Mental illness in writing

Mental Illness in Writing Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle

It might be a point of difference, a plot point, but mental illness in YA and literature can help save lives through education and lifting the veil on depression and related conditions. Before the person suffering takes drastic measures of their own…

I have a (secondary) character in one of my WIPs who suffers from depression, it provides one of the main characters in the story with motivation and characteristics important to their arc. However, while taking a break from framing out the second half of the novel, I jumped on social media for a nosey and catch up with friends. Two things happened that have me questioning my mentally ill character… first, a teenage girl in my family circle dealing with her own mental illness and a ton of online bullying; and secondly, the suicide of an idol. Part of the contributing factors leading him to his death were the continual hate he was getting online – he never felt good enough.

Mental Illness in Writing Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

It really hit home. I truly don’t fully understand what it is to be depressed enough to take your own life. I’m much too proactive and positive for that. It must be such a desperate and lonely place to be. And I wish others did not have to experience such a painful and debilitating emotion.

Professional psychologists attribute some of this to a chemical imbalance in the brain, as well as finding the coping mechanisms to train your thought patterns… it all sounds so clinical in the face of such a devastating state of mind.

I know there is no easy fix for something like this, but I always wonder why the two people mentioned above in particular don’t take some control of their exposure to the hate? Granted, they are the victims, and by right should not have to limit their activities. But why in the heck don’t they just delete all social media accounts? Or block the trolls? Online haters feel safe in anonymity; and the numbers and reach of these kind of people are incrementally greater online. Why not just switch off, unplug, and concentrate on you. On what you can control?

Mental Illness in Writing Pic 03 by Casey CarlisleI understand asking that of today’s youth would be like removing a limb – but wouldn’t you rather value your mental health than put up with idiots and haters? It has become such a huge problem that we are dealing with since the growth of online communities. Depression, anxiety, and bullies are a dangerous mix – it can lead to suicide, substance abuse, or fatal retaliation. Thankfully there are ways to deal. Help lines, organisations, peer counselors, teachers, parents, friends, doctors, mental health professionals. While life online has exposed people to more hate, it has also connected us to real help. Plus, we can control what we are exposed to with security settings, blocking profiles, reporting abusers to moderators. It’s not a hopeless situation. And seeking help online isn’t as difficult as reaching out in person. There is no shame or embarrassment.

I feel like including characters in my writing, and reading about them in fiction, can help educate people about this issue in an informal and personal way. I may not fully understand the things that go through someone’s head suffering depression, but with some research maybe I can help a reader feel like they are not alone, show them ways to handle these strong feelings, and seek out the help they need? Some of the novels I’ve read have certainly educated me in handling grief, bullying, depression, and anxiety. It’s also shed light on other mental illnesses and disabilities and how individuals cope with them in their lives, like bipolar, schizophrenia, being on the autism spectrum. When I was a child, things like this were taboo. Never mentioned. But what I see today is that dealing with mental illness doesn’t have to be struggled through alone. People can overcome the difficulties. And it’s more common than you think.

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It hurts my heart to see such a dark side of humanity laid bare when I think of those driven to take their own lives from bullying and hate. We don’t need to do that to each other. And to anyone surrounded by shadows and clouds, feeling worthless and alone – don’t believe those feelings. Don’t give in. You are a special, unique individual. A part of what makes this universe tick. Even though these words are coming from a complete stranger through a screen of some kind – you are loved.

 

And there is help.

 

Please call for help.

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© Casey Carlisle 2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

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Rediscovering my passion for writing through loss…

Rediscovering my passion for writing through loss Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle

… and setting up a cracker of a year!

Holy Hanna! I can’t believe it is already March and this is the first blog post I’ve written for 2019… where did the beginning of the year go?

For the last two months I’ve done nothing bookish or indulged in writing. Sad face emoji. Over the holiday period it was my intention to get some much needed spring cleaning done and finally go through everything boxed up from my mother’s estate. I’ve put off the unboxing for far too long. Mum passed just over five years ago and there were always distraction and other things that took priority. But there were no excuses over the holidays and the job is well overdue. Yay for me being proactive and ticking some of the less desirable items from my to-do list. I’m patting myself on the back for this one!

