Maybe I was just a boy…interrupted

Hi all and Happy Book Lovers Day! We’re going to shake things up and discuss why I’m gay for books. I was a queer kid in Tennessee, time period-late 90’s/early aughts, knee bent praying for books that reflected my world.

The book we’re discussing today shook my life, and changed me forever.

Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen (1993)

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“Have you ever been blue? Or thought your train moving while sitting still? Maybe I was just crazy. Or maybe, I was just a girl…interrupted.”

Amazon Synopsis:

In 1967, after a session with a psychiatrist she’d never seen before, eighteen-year-old Susanna Kaysen was put in a taxi and sent to McLean Hospital. She spent most of the next two years in the ward for teenage girls in a psychiatric hospital as renowned for its famous clientele—Sylvia Plath, Robert Lowell, James Taylor, and Ray Charles—as for its progressive methods of treating those who could afford its sanctuary.

Kaysen’s memoir encompasses horror and razor-edged perception while providing vivid portraits of her fellow patients and their keepers. It is a brilliant evocation of a “parallel universe” set within the kaleidoscopically shifting landscape of the late sixties. Girl, Interrupted is a clear-sighted, unflinching document that gives lasting and specific dimension to our definitions of sane and insane, mental illness and recovery.

Discussion

Relating to a woman in the 60’s with borderline-personality disorder might seem a stretch for a gay boy in 2000, but Kaysen’s book was pivotal to my understanding of my mental health struggles. Not that I really had any MH struggles, instead I was a mess of teen angst, gay angst, and religious angst that led me down a tunnel of despair.

Each chapter of the book is interspersed with images from her psychiatric charts. The terse language, condensing the pain of one individual down to DSM codes, illustrated the casualness of doctors and nurses when faced with mental illness. A medical code, created for insurance purposes, became Kaysen.

Diagnostic criteria for 301.83 Borderline Personality Disorder

A pervasive pattern of instability of interpersonal relationships, self-image, and affects, and marked impulsivity beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts, as indicated by five (or more) of the following: 

(1) frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment. 
Note: Do not include suicidal or self-mutilating behavior covered in Criterion 5. 

(2) a pattern of unstable and intense interpersonal relationships characterized by alternating between extremes of idealization and devaluation 

(3) identity disturbance: markedly and persistently unstable self-image or sense of self 

(4) impulsivity in at least two areas that are potentially self-damaging (e.g., spending, sex, Substance Abuse, reckless driving, binge eating). 
Note: Do not include suicidal or self-mutilating behavior covered in Criterion 5. 

(5) recurrent suicidal behavior, gestures, or threats, or self-mutilating behavior 

(6) affective instability due to a marked reactivity of mood (e.g., intense episodic dysphoriairritability, or anxiety usually lasting a few hours and only rarely more than a few days) 

(7) chronic feelings of emptiness 

(8) inappropriate, intense anger or difficulty controlling anger (e.g., frequent displays of temper, constant anger, recurrent physical fights) 

(9) transient, stress-related paranoid ideation or severe dissociativesymptoms

The above was how Kaysen began to relate to her world. As she pounds out vignette after vignette, she rages against this diagnosis. She argues a diagnosis can’t define you, and even if it is accurate, don’t we all experience these “symptoms” from time to time.

Kaysen was relatable. Was she mentally ill? Maybe. Disconnected from reality, in a society hellbent on putting a woman in her place, she broke. It’s easy when you don’t fit in, when the world is dark, cruel, and toxic. It wasn’t hard for me to to relate from to a woman in the 60’s as a gay boy in 2000. I was pushing those boundaries that she had pushed 40 years before. Was I mentally ill? Or was I just a boy…interrupted?

If you want to check out this amazing book you can order it on Amazon! Find the link below.

Amazon

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ARC Review of Shaun Hutchinson’s “The Past and Other Things That Should Stay Buried”

Thanks to Simon Pulse for this ARC!

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Publisher Summary:

A good friend will bury your body, a best friend will dig you back up.

Dino doesn’t mind spending time with the dead. His parents own a funeral home, and death is literally the family business. He’s just not used to them talking back. Until Dino’s ex-best friend July dies suddenly—and then comes back to life. Except not exactly. Somehow July is not quite alive, and not quite dead.

