Tag Archives: Mental Illness

When We Collided – Emery Lord

When We Collided – Emery LordTitle: When We Collided by Emery Lord
Publishing Info: April 5, 2016 by Bloomsbury Publishing
Genres: Young Adult, Psych/Mental Health, Contemporary, Realistic Fiction
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // GoodreadsDate Completed: April 10, 2016
Related Posts: Open Road Summer, The Start of Me and You

Meet Vivi and Jonah: A girl and a boy whose love has the power save or destroy them.
Vivi and Jonah couldn't be more different. Vivi craves anything joyful or beautiful that life can offer. Jonah has been burdened by responsibility for his family ever since his father died. As summer begins, Jonah resigns himself to another season of getting by. Then Vivi arrives, and suddenly life seems brighter and better. Jonah is the perfect project for Vivi, and things finally feel right for Jonah. Their love is the answer to everything. But soon Vivi's zest for life falters, as her adventurousness becomes true danger-seeking. Jonah tries to keep her safe, but there's something important Vivi hasn't told him.

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Emery Lord is an auto-buy author for me. I fell in love with her debut, OPEN ROAD SUMMER, and every book I read from her is a wonderful and thoughtful experience full of growth, friendship, and a little bit of romance. After finishing WHEN WE COLLIDED, one of the things that I’m really starting to appreciate is how incredibly individual each book feels from is predecessor. Emery Lord’s writing is deep and powerful but still allows each character to let their silly side show and really tells a very realistic story without getting caught up in the dramatics that some young adult books tend to overemphasize. Each book has had a very different story to tell and WHEN WE COLLIDED may be the most powerful one yet.

WHEN WE COLLIDED is the story of Vivi and Jonah but it’s also a story for anyone who’s dealt with grief, depression, mental illness, or really any hard times in their life. The reader learns that Vivi has recently been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and that Jonah’s father has recently passed away and his family is still grieving. WHEN WE COLLIDED chronicles the journey of these two characters throughout one summer as they crash into each other’s lives when they’re both at their very bottom and how they’re able to help each other grow and heal. The book is incredibly powerful. There’s so much emotion as Vivi and Jonah sift through their struggles individually and how once they start to open up, they’re really able to help and support each other by sharing their own personal hurdles.

What I loved the most about WHEN WE COLLIDED was how realistic everything truly felt. Sometimes I have a hard time connecting to big families like Jonah’s (especially young children for some reason) but just like Vivi, I easily fell in love with each and every one of them. Emery Lord is able to bring even minor characters into full color and share their dazzling personalities with the reader. I also really appreciated all of the personal experience as well as research that went into Vivi’s character. I haven’t personally seen the effects of bipolar disorder in any of my friends or family members (that I know of) but I felt like this was an incredibly realistic and thorough view of what someone with this disorder might be going through. Experiencing Vivi’s emotional highs and escalation as she went through her manic period was truly an emotional roller coaster and as an observer, I was incredibly nervous for her throughout the book. I was afraid of what might happen when that mania finally came back down and feared for when depression might hit. Vivi has a naturally spirited and unique personality so there was also this blur and question of whether her actions were simply because she was such a sizzling personality or whether some of her decisions were affected by her disorder.

I adored the relationship between Vivi and Jonah. It was such a sweet romance full of highs and lows and it was exactly what these two characters needed. Jonah needed someone who would break down the door and push themself into his life in order to really accept help and start to talk about what his family was going through. She opened Jonah up to acting a little silly sometimes and allowing himself to really act his age when there was so much weighing on his shoulders. Vivi needed someone a little grounded to reel her back in at times but still love her for exactly who she was. Jonah was able to offer her a peek into a big family and the loss of a loving father and these two really learned a lot from each other that they never set out to find.