Rediscovering my passion for writing through loss Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

Here’s me thinking a few weeks was all that was needed. Erm… I didn’t take into account the emotional connection to objects and photos. Each day was a rollercoaster between the joys of unwrapping something I desired – like my birthday; and something triggering the loss and grief all over again. Two weeks stretched over an exhausting six weeks. My over-ambition hobbles me again *shakes fist at the sky* However the experience has left me feeling lighter, cleansed, and motivated. If not more connected to my mum.

It’s reminded me of all the things I started writing for in the first place. Flashbacks to mum’s words of encouragement. It has re-invigorated my drive. Last year was feeling like it was difficult to make any progress – even though I had been. It simply came down to nothing being finished. (That’s what you get for running too many projects at once.) But it has left this year as one where I can start crossing items off my goals list.

Rediscovering my passion for writing through loss Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

It’s left me wondering if I should work less on the blog and concentrate on the professional landscape I’ve been building; or knuckle down and attempt to do both. I’m just a little concerned of burnout or overextending myself. (Like I always tend to do.) I don’t want to spend all my time at a keyboard, I value getting out and exploring the coast and Hinterland, connecting with family and friends. Guess I’ll give it a go and see how things work out. Both aspects of novel writing and blogging are fun – it’s just one is building a career, and the other is sharing the love of reading… choices.

Rediscovering my passion for writing through loss Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

So now I’m back in the swing of things, and we’ll see where this journey takes me. What opportunities I can create… and hopefully the regular schedule of blog posts won’t suffer.

In the meantime, happy reading and lots of positive and creative vibes to those on their own writing journey.

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© Casey Carlisle 2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Book Review – ‘A Very, Very Bad Thing’ by Jeffery Self

A lie by omission brings about a very, very good thing too…

A Very, Very Bad Thing Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Contemporary, GLBT

No. of pages: 256

From Goodreads:

Marley doesn’t just want to be labeled The Gay Kid, but he doesn’t have much else going on. He doesn’t have any hobbies. Or interests. He’s the only kid he knows without a passion . . . until Christopher comes to town. He’s smart, cute, gay, and . . . the son of the country’s most famous, most bigoted television evangelist.

Marley and Christopher immediately spark — and become inseparable. For a month, it’s heaven. Then Christopher’s parents send him to a Pray Away the Gay program, which leads to even worse things. Hurt and outraged, Marley tells a very big lie — and then has to navigate its repercussions.  

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A Very, Very Bad Thing’ is a quaint novel with a heart-wrenching message. There is a big plot twist, something that I was not expecting, and turned my opinion of this book around.

A Very, Very Bad Thing’ started off slow and uninteresting. The writing wasn’t particularly engaging, and the storyline was something I’d read a zillion times before. All in all, I was starting to sum this book up as meh! But get to the plot twist just after the half way point and it’s a whole different kettle of fish. Suddenly it was interesting, emotional, and full of tension and conflict.

A Very, Very Bad Thing Book Review Pic 02 by Casey CarlisleThe wording our protagonist Marley says in public – especially in a speech giving scenario always felt very scripted and P.C. Given, it’s an emotionally distressed teenager, but I found it a little unbelievable for him to be so polished in those instances. Considering he was so goofy and sarcastic at the beginning.

Marley’s relationship with Christopher is very sweet, but I guess because it was so easy, I wasn’t sold on it so much. Then during the conclusion with the summing up of the events – insert moral lesson here – it also comes off a bit contrite. I found myself wanting it to get ugly – or ugly cry. Some events weren’t given enough time to marinate in the narrative.

I wanted the start to be shorter, the words and experiences to have more impact, so that the second act of this novel can explore the themes more effectively and not rely on poignant monologues to make its point. Symbolism can be so much more resonating.