As Dino and July attempt to figure out what’s happening, they must also confront why and how their friendship ended so badly, and what they have left to understand about themselves, each other, and all those grand mysteries of life.

Critically acclaimed author Shaun Hutchinson delivers another wholly unique novel blending the real and surreal while reminding all of us what it is to love someone through and around our faults.

Review

Last-goodbye novels fall into two camps. Camp one: cloying, with titles like Five People You Meet While Reading the Notebook on Tuesdays With Morrie—inspirational gobbledygook popular with the church lady segment of the interior Midwest—trite gee gollyisms ricocheting from their pages while the author demeans our grief. Not my kind of last-goodbye novel.

The other camp is like a diamond in the rough, echoing realistic expressions of grief and loss. How we experience death and dying are abstract societal constructs, unique to our lived experiences, and the best novels can present these experiences with a universal voice. Hutchinson succeeds.

Hutchinson’s upcoming release, The Past and Other Things That Should Stay Buried, parks in the second camp and never veers off track. Part Torchwood: Miracle Day, part Dawn of the Dead, and part Casper, the novel blends side-splitting moments with a grim story, recounting how Dino’s best friend/worst enemy dies and rises from the grave. Not like Jesus, though; July is nothing like Jesus.

Breaking genre expectations, Hutchinson weaves a distinctive zombie story, where July, our zombie, doesn’t hanker for brains; instead, she frets over her rotting flesh, leading to a host of body horror gags that lend the hefty subject matter levity.

As the story unwinds, the reader discovers July isn’t special in her circumstances; in fact, everyone’s stopped dying. July and Dino repair their broken friendship while fulfilling the last-goodbye trope, but where so many get it wrong, Hutchinson gets it so, so right.

Since the book has yet to be released, I’m reserving my more spoilerific analysis for the release date! Hutchinson’s latest novel is a captivating read, and one I suggest you run out and preorder. You’ll find the links below.

5 out of 5 Rainbows!

This Book Releases on February 19, 2019 so Preorder Now!

Indie Bound

Barnes & Noble

Amazon

Edited by V.S. Santoni

“Heroine” by M.McGinnis ARC Review

(Trigger Warning: Addiction)

The US is in the midst of an opioid overdose epidemic.

If you or someone you know needs help, effective treatment is available and can save lives.

www.hhs.gov/opioids

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Publisher Summary

The Female of the Species and Edgar Award–winning author Mindy McGinnis delivers a powerful exploration of the opioid crisis through the eyes of one girl, creating a visceral and necessary story about addiction, family, and friendship.

Mickey Catalan’s life has been littered with struggles—from the scars that tell of past injuries to her parents’ divorce to the daily complexity of finding the right words to fit in socially. Mickey is no stranger to pain, emotional or physical.

When a car crash sidelines her months before softball season, Mickey has to find a way to hold on to her spot as the catcher for a team expected to make a historic tournament run. Behind the plate is the only place she’s ever felt comfortable, and the painkillers she’s been prescribed can help her get back there.

The pills do more than take away pain; they make her feel good. With a new circle of friends—fellow injured athletes, others with just time to kill—Mickey finds peaceful acceptance and people with whom words come easily, even if it is just the pills loosening her tongue. But as the pressure to be Mickey Catalan heightens, her need increases, and it becomes less about pain and more about want, something that could send her spiraling out of control.

Review:

Summarizing McGinnis’ upcoming release Heroine isn’t easy. What’s it about? Well…

  • It’s about the opioid epidemic.
  • It’s about a teen girl that’s in real pain
  • It’s about the need to cope with that pain.
  • It’s about how easy it is to slip into addiction.
  • It’s about the harm addiction does to friends, families, and the addict.
  • It’s about heroin, and oxy, and every evil derivative of that vile drug.

This is not another book about addiction. If it were I’d roll my eyes and tell it to sashay away. I had to take a week after finishing this book to process what I had read. Mickey Catalan could be my child. The horror is that she could be anyone’s child, or sister, or mother, or grandmother. From a birds-eye view,  the creeping tendrils of addiction wrap around Catalan, leaving her helpless as she starts her downward spiral.

I was concerned the novel would have the after-school special episode vibe. I want teens that read this book to know addiction isn’t cool without being talked down to. Assaulting us with image after image of addiction, McGinnis doesn’t hold back and avoids being preachy.