I could really go on gushing about WHEN WE COLLIDED but it’s a book that really must be experienced. It was so incredibly well-written and I love how it shares some similar elements of Emery Lord’s previous books (strong female characters, great friendships, tons of growth) and yet it truly stands on its own. It was such an emotional ride for me and one that I will absolutely continue to recommend. If you haven’t read any of Emery Lord’s books yet, start anywhere but make sure you do read WHEN WE COLLIDED as soon as possible!
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“The View from Goodreads” is a featured section in my reviews that I decided to incorporate! I tend to update my Goodreads status a LOT when I read — reactions, feelings, notes — so I thought it would be fun to share the sort of “reading process”! All status updates are spoiler-free (no specific plot points will be revealed) but will contain reactions to certain pages and/or characters!

when we collided goodreads

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Vivi // Character Obsessions: Costume design, staying unique, fun, adventure.
Vivi was such a wonderfully layered character. She has this struggle with bipolar disorder but she’s so spirited to begin with that at times it’s hard to tell where this disorder creeps in but then you realize that so much of Vivi is just that adventurous, free, and bubbly. I loved her unique personality and you will never find a dull moment with Vivi. She really brought Jonah out of his shell and truly loved who she was.
Jonah // Character Obsessions: Family, responsibility, cooking, his father.
I adored Jonah’s love of cooking (some of these things seriously made me hungry!) and how much I fell in love with his big family. He has the burden of being one of the older siblings and really taking care of the littles as well as his mom as she continues to struggle with the loss of her husband. The whole family is still grieving and I admired Jonah’s strength (although I’m sure it didn’t feel like strength to him) as he attempted to piece his family back together again.

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Kept Me Hooked On: Mental health awareness. I thought the authenticity of Vivi’s bipolar disorder was so accurate. I read the author’s note at the end of the book so I know she put a lot of personal experience into creating this character but also really did a ton of research as well to represent it as well as she possibly could.
Left Me Wanting More: Fairy tale endings. Obviously I wish for a fairy tale ending where everyone rides off into the sunset but actually… I’m glad that it wasn’t all sunshine and butterflies in the end. Things get real and the ending is realistic and not just smacking a happy conclusion on there just for feels. I loved that I was left with some great feelings but it wasn’t overly sappy.

Addiction Rating
Buy it!

You NEED to read Emery Lord’s books if you haven’t yet. Every single one is truly unique and WHEN WE COLLIDED is such a powerful story.

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BOOKS LIKE WHEN WE COLLIDED

(Click the cover to see my review!)

ALL THE BRIGHT PLACES    I WAS HERE

Calvin – Martine Leavitt

Calvin – Martine LeavittTitle: Calvin by Martine Leavitt
Publishing Info: November 17, 2015 by Macmillan
Genres: Young Adult, Realistic Fiction, Psych/Mental Health
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // GoodreadsDate Completed: December 4, 2015

As a child, Calvin felt an affinity with the comic book character from Bill Watterson’s Calvin & Hobbes.
He was born on the day the last strip was published; his grandpa left a stuffed tiger named Hobbes in his crib; and he even had a best friend named Susie. Then Calvin’s mom washed Hobbes to death, Susie grew up beautiful and stopped talking to him, and Calvin pretty much forgot about the strip—until now. Now he is seventeen years old and has been diagnosed with schizophrenia. Hobbes is back, as a delusion, and Calvin can’t control him. Calvin decides that Watterson is the key to everything—if he would just make one more comic strip, but without Hobbes, Calvin would be cured. Calvin and Susie (is she real?) and Hobbes (he can’t be real, can he?) set out on a dangerous trek across frozen Lake Erie to track down Watterson.

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CALVIN seemed like a really interesting concept as well as a quick read (the book is under 200 a pages!) and with the end of the year drawing near, it was the perfect time for me to grab a book that would keep me intrigued and help me get that much closer to completing my reading challenge for 2015!

CALVIN is the story of a boy named Calvin who discovers that he has schizophrenia. He believes that if Calvin and Hobbes creator Bill Watterson would just write one more comic, he would stop having visions of a real (to him) version of Hobbes and his life could just go back to normal. Calvin then leaves on a quest to go find him by walking across the frozen lake from Canada all the way to the US. As interesting as this concept sounded, the book really fell a bit flat for me. I’ve always been interested in psychology so naturally, books with a psychological aspect of any sort tend to grab me. I started out really interested but the book quickly lost steam for me and despite its short length, I had trouble focusing and staying interested. 