This is all me nit-picking. I guess because overall, even though I shed a tear or two, it felt a little bland than what I was expecting. Like the characters were all on a healthy dose of lithium. I want angst, drama, and at least one person to get slapped.

A Very, Very Bad Thing’ does have a unique story. I have to praise Jeffrey Self for the original take on this love story. Lies by omission, misunderstandings, and doing bad for the voice of good were handled with an unexpected flair. It brings out an important lesson learned that many young lgbtqia+ face today. I love some social commentary in my fiction.

Christopher as a love interest is adorkable. Like a bouncing puppy despite the religious oppression of his parents. But I felt like he could have gotten a bigger chance to shine. I wanted something to stand out so he wasn’t so much the stereotypical boy next door.

Audrey, Marley’s best friend adds some comic relief, but I also felt she too was a bit typecast. Insert quirky BFF here. For as close as these two are, she seemed mostly absent for the second half of the novel… and best friends tend to assert their presence in times of need.

This book is a little battler, it has lots of heart but needs a bit of polish to really shine – but not a novel you can dismiss easily. Luckily it’s short in length so I persevered after finding the beginning a little uninteresting. Definitely worth reading to the end. I went in without knowing anything of the plot and was totally taken on a whirlwind. I’m on the fence in recommending this one – it’s interesting, but I feel the writing style and pacing needs some maturation… Maybe for a tween demographic and lovers of lgbtqia+ genre specific novels.

Overall feeling: You got me there girl

A Very, Very Bad Thing Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

A Very, Very Bad Thing Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

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© Casey Carlisle 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Book Review – ‘What to Say Next’ by Julie Buxbaum

Bring on the awkwardness!

What to Say Next Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Contemporary, Romance

No. of pages: 292

From Goodreads:

Two struggling teenagers find an unexpected connection just when they need it most.

Sometimes a new perspective is all that is needed to make sense of the world.

KIT: I don’t know why I decide not to sit with Annie and Violet at lunch. It feels like no one here gets what I’m going through. How could they? I don’t even understand.

DAVID: In the 622 days I’ve attended Mapleview High, Kit Lowell is the first person to sit at my lunch table. I mean, I’ve never once sat with someone until now. “So your dad is dead,” I say to Kit, because this is a fact I’ve recently learned about her. 

When an unlikely friendship is sparked between relatively popular Kit Lowell and socially isolated David Drucker, everyone is surprised, most of all Kit and David. Kit appreciates David’s blunt honesty—in fact, she finds it bizarrely refreshing. David welcomes Kit’s attention and her inquisitive nature. When she asks for his help figuring out the how and why of her dad’s tragic car accident, David is all in. But neither of them can predict what they’ll find. Can their friendship survive the truth?

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After ‘Tell Me Three Things,’ I picked up ‘What to Say Next’ in my following book haul eager for Buxbaum’s breezy narrative and quirky writing style. This novel did not disappoint, another light contemporary to while away an afternoon. I loved the unique viewpoint of a protagonist on the autism spectrum.

What to Say Next Book Review Pic 02 by Casey CarlisleThere were a few times I felt as though things were a little one-minded for the sake of drama, but hey – what teen does not live in that headspace. Everything is life and death, emotions exist in their amped up, purest form… mix in a touch of Asperger’s and it’s a force of nature. And I felt Buxbaum treated David with respect, and it felt like (as it should be) he was just another person in the mix of humanity getting through each day at high school. That he can have relationships, that he is independent and not someone to be sequestered into a special school just because of his bluntly honest outlook on life which may make some people uncomfortable.

They need to get over themselves.

The first half was a bit of a slow burn – but it goes with the tone in the way David’s mind works. It really set the tone on his perceptions, thought patterns, and prejudices he overcomes on a daily basis.

Miney was the ever protective big sister for David and I loved that family dynamic.

