Category Archives: psychology

The Impossible Knife of Memory, an SCBWI Book Review

You know what I did immediately after I promised not to read the PTSD novel?  I went ahead and read the PTSD novel.  Good thing school started recently, so I haven’t had time to blog.  We’ve all had a sufficient break from the depressing, unjust world, right?

Good!  Let’s dive back in.

Impossible Knife of Memory

Click the image to go to the Amazon page

Book: The Impossible Knife of Memory, by Laurie Halse Anderson

Genre: Young Adult, Realistic Fiction

Recommendation:  Um… honestly?  Eh.  It’s just… you know, it’s good.  It’s okay.  I much prefer Speak.  You should read that one for sure.

Run-on Sentence Synopsis: Hayley is a high school student who classifies the whole world into either “zombies” or “freaks” in a way that seems like a forced quirk because it does very little to further the plot and her dad has PTSD in a bad way and she falls in love with a boy and she has to deal with her dad’s issues and her own issues.

Positive Feedback: Anderson is always successful at characterization in her own way.  There were some really solid emotional moments that gripped me and made me feel the characters’ pain.  As a fan of psychology, I was very interested in delving into this world of trauma and the psychological ramifications of same.  The material is handled with respect and has an appropriate weight to it.  It’s obviously not a lighthearted novel, and that’s good.  You can tell Anderson has a vested interest in representing trauma and related mental disorders accurately.

Constructive Criticism: Given my interest in psychology, I was kind of disappointed when the father’s PTSD kind of became a subplot rather than the main story.  In the end, I felt like I was reading yet another “F-the-World-Girl meets Quirky-Sexy-Boy” teen romance.  Even worse, the pacing of the romance  felt off to me.  There wasn’t a lot of chemistry between the two characters, and they fell for each other way too quickly in my opinion.  A large struggle many children go through is finding themselves parenting the parents.  That should have been the meat of this story, and I just wasn’t getting that.  This is weird, but I feel like Sarah Dessen would have written this book better.  If you want a book that touches on tough psychological issues and abusive relationships (I mean, you wouldn’t want that, but you know what I mean), then go pick up Dreamland.  Yeah… this book review just became a recommendation for another author and book.  I guess that pretty much sums it up.

I still have to read Caraval, but I don’t know when I’ll do that.  I have a baby, five classes to teach, and boxes to unpack.  But I will try my best!

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Just a Normal Tuesday, an SCBWI Book Review

Just a Normal Tuesday

Click image to go to Amazon page

I did not mean to do two books on incredibly sensitive topics in a row.  It just worked out that way.  Next time I’m definitely going to have to do Caraval, because The Impossible Knife of Memory is about PTSD.  Gotta break up the heavy topics a little.  So…

TRIGGER WARNING: SUICIDE

Book: Just a Normal Tuesday by Kim Turrisi

Genre: Young Adult, Realistic Fiction

Recommendation: I think you can tell that this is not something you pick up for a bit of light reading.  That being said, I recommend it to anyone who is interested in the topic of psychology, has experienced suicidal thoughts, or knows someone who has taken his or her own life.  This book might be the companion you need if you’re feeling all alone or trapped inside your own head.

Run-on Sentence Synopsis: Kai comes home and checks the mail to find a letter from her older sister, Jen, informing Kai and their parents that she is going to kill herself, and Kai rushes to her sister’s apartment only to find out that she is too late and what follows is Kai’s descent into depression followed by a trip to grief camp where she learns that she can find a way to live through the tragedy that struck her.

(Necessarily) Long Review: This book is a little different.  I feel that something that touches on such an important and sensitive topic merits a very careful analysis and critique.  Therefore I won’t be separating out positive and negative comments this time.

At this point I’d like to note that it is extremely difficult for me to critique Turrisi here, as this story is semi-autobiographical; when she was fifteen, her sister killed herself.  But, to be fair, I am offering critique, not criticism (slight difference in connotation there).

Firstly, if you read this book, you are going to cry.  If you have a heart at all, you will end up bawling your eyes out at some point.  This could end up being a very necessary catharsis for you.  If you have experience with suicide or suicidal thoughts, you might not even make it all the way through the book.  That being said, I feel that Turrisi laid it on a little thick at times.  Suicide is already such an emotionally impactful event that I feel you don’t really need to push to convey that impact to readers.  The times when Turrisi shined brightest were when she let genuine emotions do the talking, rather than trying to emphasize the emotional weight with repetition and figurative language.

The biggest faults are the repetition and the occasional clunky piece of dialogue.  It sometimes borders on cheesy, and there’s a bit of a pacing issue.  The cursing sometimes feels gratuitous, the title is referenced multiple times with different wording (one crazy Tuesday, just another Monday, etc.), and the words “tingle,” “tingly,” and “tingling,” were used just a few times too many for my liking.