Calvin as a character didn’t really seem to have a lot of depth. I suppose it’s hard to have a well-rounded character when the whole point of the story is a single obsession but I would have loved to see more emotion from him throughout the book! I suppose because I knew Calvin was having schizophrenic episodes, I also found it hard to get a grip on what was real and what was being manifested inside Calvin’s head. Obviously I knew Hobbes wasn’t real but I found myself questioning the entire situation and several characters so just the smallest of doubts really threw off my whole reading experience. That’s also how I am when I read books that I know involve psychological aspects or psychological twists — I’m always looking for a twist, even if it isn’t there, so I actually ended up making this book more complicated than it really was.

I was actually not too impressed with the book overall. It should have been a quick read but I didn’t find the writing terribly engaging and (though possibly due to my own faults), I was kind of let down with the ending. I just didn’t really feel like the book was taking me somewhere and the middle really dragged for me. I kept hoping for something to reel me back it but I never quite made it there. I was also sort of upset that the author didn’t really include any information about schizophrenia and what it is. There were some quick passages where Calvin is trying to explain it to Susie but I just always feel like books dealing with mental illness should educate the reader a little bit since most people don’t know details. I feel like CALVIN missed an easy opportunity to just open that conversation up to the readers.

CALVIN wasn’t a bad read for me but I’d have a hard time recommending it. I can usually zip through a nice, short book and I felt like this book actually dragged a bit. It really didn’t impress me on any level and like I said, not bad but just didn’t really stand out in any way for me.
view_from_goodreads1

“The View from Goodreads” is a featured section in my reviews that I decided to incorporate! I tend to update my Goodreads status a LOT when I read — reactions, feelings, notes — so I thought it would be fun to share the sort of “reading process”! All status updates are spoiler-free (no specific plot points will be revealed) but will contain reactions to certain pages and/or characters!

calvin gr updates

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Calvin // Character Obsessions: Finding Bill Watterson, Hobbes, Susie. 
I felt so disconnected from Calvin and really thought he was lacking the emotion I needed to enjoy his character. I completely understand his obsessions and why he needs to go on his mission but for some reason I just couldn’t connect to him like I wanted to. Hobbes seemed to have more personality, actually.

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Kept Me Hooked On: Quick reads. It was kind of nice that this book was on the shorter side! I always feel more motivated to finish and finish quickly.
Left Me Wanting More: Conversation about mental illness. I’m not usually one to say what “should” or “shouldn’t” be included in a book but I really, really would have liked to see the author touch more on Calvin’s schizophrenia, how it’s handled, what people experience, etc. There was just a bit of talk about it but I had really hoped for more.

Addiction Rating
Skip it

Again, the book wasn’t bad and usually I tell people get a second opinion or try it but I have a hard time recommending this one! I just feel a little let down.

book_recommendations1

BOOKS LIKE CALVIN

(Click the cover to see my review!)

BELZHAR    LOUD AWAKE AND LOST

Wild Awake – Hilary T. Smith

Wild Awake – Hilary T. SmithTitle: Wild Awake by Hilary T. Smith
Publishing Info: May 28, 2013 by HarperCollins
Genres: Contemporary, Psych/Mental Health, Young Adult
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // GoodreadsDate Completed: July 4, 2013

In Wild Awake, Hilary T. Smith’s exhilarating and heart-wrenching YA debut novel, seventeen-year-old Kiri Byrd has big plans for her summer without parents. She intends to devote herself to her music and win the Battle of the Bands with her bandmate and best friend, Lukas. Perhaps then, in the excitement of victory, he will finally realize she’s the girl of his dreams.
But a phone call from a stranger shatters Kiri’s plans. He says he has her sister Suki’s stuff—her sister Suki, who died five years ago. This call throws Kiri into a spiral of chaos that opens old wounds and new mysteries. Like If I Stay and The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Wild Awake explores loss, love, and what it means to be alive.