Tension rises as Heroine rushes toward its climax. Every chapter you know something awful is going to happen, addiction can only lead one place, but you are hopeful the entire time that somehow Mickey will be different. With addiction, nobody is different–nobody.

I recommend this book to anyone who wants to witness the painful experiences of addiction. It’s a gritty read, but well worth your time. If you or a loved one is in recovery, I wouldn’t recommend this book to you. It’s graphic and realistic in its depictions. This may be too much for someone in recovery.

5 out of 5 Rainbows

This book goes on sale March 12, 2019!  If you’re interested, then pre-order this book now!

Indie Bound

Barnes & Noble

Amazon

 

 

 

“White Rabbit” by Caleb Roehrig Review

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Amazon Synopsis:

“Rufus Holt is having the worst night of his life. It begins with the reappearance of his ex-boyfriend, Sebastian―the guy who stomped his heart out like a spent cigarette. Just as Rufus is getting ready to move on, Sebastian turns up out of the blue, saying they need to “talk.” Things couldn’t get worse, right?

Then Rufus gets a call from his sister April, begging for help. He and Sebastian find her, drenched in blood and holding a knife beside the dead body of her boyfriend, Fox Whitney.

April swears she didn’t kill Fox. Rufus knows her too well to believe she’s telling him the whole truth, but April has something he needs. Her price is his help. Now, with no one to trust but the boy he wants to hate yet can’t stop loving, Rufus has one night to clear his sister’s name . . . or die trying.”

Review:

Full Disclosure: I won a contest and this was the book I chose. Thrilled to read it; I was not disappointed.

Every day, once a day, give yourself a present. Don’t plan it, don’t wait for it, just let it happen. It could be a new shirt at the men’s store, a catnap in your office chair or two cups of good hot black coffee.

-Agent Cooper Twin Peaks

I like weird, I like strange, I like surreal. As I tap away at these blog entries, you’ll see multiple references to dystopian societies, strange little towns, and unlikely heroes. “White Rabbit” takes me down the hole to a place; one where the characters are absurd and the clues fleeting. Evoking Twin Peaks realness, we start with a boy, a body, and a question: Who Killed Fox Whitney?

Good thrillers leave us guessing, but include enough clues and candidates to piece the puzzle together. Our first clues come straight from Lynch Central Casting—Roehrig’s characters. April, a spoiled rich girl found poised over Fox (the body,) is the main suspect and Rufus’s half-sister.

Our hero Rufus, an adorable, sulky, gay boy, is brought in to the investigation at his half-sister’s insistence—with a large sum of money to sweeten the pot. Much like my beloved Agent Cooper, Rufus’s personal investigations are continuously juxtaposed to his very public murder investigation.

The joy of this book is Roehrig’s ability to cocoon the reader (at least this reader) in his Lynchian murder tapestry, leaving me to suss out the clues hidden in the fibers. Pacing, the kiss of death for many thrillers, is perfect in this story. Throughout the novel, I was riding the rollercoaster of death and sex to an inevitable conclusion that was shocking and satisfying.

I had high hopes for my first LGBT+ YA thriller, and Roehrig did not disappoint. My advice is simple. Grab a damn fine cup of coffee, the best cherry pie you’ve ever tasted, and Roehrig’s White Rabbit. Agent Cooper will be glad you did.

5 out of 5 Rainbows

Purchase Now!

Indie Bound

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

“Nine” Zach Hines ARC Review

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Thanks, HarperTeen for this ARC!

Publisher Synopsis:

“In an alternate world startlingly close to our own, humans have nine lives—and they can’t wait to burn straight through them.

As you shed lives, you shed your awkward phases: one death is equal to one physical and mental upgrade. Julian’s friends are obsessed with the idea of burning lives, but Julian is determined to stay on his first for as long as he can. His mother, the ultimate cautionary tale, burned through her first eight in just a few years, and Julian has no intention of succumbing to the debilitating rebirth sickness that she inflicted on herself.

But the regime has death incentives aimed at controlling overpopulation, and Julian realizes that he’s going to have to burn at some point—especially when he becomes a target for Nicholas, the manipulative leader of the Burners, the school’s suicide club. And when Julian eventually succumbs, he uncovers suspicious gaps in the rebirth system that may explain exactly why his mother went so far down the rabbit hole years ago. Along with a group of student dissenters, Julian sets out to find answers and is soon on the verge of exposing the greatest conspiracy ever unleashed on the world.

