author: Trish Cook & Brendan Halpin
released: July 23, 2013
format: e-book, hardcover
pages: 288 pages
Read: June 20-21, 2013
Book Type: YA, mental health, contemporary, coming-of-age
A hint of Recovery Road, a sample of Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, and a cut of Juno. A Really Awesome Mess is a laugh-out-loud, gut-wrenching/heart-warming story of two teenagers struggling to find love and themselves.
Two teenagers. Two very bumpy roads taken that lead to Heartland Academy.
Justin was just having fun, but when his dad walked in on him with a girl in a very compromising position, Justin’s summer took a quick turn for the worse. His parents’ divorce put Justin on rocky mental ground, and after a handful of Tylenol lands him in the hospital, he has really hit rock bottom.
Emmy never felt like part of her family. She was adopted from China. Her parents and sister tower over her and look like they came out of a Ralph Lauren catalog– and Emmy definitely doesn’t. After a scandalous photo of Emmy leads to vicious rumors around school, she threatens the boy who started it all on Facebook.
Justin and Emmy arrive at Heartland Academy, a reform school that will force them to deal with their issues, damaged souls with little patience for authority. But along the way they will find a ragtag group of teens who are just as broken, stubborn, and full of sarcasm as themselves. In the end, they might even call each other friends.
A funny, sad, and remarkable story, A Really Awesome Mess is a journey of friendship and self-discovery that teen readers will surely sign up for. (From Goodreads.com)
Why You Should Buy It
This is a coming-of-age tale focusing on two invidiuals who are at the lowest points in their young lives. Actions and illness have led them both to a mental health facility, but together, and with the help of others, they begin to see the world just a little clearer. And while this story deals with heavy topics, it does it in a way that is light and easy to read.
*I received this e-book in exchange for an honest review through Netgalley.*
I just love the cover of this book. And the title. Honestly, those are two reasons I clicked on the cover. When I found out it was about teens facing mental illness, I knew I had to get it. As someone who has dealt with mental health issues, I tend to gravitate to books dealing with these issues. I think they are an important part of young adult culture, especially when they help to desensitize the taboo that we face when dealing with mental illness.
That being said, this is quite possibly the first time I’ve read a book about mental illness that made me laugh most of the time. The book deals with heavy issues — self harm, suicide, anorexia, depression, manipulation, sexual addiction, anger. And yet, the characters were some of the most dynamic and hilarious characters I’ve seen in a long time. Each of the kids within the anger therapy group stood out in some way, and didn’t blend into the background. I loved this as a contrast to the other characters in the book — they definitely stood out in comparison. I don’t know if this is something the authors intended, but I’d like to think they did.
Another thing I loved about this book is how each of the kids seemed really normal. I mean, yes, inevitably they were all facing something so major they had been placed in an inpatient care facility. But really, they all could have been someone I interacted with in high school. I think this point will resonate with teens that maybe you aren’t so different than everyone else — you and your problems are just as messed up as the next person.
The book volleyed between two characters: a Chinese girl who was adopted, struggling with anorexia and a boy struggling with depression. I have to tell you that I related to Justin more, especially since I have dealt with some of the issues he has. When he tells the therapist that he didn’t really want to die, he just didn’t want to live, I thought “man, someone gets it.” Justin’s description of the back and forth of being numb and not understanding why you aren’t just snapping out of it, to the pain, to normal was spot on. I am sure the same could be said for Emmy’s anorexia and the choice to control something no one else could. Each of the kids are convinced that they really don’t belong there, but by the end, they see that “Assland” is teaching them something.
And one point that I really responded to was something Emmy’s therapist told her. She said when we don’t communicate, we tend to fill in the void with negative speak. So, we feel like the other people in are life view us far more negatively than is really truth. This idea sent a light bulb off in my head, and has actually been something I will take away from this book and use in my own life.
If you are looking for a heavy-hitter, something that will relieve a catharsis, this isn’t the book for you. But, if you are looking for a great perspective on teen issues, and want to laugh along the way, this is the book.
Four out of Five Stars