Kit, whose perspective is alternated with David’s, is the biracial love interest. I found it interesting how she was the only character that felt race and heritage was an issue, whereas the rest of the cast were pretty much colour-blind. It was a pleasant state to read about. And let’s face it, Kit, by all rights should be the only one to talk about race and discrimination.

I was a little annoyed at the role Kit’s mother played, it’s like she didn’t have much authority as a parent – but if you are always trying to be your child’s best friend, you walk that line…

Interactions between David and Kit felt like an innocent, beautiful blossoming friendship. So adorably cute. Some things get piled on this pair, well a lot of things, which made for great reading, especially to see how they overcame these obstacles. And the plot twist – where the heck did that come from? Totally side-swiped me.

The writing style is gorgeous, easy to read and in a tone distinct for both narrators.

Loved ‘Tell Me Three Things,’ this was a great addition to my library and look forward to what Buxbaum releases next. A definite recommend for me. Though it’s more of a slow burn contemporary that a short angsty tale.

Overall feeling: Shades of social inappropriateness (in a good way).

What to Say Next Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

What to Say Next Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

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© Casey Carlisle 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Book Review – ‘We Were Liars’ by E. Lockhart

Elite drama and an unreliable narrator make for fantastic reading.

We Were Liars Book Review Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle.jpgGenre: Y/A, Contemporary, Mystery

No. of pages: 227

From Goodreads:

We are the Liars.

We are beautiful, privileged and live a life of carefree luxury.

We are cracked and broken.

A story of love and romance.

A tale of tragedy.

Which are lies?

Which is truth?

You decide.

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This totally blew me away. It had drama, mystery and obnoxious characters… Just from the title and tone of the novel I knew there would be a twist coming – and I kind of guessed it, but not entirely. More like I had the gist of it, but when the big reveal came at the end I was like Oooooohhhh…

I’m not usually one to favour stories that are fragmented or filled with flashbacks, but in this case it worked. With an unreliable narrator like Cady everything that is written has relevance – it’s a big puzzle and you just have to find the right way everything fits together.

There is also a tone of racism, elitism, entitlement, and social justice that resonates strongly in the subtext. Along with that are themes of selfishness, idiocy, and innocence lost. It’s like a big swirling mass just under the letters on the page: a strong reflection on real life. For such a short book it really packs a punch.

We Were Liars Book Review Pic 03 by Casey CarlisleMaybe I’m a little disconnected, or in shock, or simply disorientated from all the going’s on in the book, but I didn’t really laugh or cry. And I was expecting to. So that is the only reason I deducted a mark – lack of emotional connection. Quite possibly it is also because all the cast were flawed and there is no clear definition of what is good or bad and who deserves punishment or not.

I marvel on the weaving of the storyline, the craftsmanship of plot and character – clearly the best book I’ve read of E. Lockhart to date.

I will say that the writing style is brief and jarring at times – almost like slam poetry. It is intentional, reflecting the way the protagonist, Cady’s brain works, but it was another small aspect that pulled me from the narrative. Those few words built a strong picture, but I wanted to exist in the moment longer. It felt all too brief. Maybe that’s part of the reason I lack a strong emotional connection to the story because the writing style hit me like a drive-by….wham! And then it’s gone. Red taillights shrinking to blurry pinpricks in the distance.

I don’t feel we really got to know the characters that much either. The grown up’s stay in the periphery, bickering. The Littles (younger kids) are loud, messy and disruptive, but only present for mere moments. The Liars though, because they are hiding so much, or playing games, I felt like I only got the surface scratched before the story ended.

Though the conclusion was satisfying, there was still a sense that there were some lose ends… but I guess the story isn’t truly over – the family is still carrying on, still maintaining that Sinclar reputation.

Highly recommended – a delightful read with an unexpected twist.

Overall feeling: I love a surprise reveal at the end!

