Author: Sara Polsky
Genre: YA Contemporary
Publisher: Albert Whitman & Company
Length: 266 pages
Original Publishing Date: September 1st, 2013
Where I got it: NetGalley
Links: Goodreads Amazon Author's Website
Synopsis from Goodreads:
"Sophie Canon has just started her junior year when her mother tries to kill herself. Sophie has always lived her life in the shadow of her mother's bipolar disorder, monitoring her medication, rushing home after school to check on her instead of spending time with friends, and keeping her mother's diagnosis secret from everyone outside their family. But when the overdose lands Sophie's mother in the hospital, Sophie no longer has to watch over her. She moves in with her aunt, uncle, and cousin, from whom she has been estranged for the past five years. Rolling her suitcase across town to her family's house is easy. What's harder is figuring out how to build her own life."
Main characters: 4/5
The thing that I liked about Sophie was that I could see myself in her. Even though I'm not an artist like her and I don't have the exact same situation, she was easy to relate to. The way she looked at the world reminded me of myself in middle school and high school and that wasn't just by chance. That comes from Sara Polsky having a sincere and true voice that was able to connect with me. When it came to the constant pity-partying though, I was rolling my eyes. I get feeling like you're not good enough for your friends, I can connect to that, but Sophie just took it over the top and I was sick of it halfway through the book.
Secondary characters: 3.5/5
To preview the secondary cast of characters, I enjoyed the way we viewed so many of them just as Sophie did at the beginning. Sophie alienated a lot of people and we see them through her eyes. I love that throughout the story, each character becomes more complex as Sophie learns more about them. James was a little underdeveloped; we don't know a lot about him other than the fact that he's in a band and he is quieter like Sophie. I wish that Polsky had spent a little extra time developing him further. Leila and her mother Cynthia are the main characters who we see through Sophie's eyes. It was difficult to get a read on them for most of the novel, however the way that they were slowly characterized with depth and contradiction was well done. Finally, Sophie's Mom (Amy), kind of played a lesser role in the novel. I wish that she had played less of a role and more of a character.
Writing style: 4.5/5
That opening sequence took my breath away with the delicateness and heartbreaking manner in which it described Sophie finding her mother. Here's the thing about Polsky's writing style: I'm not usually a big fan of the slow-moving, long winded descriptions, but in this novel, it worked. I've been trying to figure out why I like Polsky's writing style so much and why it doesn't bore me like some other books. I think I've figured it out. Polsky has figured out the little details that remind me of high school, but she also slips them into the writing so that you're reading the action and then suddenly you get what Sophie is thinking or how she sees something.
I like that the plot was simple. For some reason, it kept moving even though there wasn't a whole lot going on at any given moment. The reader follows Sophie through her life after her mother tries to kill herself. What keeps the plot moving is the interactions with other characters and Sophie's own complexities. At first I felt like the reason Sophie and her friends had gone their separate ways was a little too easy, but after thinking about it, it felt realistic. I've definitely had experiences like that. All in all, every once in a while I did wish that there was more going on plot-wise, but Polsky's writing was strong enough to keep the novel moving despite that.
I actually really enjoyed this ending. Not everything was perfect, but it was realistic and the ending note was perfect.
Best scene: The very end scene
Reminded Me Of: Not sure, what does it remind you guys of?
Positives: The writing, well-though out main character, the way we see minor characters through Sophie's eyes, the ending
Negatives: Lacks some plot action, Sophie has some over-the-top pity parties, wanted more depth from the minor characters (especially Sophie's mom).
Cover: The colors in this cover are different than I normally see. I like the font, the field and house, but the fading into the girl is a little quirky. All in all, it represents the novel well.
Verdict: Genuine and sincere novel about a parent with mental illness; incredibly strong and elegant writing by Polsky.
Rating: 8.0/10 (4 stars)
What I Was Listening To:
I don't listen to slow music very often, but when I read I usually need something slower so I'm not tempted to jump up and dance. Over the years, I somehow found out about Mike Hirst and now have a ton of his music. He is great to read to and his voice is beautiful. Check him out!
Your Thoughts: Have you read it? What did you think? If you haven't, will you be adding it to your TBR list? Let me know!
Also, just out of curiosity, is there a book out there where the main character struggles with bipolar disorder/schizophrenia? I feel like I've read a lot of books where the narrator's mom/sister/friend has the illness, but I can't remember any where the main character does off the top of my head.