Another thing I have to say is that the book starts out with Kai finding her sister’s suicide letter, so we don’t get to see any characterization of the sister, Jen, except through brief little snapshots that barely warrant the term “flashback.”  Similarly, we don’t really know who Kai is as a person.  Towards the end of the book she starts to realize that she’s defining herself through her relationship with her sister, and I would have liked to see the character take steps to learn more about who she is as an individual.  I appreciate beginning in medias res, but a jump backward in time after the suicide note could have helped to establish Kai and Jen as characters.  Jen’s death would have meant more to me if that had happened.  As it was, and again I hate to say this, the first half of the novel started to drag after a while.  Because the book begins with Kai at an all-time low, we don’t get to see a downward spiral.  Instead, she starts out at rock bottom, and she slowly creeps a little farther downward over numerous pages.

The grief camp part of the book, on the other hand, picks up considerably.  Possibly because Turrisi relied a little more on fabrication – since she herself never attended such a camp  – we see a slew of interesting characters, a burgeoning romance, and some truly heartfelt and gut-wrenching stories of loss and suffering.

Overall, it’s not the perfect novel, but I genuinely believe it might be helpful to those out there who are suffering from a similar loss, or who are plagued by suicidal thoughts themselves.  I think what Turrisi created is commendable to say the least, and I would recommend picking it up as long as you are prepared to be hit where it hurts.

National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255

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The Cold Truth About Depression

WordPress is kinda getting on my nerves.  I wrote this post already.  Last night.  I saved it as a draft because I wasn’t ready to publish it yet.  This morning, I wake up and go to my site.  Lo and behold, no drafts.  The entire post isn’t there.  So now I’m rewriting from memory.  Let’s see if I can remember how I did this.

The title is a pun.  I apologize to all those pun-haters out there that I have offended.

A few days ago, I watched the movie, Frozen, in Spanish because I was trying to practice my oral comprehension.  Incidentally, the song, “Let it Go,” is changed to, “I’m free” [Libre Soy].  Disney spares no expenses with their translations.  They translate the songs, the signs, everything.  They even make sure the songs still rhyme in Spanish, all while fitting the same meter.  Anyway, I watched Frozen [Congelado] and then a few days after that I had an “off day.”  Some of you will recall that I have written about my mental issues in the past.  Funnily enough, that post also had to do with the cold.  I don’t like to make my depression or anxiety a secret, because I think they’re a part of my humanity, and I think that it’s good to remind the internet of your humanity every once in a while.

So on my “off day,” I was feeling depressedI was stress-eating and I couldn’t stop myself.  And that’s when it hit me: There is a scene in Frozen that perfectly encapsulates the nature of depression.  It’s a fairly innocuous scene in context, with throwaway humor from the comic relief snowman.  Take a look:

Frozen 1

Frozen 2

Frozen 3

Frozen 4

Look at the hesitation on Anna’s face, and the confusion on Olaf’s.  It’s such a simple task.  Olaf can’t understand what on Earth would prevent Anna from being able to knock on a door.  Now comes the frustrating truth:

The Frustrating Truth

These two characters do not represent two different minds.  Both of them exist in the same mind.  Anna’s hesitation and Olaf’s confusion exist together.  There’s a third character on screen, but you can ignore him.

Not Relevant

Look at this scene with different wording.  When I’m depressed, getting out of bed suddenly becomes a herculean effort.

Depression 1

Depression 2

Depression 3

Depression 4

That’s my brain.  Right there.  Depression in a nutshell.  Oh yeah, and my stress-eating, too.  It’s the exact same thing.

Depression 5

Depression 6

Depression 7

Depression 8

That’s what it feels like.

I want to say for the record that I am fine now.  I had one bad day in a sea of good ones.  I didn’t write (and then rewrite) this post just to make non-depressed people feel bad, or to make depressed people feel worse, or to make my family and friends worry.  All I wanted to do was jump on the Explaining Mental Health Issues Bandwagon.  Raising awareness is important.  For those with depression, this might seem obvious and familiar.  For those without it, maybe I’ve shed some light on the condition.  There’s nothing much else for me to say, except of course:

It gets better!

If you have depression, do not suffer in silence.  You owe yourself a chance at getting better, and remember that, thanks to the internet, the world is your support group.  There’s help out there.  There are people out there who understand what you’re going through.  Remember not to berate yourself when you can’t knock on the door.  Olaf will get through to you eventually.  Take it at your own pace.

That’s all I’ve got!

We're-Okay

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