We Were Liars Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

We Were Liars Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

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© Casey Carlisle 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Book Review – ‘Tell Me Three Things’ by Julie Buxbaum

A totally unexpected ride…

Tell Me Three Things Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Contemporary, GLBT

No. of pages: 328

From Goodreads:

Everything about Jessie is wrong. At least, that’s what it feels like during her first week of junior year at her new ultra-intimidating prep school in Los Angeles. Just when she’s thinking about hightailing it back to Chicago, she gets an email from a person calling themselves Somebody/Nobody (SN for short), offering to help her navigate the wilds of Wood Valley High School. Is it an elaborate hoax? Or can she rely on SN for some much-needed help?

It’s been barely two years since her mother’s death, and because her father eloped with a woman he met online, Jessie has been forced to move across the country to live with her stepmonster and her pretentious teenage son.

In a leap of faith—or an act of complete desperation—Jessie begins to rely on SN, and SN quickly becomes her lifeline and closest ally. Jessie can’t help wanting to meet SN in person. But are some mysteries better left unsolved?

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I really got a kick out of ‘Tell Me Three Things,’ it weaves poetry, pop culture, and social media neatly into the narrative. Though I did feel like the pacing was somewhat slow. The truth is not a lot happens in this book, however I wasn’t bored by any means. It has that type of quirkiness that I’ve come to like from titles by David Levithan. Imperfect characters, big city sarcasm, and witty dialogue.

The whole SN (Somebody Nobody) thing was a little trite. I liked it having an anonymous person to chat to as a story telling device – a Cinderella story in reverse of sorts, but in a world of social media awareness and predators, something was screaming in the back of my head that our protagonist Jessie was being gullible.

Tell Me Three Things Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

I related to Jessie and got all the feels. I’ve lost a large number of family members in the last three years, and the grief is still raw, so there were times I had to put this book down because I couldn’t breathe. Many of her words rang so true. It’s not something anyone can understand unless it’s happened to them. I related to her quiet bookishness, her nerdiness, but I felt like she should’ve had more of a backbone. Especially when dealing with her Father. I know I would have totally lost it much earlier, and had a major meltdown at his feet and blame him for everything. That’s what grief can do to you. It also makes you numb. Maybe it’s my own experience colouring my views on Jessie and how she handled everything. I wanted her to be a little more prickly, fragile, volatile… maybe to validate how I handled my own grief and loss.

I felt the ‘all the boys fall for the new girl’ thing was a little over done. Whether intended or not. Whether stated or not. It just felt that way; and it annoyed me to no end. But the relationships, be they potential romances or not, were all very cute and adorable. I actually had a lot of fun reading ‘Tell Me Three Things.’

Caleb, Ethan, and Liam felt interchangeable. Like there wasn’t a lot of difference between them. SN had more depth than any of these men. And Jessie objectified them most of the time. Their floppy hair, their piercing eyes… I was waiting for her to discover more.

I also liked how I was kept guessing about the identity of SN. I kept trying to sleuth it out myself – like who would have access to her private contact details (this fact alone which threw me in the wrong direction – and to which I’m still wondering about how SN got them in the first place). Buxbaum does a very good job at swaying opinion from one person to another through Jessie’s narrative. I finished the whole book in a day, even with many rests to pull my emotions back together, it’s a touching contemporary about finding yourself through the loss of a loved one and re-defining what it is when you are You, who is You, who is You.

And I totally mis-guessed who SN was.

Doh!

The ending was cute.

I guess this book on a whole, although adorkable, had a tone of the uncomfortable. The grief and loss thing, the internet predator issue that was ignored, the feeling lost and out of place… it was hard for me to get engrossed in the romance when these issues were like the elephant in the room. It could have been so much more intense and angsty, but I appreciated the light nature of the narrative – it let me live in the fantasy.

Like I mentioned earlier, I found the pacing a little slow, but the writing style is easy to read and littered with pop culture acronyms (some of which I had to look up) and random references (which I Googled too): all of which I love. It sounds lame, but I always get a kick about learning something new from a book, no matter how obscure the reference. A big two thumbs up from me.

Overall feeling: cute and sad at the same time.

Tell Me Three Things Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

Tell Me Three Things Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

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© Casey Carlisle 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.