Tag Archives: depression

Review: The Museum of Intangible Things by Wendy Wunder

Title: The Museum of Intangible Things
Author: Wendy Wunder
Genre: Fiction
ISBN: 1595145141
Published: Razorbill, April 2014
PurchaseAmazon, iBookstore


Main Characters: Hannah, Zoe, Danny

Synopsis: Hannah and Zoe are best friends. They always have been and they always will be. In a classic case of “opposites atrract,” Zoe is the thunderstorm and Hannah is her lightning rod. When Zoe’s health issues take a turn for the worse, Hannah has to try and keep her friend safe while she sifts through her own shit: self-pity, daddy issues, and love. A whirlwind tour around the country carves etchings of jackalopes, buffalo, and casinos on each of our three characters’ hearts.

Memorable Quotes:

  • Whereas I am grounded and mired in this place, she’s like milkweed fluff that will take off with the first strong breeze. Stronger than fluff, though. She’s like a bullet just waiting for someone to pull the trigger.
  • So, what is the opposite of a “helicopter parent”? I wonder. A subway parent? A sinking ship parent? A hibernating bear?
  • “You’re a glass-is-half-empty kind of girl, aren’t you?”
    “No, not really. I just like surprises, so I keep my expectations low.”
    He seems to think for a moment and then says, “The difference is subtle.”
  • “Don’t break up with her. You don’t want any part of this,” I say, swirling my hand in the air. “I don’t mean to be presumptuous or anything, but you seem to be testing the waters. And these waters are seriously polluted. With scorpion venom and Crown Royal and all sorts of toxic whatnot. Stay with Rebecca.”
  • I’m reluctant to steal a car. And I’m really reluctant to steal a car from a McDonald’s employee whose entire paycheck goes into the upkeep of the car just so he can drive back to work. Like that story of Sisyphus rolling the rock up the hill and never getting anywhere.
  • “No, Zoe, it’s not enough,” I say, and I think how my love for Danny, at the outer limits, might last until he goes to college. My love for Zoe is supposed to last through graduations and weddings and baby showers and games of bridge. Forever.

Review: This is the greatest book I’ve read in a while. I’m sure you’ll notice the dearth of posts lately; it’s not that I haven’t been reading, but I haven’t come across anything that screams, “Review me! Tell the world how great I am!” This was definitely a yelling book.

I’m going to warn you straight off the bat, though, that this book does not have a happy ending. It’s not that kind of story. It’s a story that rings true, a tale of struggle. Zoe has bipolar disorder, and it’s about as bad as it gets: hallucinations and altered experiences. Hannah is Zoe’s rock, and has been since they were both very young. Hannah has seen Zoe’s disorder manifest itself over and over; she’s learned the signals, and she’s learned how to cope. How to help Zoe cope.

But this time, it’s not working. The Pippi stockings aren’t working. The threats of lithium aren’t working. The last stop on Hannah’s “Help Zoe” train, Zoe’s autistic little brother, Noah… isn’t working.

Zoe has her heart set on the college of her dreams: New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology. She is a wizard of a seamstress, breaking fashion boundaries and helping the girls at the prep school keep their skirts too short. But somehow, Zoe isn’t accepted, and something inside of her snaps. She blows out of town like a hurricane, dragging stick-in-the-mud Hannah along with her.

Hannah has her own crap she’s in the middle of, though. She’s been hauling a hot dog stand around town for two summers, trying to earn enough money to attend the local community college. Her mom is poor, and her dad is squandering every cent he makes on booze when he’s not attending AA meetings or being a weatherman. After an on-air meltdown, Hannah discovers that her father has siphoned her hot dog money. All $2000 of it.

So, what the hell? Why not run off with Zoe? It’ll only be for a day or two tops, right? It’ll give her time to cool off, time to think of some way to face her father without smashing his head in. Or sending him to rest peacefully at the bottom of the lake, which is where her hot dog stand now resides.

Except Zoe doesn’t want to turn around. When she’s not turning the car north to follow tornadoes, she’s turning it west to chase buffalo. She’s setting Kermit the Frog free the night before the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. She’s bleaching her hair blonde in a Walmart bathroom on Black Friday. Above all, though, she’s not eating. Or sleeping. She doesn’t need to anymore, she tells Hannah. The aliens have been reformatting her DNA.

Hannah has to match her every step, because she doesn’t know what else to do.

