramatic years following the original publication — a period involving addiction, relapse, and ultimately, love and recovery.

Moving, harrowing, and ultimately uplifting, THE QUIET ROOM is a classic testimony to the ravages of mental illness and the power of perseverance and courage

Book 7 – A Bitter Pill to Swallow by Tiffany Gholar

Book Blurb

Winner of the 2016 Chicago Writers Association Book of the Year Award for Fiction, Non-Traditionally Published.

On the edge of the Chicago medical district, the Harrison School for Exceptional Youth looks like a castle in a snow globe. Janina has been there since she was ten years old, and now she’s fourteen. She feels so safe inside its walls that she’s afraid to leave.

Devante’s parents bring him there after a tragedy leaves him depressed and suicidal. Even though he’s in a different place, he can’t escape the memories that come flooding back when he least expects them.

Dr. Gail Thomas comes to work there after quitting her medical residency. Frustrated and on the verge of giving up on her dreams, she sees becoming a counselor as her last chance to put her skills to the test.

When he founded the school, Dr. Lutkin designed its unique environment to be a place that would change the students’ lives. He works hard as the keeper of other people’s secrets, though he never shares any of his own.
But everything changes late in the winter of 1994 when these four characters’ lives intersect in unexpected ways. None of them will ever be the same.

Book 6 – Autism, Anxiety and Me by Emma Louise Bridge

Book Blurb

Surely my way is not always wrong, just because it’s different from other people’s ways? I mean everyone’s way is weird to someone…

In her 24 years Emma has experienced a lot, and much of this has been coloured by her autism and social anxiety. Funny and self-aware, this collection of Emma’s diary entries capture her hidden thoughts and insightful explanations as to why the world can be such a puzzling place.

Wry observations on social rules, friendships, relationships, and facing changes give compelling insight into how Emma confronts challenges, and her determination to live life to the fullest. Helpful advice at the end of each entry also give practical strategies for coping with common issues.

Book 5 – My Heart and Other Black Holes by Jasmine Warga

Book Blurb

Sixteen-year-old physics nerd Aysel is obsessed with plotting her own death. With a mother who can barely look at her without wincing, classmates who whisper behind her back, and a father whose violent crime rocked her small town, Aysel is ready to turn her potential energy into nothingness.

There’s only one problem: she’s not sure she has the courage to do it alone. But once she discovers a website with a section called Suicide Partners, Aysel’s convinced she’s found her solution: a teen boy with the username FrozenRobot (aka Roman) who’s haunted by a family tragedy is looking for a partner.

Even though Aysel and Roman have nothing in common, they slowly start to fill in each other’s broken lives. But as their suicide pact becomes more concrete, Aysel begins to question whether she really wants to go through with it. Ultimately, she must choose between wanting to die or trying to convince Roman to live so they can discover the potential of their energy together. Except that Roman may not be so easy to convince.

Book 4 – Anxiety Girl Falls Again by Lacey London

Book Blurb

So, what did Sadie Valentine do next?

After an emotional voyage through the minefield of anxiety and depression, Sadie decides to use her experience with mental health to help others.

Becoming a counsellor for the support group that once helped her takes Sadie’s life in a completely new direction and she soon finds herself absorbed in her new role.

Knowing that she’s aiding other sufferers through their darkest days gives her the ultimate job satisfaction, but when a mysterious and troubled man attends Anxiety Anonymous, Sadie wonders if she is out of her depth.

Dealing with Aidan Wilder proves trickier than Sadie expected and it’s not long before those closest to her start to express their concerns.

What led a dishevelled Aidan to the support group?

As Sadie delves further into his life, her own demons make themselves known.

Will unearthing Aidan’s story cause Sadie to fall back into the dark world she fought so hard to escape?

Join Sadie as she guides other sufferers back to mental wellness and battles her own torment along the way…

Book 3 – Made You Up by Francesca Zappia

Our Review

Overall rating:

Sydney’s rating:

Becky’s rating:

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

Book Blurb

Reality, it turns out, is often not what you perceive it to be—sometimes, there really is someone out to get you. Made You Up tells the story of Alex, a high school senior unable to tell the difference between real life and delusion. This is a compelling and provoking literary debut that will appeal to fans of Wes Anderson, Silver Linings Playbook and Liar.

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

Book 2 – Dandelion Angel by C.B. Calico

Book Blurb

What do women learn from their mothers? Everything they want to be and everything they don’t. After all, not all mothers are created equal.
In C.B. Calico’s stunning new contemporary fiction novel, Dandelion Angel, we meet four German women brought together by the pain of their mothers. Each matriarch suffers from Borderline Personality Disorder—a condition their daughters never knew had a name when they were growing up. They wish they had. They wish someone had told them this was treatable, or that other girls were being raised like they were: isolated, confused, and completely unsure of their worth. 

Caren has known all her life that her mother, Ute, cannot be pleased. Yet, she tries. Even in her thirties, she will do anything to gain her approval; she’ll even risk her marriage. But, Ute’s own wounds, buried in layers of history and tragedy, go too deep.

To the outside world, Irja’s childhood looked like a dream. A famous actress for a mother, trips to Disneyland, she had it all. They didn’t see her mother’s rages, her tantrums and insults. Irja suffered it all, quietly, until her mother’s cruelty threatened Irja’s own son. With the instincts of a lioness, she finally breaks, and breaks free.
Jo gave up everything—including her spare time and small joys—to look after her needy, dependent mother. Only after her mother’s eventual death does she gain some solace.

Mandy calls herself Angel. Unimaginably wounded by the scars her mother carried from her East German upbringing, Mandy ran away from home young. Mute, stunted by a heartbreaking stutter, she squats in Berlin. At a crossroads, she meets the right cop at the right time and finally begins to heal. Angel emerges from the desperation of her life, just as the stubborn dandelion on her balcony breaks through a tiny crack in the concrete.

With a sensitive hand, Calico reveals the intertwined lives of these four remarkable women. A touching and fascinating work of commercial fiction, Dandelion Angel is a revelation of the tenacity of the human spirit as it focuses on the recovery of the daughters, rather than the abuse by their mothers.

 

Book 1 – Anxiety Girl by Lacey London

Book Blurb

From the bestselling author of the CLARA ANDREWS series!

One in four people will be affected by mental health issues at some point in their lives, but it couldn’t happen to you, could it?

Sadie Valentine is just like you and I, or so she was…

After a series of unfortunate events in her life, Sadie finds herself in a dark hole that seems impossible to crawl out of.

Once a normal-ish woman, mental illness wasn’t something that she really thought about, but when the three evils, anxiety, panic and depression creep into her life, Sadie wonders if she will ever see the light again.

Set in the glitzy and glamorous Cheshire village of Alderley Edge, Anxiety Girl is a story surrounding the struggles of a beautiful young woman who thought she had it all.

Lacey London has spoken publicly about her own struggles with anxiety and hopes that Sadie will help other sufferers realise that there is light at the end of the tunnel.

The characters in this novel might be fictitious, but the feelings and emotions experienced are very real.