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WILD AWAKE. How do I review WILD AWAKE? No, seriously. How do I review this book? I had been meaning to read it since I heard so many good things, especially from Jamie, and when Hilary T. Smith was going to be at Anderson’s Bookshop in the end of June, I knew I had to go and that was the perfect time to buy the book. I had a ton of time to read on the 4th of July so I started WILD AWAKE…… And finished it that night. I honestly could not put it down. I finished the book, let out a sigh of “Wow”, and then went to go mark it at read on Goodreads like I usually do. Goodreads said, “Awesome! You finished a book! Now how do you want to rate it?” And I sat there, phone in hand, and thought. And thought. Usually when I’m reading a book, I can tell what I’m going to rate it and I generally gauge that star rating, changing it if necessary as I read. WILD AWAKE started out as a four star rating and THEN I got to the second half of the book and was mesmerized. The ending! It was just so much more than a star rating. It was interesting, terrifying, captivating, non-sensical, and quite a whirlwind. I entered my star rating on Goodreads, but even as I’m writing this review, I’m still not sure if it’s appropriate or not. I guess all I can do is talk about how I felt!

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The first half of the book definitely felt slower than the second half, for obvious reasons once you read it but also because I felt like things took just a little while to get… somewhere. The story is obvious right off the bat: Kiri’s parents are gone on a cruise for 6 weeks (yes, I know to some people this amount of time was shocking and unbelievable, but you’d be surprised), her brother Denny is at college, and she gets a phone call from a stranger asking her her sister who died several years ago. Sukey was practically Kiri’s idol — She really, really looked up to her older sister and was devastated when she died so when she gets this mysterious phone call, her curiosity gets the best of her and she stumbles into secrets that she didn’t even know were there.

I honestly don’t want to rehash the plot because the feelings of this book are way more important. When Kiri starts looking for the the stranger who once knew her sister, she opens Pandora’s box, so to speak, and can’t take that back. The sadness and regret and anger she feels from pretty much rehashing her sister’s death is a very emotional time and there were a few times I teared up from Hilary Smith’s writing and how she conveyed this jumble of emotions for Kiri. Outrage, denial, fear… And along the way she meets a helpful stranger (unrelated to the stranger who knew her sister) named Skunk. The way people went on about Skunk in their reviews and/or Twitter I was like, “There is no WAY I’m going to like a character named Skunk.” But there you have it. He was a gentle giant — a quiet personality in a large body and slowly formed a perfectly un-perfect relationship with Kiri. (I love that she called him her love-bison, brontosaurus of love, and even once compared his stature to Hagrid haha.)

I don’t really know how else to talk about this book except to say that that second half! (!!!!) I actually didn’t know a TON about WILD AWAKE before I picked it up. If you know me well, you know I love going into books blind so I get surprised by all of the little things as they were intended to surprise an audience. When I saw Hilary T. Smith in person, she described her book as involving music, mystery, and an aspect of mental illness. I thought “Mental illness is in this book?” Psychology and mental functions and/or illnesses have always intrigued me so I was immediately more curious to see how that even fit in the book and even as I was reading the first part, I was still guessing how it was going to come into play. We see this mental break start to appear in Kiri’s character slowly but surely, taking us on quite the wild ride of emotions and actions. What happened to Kiri was incredible (and scary) to witness from a first person point of view. I wondered how it even came on… Was this brought on by the secrets of her sister’s death? Her parents being away and Kiri being alone? Time? Stress? An existing condition? I’m not really sure, and as much as it would be interesting to know, that’s not even quite relevant to the book except that the reader gets to witness that happen from Kiri’s perspective and she doesn’t even know that anything out of the ordinary is going on. I actually almost didn’t even want to talk about this in my review because it feels like such a spoiler since I didn’t really know it was coming, but it was such a BIG part of the book and the reason that I was so blown away by it that I didn’t know how I could hold it back.