Is Zoe crazy? What is crazy? If someone creates a world for themselves that’s better than the one they’re in, can you really blame them? She’s not harming anyone– except, okay, maybe the elderly security guard at IKEA whom she tazed in the middle of the night. Except herself, as she continues her path into starvation and sleepless madness. But she’s Hannah’s best friend. She’s the girl who creates museums in her basement for her brother to understand emotions. She’s the girl who teaches Hannah the meanings of audacity. Gluttony. Destiny. Betrayal. Insouciance. None of the meanings that you can glean from a dictionary, but the meanings that invoke life.

“If you won’t come with me, I’ll go with you,” Hannah tells Zoe. When forced to make a choice, I chose her.

Rating: ★★★★★


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Review: Uses For Boys by Erica Lorraine Scheidt

Title: Uses For Boys
Author: Erica Lorraine Scheidt
Genre: YA Fiction
ISBN: 1-25-00071-19
Published: January 2013, St. Martin’s Griffin

Main Characters: Anna, her mother, Toy

Synopsis: Anna is alone. She has a mother, sort of. She has no father. She never has. She’s trying to grow up on her own, desperately searching for a place to belong or some sort of sign that she’s on the right path, that where she is now is where she’s supposed to be. Every time she makes a new decision– a new apartment, a new friend, a new boy– she hopes it’s the one that will finally make her life make sense. “Tell me again,” she says. Will she ever find a reason to smile?

Memorable Quotes:

  • Nobody wants to be in the lying house. The stepbrothers stay away. They go to their mother’s. They stay with friends. Their rooms are empty. My mom and the stepdad leave early to go to work. They come home late. They come in after I’m supposed to be asleep. They lean and laugh in the hall, bumping into things. They speak too loudly. My mom opens the door and asks why I left the TV on, why all the lights are on. Her voice is strange. Then she walks away leaving the door open and I hear them leaning and bumping in their room.
  • It’s still hot when the school year starts. All the kids already know each other and I am too something for them. Too quiet or strange. Too sad, one girl says.
  • She thinks each Charlie or James or Michael is unique. She forgets the things she says about this one are the same as the things she said about that one. She believes that each one is the one and she says each name like it’s the only man’s name she’s ever said. Tonight she says James like it’s a magic word. She’s going to stay with James, she says.
  • Joey changed everything for me, I want to tell her. I’m not alone. The place where my hand fits in his, that place, that feeling? I belong there.
  • Toy is the star of her stories. Events orbit her like a constellation.
  • She’s wearing high-heeled burgundy shoes with straps around the ankle and there’s a streak of orangey makeup on her collar. I wonder if she’s getting old and if this is what it’s going to be like. Bits of her coming off on her clothes.
  • She has dreadlocks and I think, I always think this when I see girls with dreadlocks, that she knows something about herself that I don’t know about myself.
  • “I couldn’t figure out,” I’d say, “why the boys in my life were nothing like the boys in yours.”

Review: This book reminds me of the way I felt when I was a teenager. Our situations were nothing alike, but I can identify with the overall feeling– not knowing where you’re going, where you belong, if you’re lovable. The early teenage years are a tough few for everyone, I think. Hell, those are themes I still battle with. Anna clearly struggles with depression, and she does tend towards destructive behavior (for a sixteen year old), such as drinking and sex with strangers. I feel like a lot of adults don’t realize that sometimes kids really, really struggle. That depression isn’t just something that adults face. That just because they look good on the outside doesn’t mean they don’t spend their time fighting off demons. It’s always refreshing to see such things explored in novels because it tells me that some people do get it.

This story is beautifully written. You get right into Anna’s head, no holds barred. You see the world straight through her eyes. You hear the stories she makes up in her head, longing to share them with other people. You see the way she looks at Toy, wanting to become her. The way she sees Sam’s family, the way they love each other so purely. I love the descriptions, the way Anna’s always looking at people, trying to figure out what they have that she doesn’t. Contentment. She says at one point, “At the cafe I stare in people’s faces and they catch me, watching. I’m looking for something. Someone. Some sign that I’ve changed.” It’s always jarring to me to read something that so closely identifies the feelings you struggled with in your youth. My entire experience could be summed up with that quote.

Anna, I think, just wants security. Not in the form of doors and locks, but in the knowledge that she is loved, that all the stories she’s heard all her life aren’t just fairy tales, that she can be safe in someone’s arms. Of course, real life intervenes, and it takes a couple of tries to get it right. (Again, something everyone can identify with.)

Thank you to the lovely Sophie for recommending this book to me!

Rating: ★★★★½

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