Mental Health is a deeply personal issue, it is unique to each of us. 100 people might have depression and they probably share 90% of the same symptoms, but they each feel its effects differently. We see it through our own eyes, it shades our vision in a unique way. So writing a book about any form of mental health issues must be a daunting task, you can only write one story at a time and hope it touches the right people, hope it gets people talking, hope it opens up someone’s eyes to another’s path.
The thing about mental illness is that it is so isolating. It twists you up as much as it can, it can make you selfish, it can make you scared, it can make you think the whole world is against you. It can make you believe things that you know logically aren’t true.
I think it would be really easy to read this book if Lux was a sweet teenager who is good to her friends and family, who volunteers with children and feeds stray dogs, and feel empathy for her. It would be your natural instinct, to want to fold her up into your arms and protect her. But Lux isn’t that girl. Lux is a hard partying, irresponsible, selfish teen. She is the girl who many would term “unlikable protagonist”. But it doesn’t matter who she is, she doesn’t just need your empathy, she deserves your empathy.
Something happened to Lux. She doesn’t remember. She remembers being at a party and waking up in hospital. She remembers her parents lying to her and fighting with her. She remembers all the tests that follow, with body doctors and mind doctors, as she puts it. They all just ask her the same question “What happened?” and she tells them all she knows “I don’t remember.”
After a month at home her parents let her go back to school in the hopes it will help her, one of the conditions is that she meets with a psychologist. She is back surrounded by her friends, but she isn’t right, she knows she isn’t herself. She struggles to feel, she often drifts out of her body and watches life happen to her, she has crippling migraines, she hurts herself in the hopes it will help her feel. Straight up Lux is fucking broken and reading about her was tough and so it should be. Mental health issues aren’t glamorous and so it shouldn’t be told in a glamorous way.
We are in Lux’s head. She isn’t a reliable narrator, so we learn things out of sequence as she does. Its obvious from the start that something happened to Lux, I guess most would assume she was mugged, raped or drugged, that was what I assumed anyway.
Obviously I’ve never been in Lux’s position, but that didn’t stop me from seeing myself in her. Her symptoms in mine. Her thought processes in mine. Coincidentally I picked this book up just after I had a flare up of symptoms, so it was a very timely read for me. Lux’s battles with herself and the world around her were so well written. I haven’t looked into it, so I don’t know anything about the author at this point, but she has really nailed the way it can feel to have the world falling down around you, while you try to take one step in front of the other, meanwhile there is an ongoing battle in your head. Its fucking exhausting, that’s for sure. The way she used the term astronaut suit, when describing how Lux felt when people touched her was so bang on point. When you want to cry, just for a release but nothing happens, when you scratch at that itch to hard, just hoping to feel something. The author has really done her research and the book feels so real and authentic.
This book is going onto a very short list that I have. The list is “Books that are really hard to read, but are an absolute must for everyone”. Yes that’s a long title, I know, but it sums it up. These books should be taught in schools. These books can help people understand the reality.
1. All The Rage by Courtney Summers
2. The Taste of Blue Light by Lydia Ruffles
I think it is absolutely fantastic that mental health is talked about so much more these days, topics that were once taboo are being talked about. I just hope that in talking about it, we aren’t romanticising it. It’s not pretty. It’s ugly. It’s painful and for some it never gets better. I’m 35 and I still don’t have a clear diagnosis that everyone can agree on. It’s not fun. I love my life and my family, I’m incredibly grateful, but fuck I wish I could experience it without my issues hanging over it all like thunderclouds. These books don’t romanticise the topics they cover.
One of my favourite things in this book was the friendship between Olivia, Mei and Lux. Unfortunately it seems to be a rare thing to have strong female friendships in books these days, so it was refreshing and well written. The love those girls have for Lux was just pure and warm. They were dealing with adult issues and never made Lux feel guilty.
All in all a well written, relevant, solid read. I’m so glad I picked it up.
Title – The taste of Blue Light
Author – Lydia Ruffles
Released – 2017
Book Depository – The Taste of Blue Light
Booktopia – The Taste of Blue Light
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