He has just eight more lives to uncover the brutal truth.”

Review:

Ever since I first cracked the spine of Brave New World and read that famous line:

“Orgy-porgy, Ford and fun,

Kiss the girls and make them One.

Boys at 0ne with girls at peace;

Orgy-porgy gives release.”

I was in love with dystopian novels set in a near future. I couldn’t help myself; the allure of a society like ours but slightly altered was thrilling. Ever since, I have consumed dystopia’s set in space, in a maze, in an authoritarian state. But something happened along my path, I began to tire of my beloved screwed-up societies.

Dystopia’s, at their best, only slightly manipulate the world we live in. They pose the big questions about population, scientific ethics, and morality. Many no longer adhere to these rules. Instead, they create a nightmare future, but one that forgets to ask the important questions. Why is this dystopian? What are you trying to tell me? So many of these novels lose themselves in the fun of a dystopia but don’t challenge the world, instead, they revel in it.

The greatness of Nine is Hines avoids the pitfalls so commonly associated with dystopian novels. He clearly defines what the societal problem is (extended lifespans) and runs with a lead character (Julian) who actively fights against the “societal answers” to the problem. Hines manages to create a three-dimensional character that is realistic, even in his solutions. You may not always agree with Julian’s decisions; Julian’s decisions are grounded in human thought and emotion.

“Neo-Malthusianism is the advocacy of population control programs, to ensure resources for current and future populations.”

The bedrock of Nine is a criticism of neo-Malthusian population control programs. Hine’s rightly illustrates that the problem is not the extended lifespan of the population, but instead an issue of resource management. The wealthy in Nine’s dystopian world would rather have people burn their lives away instead of distributing the resources equitably amongst the population. The true horror of Hines’s novel is the neo-Malthusian world he imagines is not too distant from Trump’s America.

Hine’s novel is exhilarating, thrilling, and challenging. I recommend this novel. If you desire an easy read, with easy answers, this book isn’t for you. But if you want to read a bone-chilling critique of a society, one we are closely linked to, then run out, grab this book, and devour it. You won’t be sorry.

5 out of 5 Rainbows

Pre-Order This Book Now!

IndieBound

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

“Mammoth” Jill Baguchinsky ARC Review

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Thanks Turner Publishing for this ARC!

Publisher Synopsis:

“When paleontology geek and plus-size fashion blogger Natalie Page lands a coveted summer internship at an Ice Age dig site, she finds that the rockabilly/retro persona she developed to shield herself from bullying isn’t compatible with prospecting for fossils in the Texas heat. To stand out in a field dominated by dudes, Natalie must shed her fashion armor and let her true talents and ambitions shine. Pitched as DUMPLIN’ meets JURASSIC PARK, MAMMOTH combines the themes of body positivity and girls in STEM with romance and plenty of authentic paleo geekery.”

Review:

Baguchinsky has written a sterling sophomore novel that asks the question, “Can a plus sized person be fabulous?” She answers with a resounding yes. Mammoth, at its best moments, is a mix of acetic acid and sodium bicarbonate, explosive and full of revelry. You rejoice for Natalie when she succeeds, when she gets the boy, when she breaks the rules, and you feel her pain when she’s stomped on, when she’s beat down, when it’s tough. And for Natalie, tough is her daily life.

It’s hard being “truly awesome,” growing up plus-sized in a society that says you can neither be too rich nor too thin. Natalie pulls it off, but she has to work for it. She has to be smarter, sexier, funnier, and more fabulous. Anyone that has ever experienced being overweight knows this struggle. To wash away the unpardonable sin of being overweight, they must excel in every arena when compared to their peers.

Mammoth is a lazy Sunday book. You’re going to want to curl up on your couch with a nice cup of coffee, sun shining on your face, and go through this experience in one sitting. I made the mistake of using it as my bus book and found myself awake at 10 pm trying to finish it. This is not the kind of book you want to read over multiple days. You want to know what happens to Natalie, and this book hooks from the beginning. I have plans to reread it in the next few days, to see if I can carefully brush away more layers and explore some of her relationships more.

4.5 out of 5 Rainbows

Rainbows

Pre-Order This Book Now!

Amazon

Barnes and Noble

Indie Bound