A Danger to Herself and Others by Alyssa B. Sheinmel.

A Danger to Herself and OthersA Danger to Herself and Others by Alyssa B. Sheinmel

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I received a copy from the publisher, Sourcebooks Fire, via netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Hannah Gold was born mature. This is what her parents have always said. As a baby and a toddler, instead of being settled with babysitters, she was attending the theater, fancy restaurants and even travelling abroad with her parents. And she was always given her own hotel room, even at four years old, left to her own devices while her parents went places that little girls are not allowed, the casino, bars, etc. She’s also incredibly smart and witty, and has no problems making friends, she’s had numerous best friends over her lifetime, it’s always so easy for her. She’s going to get into Harvard, or Yale, or some other Ivy league school once she finishes high school. Money’s never a problem, and she lives on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, she likes to go shopping with her mother, and reading books that are college level. Everything’s going perfect, until Hannah finds herself being admitted to a psychiatric facility in California, having been torn away from her summer program. Not a summer program for struggling student, a summer program for students to start earning credit towards College, a summer program for the smart kids. Her best friend and room mate Agnes has been involved in an accident, an incident, and the judge has court ordered Hannah Gold to undergo psychiatric observation, however, it’s all just a big misunderstanding, and everything will be fine once it all gets straightened out, won’t it?

I don’t know what I was expecting when I requested this book, but I don’t think it was what I got. This is not a bad thing, this book blew me away. I almost read it in one sitting, I started reading it last night before bed and only stopped because my eyelids were protesting for sleep, otherwise I surely would’ve finished it in one sitting, no doubt about it.

When the story opens, we are introduced to Hannah Gold as she is sitting in the administration part of this building, with an orderly writing her information down on a clip board. She is soon taken to her room, stripped of her civilian clothes, and the door is shut. We don’t know much about Hannah except that she is confined to her room, in solitary, that her best friend Agnes has had an accident, and she’s been court ordered to the facility as she is deemed a danger to herself and others.

We follow Hannah on her journey as she finds out more about the accident that has left Agnes in a coma, why she is in the facility in the first place, and as she gains and loses privileges while trying to work out why they’ve given her a roommate called Lucy, especially if she may be a danger to herself and others.

Hannah is a perfectly imperfect character and I loved how she was written, everything in her life is perfect, her parents and their friends have always said so, it also gives way for the reader to think about, is her life really perfect? Who’s life is perfect? And also raises questions about one’s perception of themselves compared to what other people perceive them to be.

This book deals with mental health issues such as eating disorders, suicide, depression, psychosis and a myriad of other things. I think this book piqued my interest because of the mental health tag, I myself suffer with mental health issues, not on the scope that I believe this book deals with them, but mental health issues nonetheless. This is the third book ever that has brought me to tears, and it wasn’t because of attachment to a character who dies, or anything like that, it really hit close to home with how some of the characters deal with mental health issues. One of the characters is struggling with adjustment, and other characters are afraid of them. This broke my heart. I know myself, that a massive part of being able to live and function with mental illness is to not be ostracised because your brain functions differently to “normal” people, that mental illness is not contagious, and that majority of the time a person with mental illness is more likely to hurt themselves than someone else. Having people around who are open enough to try and adapt with you is imperative to adjusting to living with a brain that is misfiring or a brain that is not producing enough of some chemical, especially when one decides to take the leap and accept medical help, whether that is in the form of medication or therapy, or both. It’s not easy accepting yourself as having a brain that functions differently, and having people around you that can help with this is important. So yes, this book hit me hard, not because I’ve gone through what this character did, but purely because I am so lucky that I’ve never had to go through dealing with family being scared of me, worried that I’d pass on my crazy to them. I’ve always been supported, especially when I need it most. So it was upsetting to realise that, not everyone has this in their life when they need it, even when they don’t. People go through something so life shattering by themselves, with no one around who understands.

And I’ve gotten WAY off topic haha. So the pacing of the book was fantastic, and the story flowed brilliantly. The way the author has written the narration really gives a feel for a frantic brain, and you can sympathise with Hannah and what the characters are going through. The author does state that this is not meant to be an accurate representation of mental illness, as medication and diagnosis effect people differently, nonetheless, it was brilliantly written. Definitely goes into the category of a sure fire unputdownable book.

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