This is a story about love. And loss. And friendship. And breaking down. And every emotion you’ve ever had balled into a tornado and whipping you around your own life until you’re terrified of when it finally spits you back out into the universe as a jumbled mess. WILD AWAKE was beautifully written. It comforted me and shocked me all at the same time and I’m still in awe of it. I’m so glad that Hilary T. Smith wrote this book to share with the world! I feel like you will either love this book or it’s something that’s just not for you and that very few people will fall in the middle. WILD AWAKE has its lovely tender moments, but many frenzied aspects as well so be prepared for a very serious side with some light-hearted moments. It was a fascinating ride, clearly, since I couldn’t even put it down for a few hours. I really hope that people love this book and feel as amazed by it as I do.

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Kiri Byrd // Character Obsessions: Practicing piano, her sister Sukey, solving a mystery, more piano.
God, Kiri was so interesting. I was afraid in the beginning that she was going to be shy, vulnerable, and awkward and in a way she was… But she changed in two ways: both with her knowing it and without. To see her grow as a person and start to mature at the same time that she was breaking down was… paradoxical. I’m so glad that this book was written in Kiri’s first person POV because it was incredible to see this story from her perspective.
Skunk // Character Obsessions: Radios, bicycles, cigarettes.
Skunk was quite the interesting character. He was gentle, yet strong and his quiet attitude really intrigued me. He had his own past and his own secrets that I was dying to find out about as did Kiri. I really liked how his relationship grew with Kiri and how they began to trust each other throughout the book.
Denny Byrd // Character Obsessions: School…? None?
For some reason I kind of identified with Denny and I’m not really sure why. When he finally makes his physical appearance in the book and we see his interactions with Kiri… For some reason that totally just GOT ME. That was almost the defining moment — Obviously Kiri didn’t see it and I almost didn’t quite recognize all the signs of her mental breakdown either UNTIL Denny arrived and we got a different person’s perspective of how she acts when she’s at home or alone and that was just like “WHOA”. His presence in the book really sort of opened my eyes and made me feel scared for Kiri.

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Kept Me Hooked On: Psychology. Had it not been for those pesky stats classes, I would have minored in Psych (which means nothing because I probably wouldn’t have used it in my practical life anyway) and Abnormal Psychology was one of my absolute favorite classes in college. It was so interesting to see how the brain works or changes or differs for people who suffer from mental illnesses. I’ll always find it fascinating how the brain works, or in many cases, how it fails to work according to the norm.
Left Me Wanting More: Familiarity. Kiri’s parents are gone the whole book, her sister is dead, and her brother Denny is away at school. We do get to see Denny later in the book, but only briefly. The only familiar people we see in the book is Kiri’s friend Lukas and his family and even then they seem to flit in and out of the story line… Then again, maybe that’s the point. Kiri has no rock, no one to go to when she starts to discover all these new things and maybe that ultimately assists in her mental break.

Addiction Factor
BUY THIS!

This was a pretty spectacular read and I highly recommend it! Hilary T. Smith does a great job at grabbing the reader’s attention and keeping them hooked the entire book.

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     Pushing the Limits      the Book of Broken Hearts

Sisters In Sanity – Gayle Forman

Sisters In Sanity – Gayle FormanTitle: Sisters in Sanity by Gayle Forman
Publishing Info: August 16, 2007 by HarperCollins
Genres: Contemporary, Psych/Mental Health, Young Adult
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // GoodreadsDate Completed: July 3, 2013
Related Posts: If I Stay (If I Stay #1), Where She Went (If I Stay #2), Just One Day (Just One Day #1), If I Stay (If I Stay #1), Where She Went (If I Stay #2), Just One Day (Just One Day #1), Just One Night (Just One Day #2.5), I Was Here, Leave Me, I Have Lost My Way

For sixteen-year-old Brit Hemphill, it's hard to know who she can trust. Convinced she's out of control, her father has sentenced her to Red Rock: a center for supposedly rebellious teens, where the therapy consists of name-calling and the girls who get privileges are the ones who rat out their peers.
    But then Brit meets V, Bebe, Martha, and Cassie—four girls who keep her from going over the edge. Together, they'll hold on to their sanity and their sisterhood despite the bleak Red Rock reality.

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I was really excited to get to SISTERS IN SANITY as part of the Gayle Forman Read Along! I’m a huuuuge fan of basically every other Gayle Forman book so I was curious to pick up her first book (although technically I guess she wrote another book/memoir from a journalistic aspect? Curious.) to see how it all started!

SISTERS IN SANITY is the story of Brit, a 16-year-old girl who was raised in coffee shops amongst bands and artists until her mother starts showing serious signs of schizophrenia and her family begins to fall apart. We first meet Brit when her father, now re-married, is dropping her off at Red Rock: a facility designed to help “straighten out” trouble teens. Her once normal upbringing is now seen as wild and disrespectful and Brit struggles to understand why her father has taken such extreme measures instead of… you know… talking to her.

Brit’s story was not an easy one to read in the sense that it just broke my heart to see such disconnect between Brit and her father when they were once a happy family. Really when it comes down to it, it seems like her dad is just scared. He fell apart after her mother’s mental illness and he never quite recovered and you can tell that he’s just scared Brit is going to end up just like her mother. He can’t deal with that so he sends her to Red Rock. I don’t think HE ever realized that, but I think that’s pretty obvious to the reader!

Red Rock is a terrible place. There’s nothing awfully brutal about it, but one thing here and one thing there started adding up until I finally had it (and Brit too). I seriously got angry towards the end of the book and then the administration really started to cross the line and I lost it. It was tough to see Brit cut off from the outside world and even more tough when her dad didn’t even seem to want to make contact most of the time.

I absolutely loved the “Sisters in Sanity”, as they called themselves — Brit made a fantastic group of friends that really did become like her family. They were all different personalities, but they bonded together over their mutual hate of Red Rock and their need for some sanity in the middle of a facility that treated everyone like they were crazy when they certainly weren’t. I think V was one of my favorite characters followed closely by Bebe. They were the two Sisters that stood out the most for me and I loved their friendship with Brit!

Overall, I really enjoyed SISTERS IN SANITY but it wasn’t nearly as deeply emotional as Gayle Forman’s later books. There was a really nice romance between Brit and Jed and I definitely swooned a few times! I didn’t quite fall head over heels though. If you’re a Gayle Forman fan, SISTERS IN SANITY will be a good read for you! It’s quick, interesting, and a nice balance of light and heavy. A really funny thing was that since I’ve read the rest of Gayle’s books, I could definitely see bits and pieces of them in her first novel. I saw SO much of IF I STAY in SISTERS IN SANITY with the music background, the coffee shops… It just made that that much more anxious to start IF I STAY soon!

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Brit Hemphill // Character Obsessions: Getting out of Red Rock, standing her ground, proving she’s not crazy.
I felt so bad for Brit. She got put in Red Rock with no warning, no say, and just abandoned there, basically. She’s got a somewhat feisty personality, although not as wild as her father makes it out to be, and so she tries to fight the system which ultimately pushes her further into it. I loved how she made friends at Red Rock and essentially found a different kind of family when her actual relatives were not communicating with her or treating her well. I really liked her determination and it was interesting to get inside her head when she was thinking/worrying about her mother and if there was a chance that she could end up that way as well.
Virginia aka V // Character Obsessions: Helping Brit, sticking up for the Sisters, damning the man. V was another one of my favorite characters. She seems like a sort of protector of the group having been in Red Rock for a long time. She knows how the facility works and how to get what she wants so she was a great ally for Brit to have. V also has her own secrets as well which I found to be really interesting when the time came for that reveal!

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Kept Me Hooked On: Gayle Forman. While this wasn’t the most emotionally raw GF book, I still love her writing and it was so interesting to see aspects of future books in here!
Left Me Wanting More: Romance! We do see some of Brit & Jed and what we got was adorable. I just wished it made up a bigger part of the story in the beginning.

Addiction Rating
Read it

I wasn’t as emotionally invested in this as other Gayle Forman books but… It’s Gayle Forman! It was really an enjoyable read and it’s a must-have to sit comfy-cozy next to my other Gayle Forman books 🙂

book_recommendations1BOOKS LIKE SISTERS IN SANITY

     Pushing the Limits        the Book of Broken Hearts