I have a soft spot for books that discuss mental illness. I guess it could be a way of seeing myself in a book, or getting an insight into what others may be experiencing. It makes me feel less alone and I find the topic fascinating.
Sheinmal does not disappoint with this intense look at mental illness. Her main character Hannah is a top student, a model daughter and she doesn’t deserve to be institutionalised over a simple accident, but her lawyer disagrees. Hannah decides not to waste her time and uses this as an opportunity to befriend Lucy and show the doctors, lawyers and judge, just how wrong they are about her. She would never have hurt her friend. She is the perfect friend, how could anyone think differently?
Hannah is the perfect unreliable narrator, she makes that clear from the outset. 6% in and she tells you that outright.
“It’s not true that I can only see a few plants from here. We’re actually in the middle of a forest.
I was lying before.”
This book drew me in quickly and had me completely invested in Hannah’s life within a couple of pages. She is complex and fascinating. Because it’s from her point of view, we never get other people’s versions of Hannah, so we have to kind of just take her at her word. And it’s hard to take someone at their word when they have hurt their friend.
Hannah starts out brash, confident and annoying. She is so sure of herself, that watching that façade crumble around her is heartbreaking. She becomes so vulnerable and unsure of herself that you just want to hold her tight and tell her it will all be ok. It’s an emotional ride that was able to surprise me throughout.
I don’t want to discuss the plot more as it will give away too much. I think part of the emotional investment in books like these comes from not knowing where they are heading.
I can tell you that the writing was superb and I feel like the author really did her research. The way she describes Hannah’s symptoms and behaviours is realistic and honest. I liked that she didn’t shy away from the ugly parts of Hannah’s personality and illness. Hannah requires a great deal of your empathy and understanding, which can be hard for some as she isn’t exactly the nicest girl.
My only problem with this book is that I wanted more, I wanted to know what happened next. I get why the author left it like this, I think anything more would have cheapened it, but it would be great if she could pop me an email to tell me how Hannah’s relationship with her parents is going?
Overall this is a fantastic, emotional, contemporary read. I highly recommend.
I received a copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Title: A Danger to Herself and Others
Author: Alyssa B. Sheinmal
Released: 5th February 2019
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire