Words in Deep Blue by Cath Crowley

Words in Deep Blue, by Cath Crowley, is written from two people’s points of view; Rachel and Henry. These Australian teen, best friends tell the ups and downs of their loves and losses, with books playing a big part in their lives.

Henry’s family owns a second-hand bookstore, with a unique ‘Letter Library’. This is what their bookstore, Howling Books, is best known for. Anyone can write or mark anything in any of the books in the Letter Library. A letter to a loved one, a dedication, underlining a few words they liked. They’re all so unique, which makes it interesting. The rest is for everyone else to see and imagine different things from these little notations. This was a touching and vital part of the story, as many love stories are explained through this library. Including Rachel and Henry’s. One thing I disliked was how Henry kept going back to his girlfriend, Amy, who he started dating after Rachel left her childhood home to live by the ocean with her family. Rachel and Henry are destined to be together, and Cath Crowley makes you wait for it. Her intense writing keeps you on the edge of the seat, as Rachel comes back to Henry’s town after three years. Only this time, she’s got a secret. Her brother, Cal, drowned in the ocean, and she isn’t taking it well at all. Her moods change, she’s skinnier, she bleached her hair, and she decides to not tell anyone about her loss. Rachel took a job at a coffee shop near her aunt’s house, where she stays because of the move. But the job miraculously falls through, and her aunt found her work at Howling Books, cataloging the Letter Library. Rachel and Henry see each other for the first time in three years, and it’s not pretty. Even though Rachel is supposedly ‘over’ Henry, she still wants nothing to do with him. She tries to avoid him the best he can, until one night, their friend is playing at a club, and Henry decides to drink a little more than he should have. Amy broke up with him earlier, and said that she was in love with someone else. That someone else was Greg Smith, a good looking guy with lots of money. Amy says it’s got nothing to do with Henry, but he’s convinced it’s because he doesn’t make much money, working at a second hand bookshop. Although she doesn’t want to admit it, they both know Henry is a little bit right. Rachel and Henry run into each other at the club after he falls down from drunkenly accusing Greg Smith when he sees him with Amy. After that, Rachel and Henry get closer, not knowing they both want each other until it’s too late. Meanwhile, Henry’s family is falling apart, because some people want to sell the bookstore and the others don’t. Seeing if the long lost friends can save the bookstore and their love is a crazy, intense story.

Words in Deep Blue is a quick read, though enough time passes to make you feel like you’re in the story yourself. Even with its many heart wrenching sad points, this is a book I could not put down. Constant shockers and amazing writing makes it a true must-read. I recommend this book to anyone who wants to be sucked into a story about love, books, and friendships. Anticipation crawls on your skin as you read about Henry and Rachel, hoping they find their true feelings for each other. Crowley’s beautiful and realistic writing makes everyone want to spread the Letter Library in their own bookstores. Cadie P.

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The Sea of Shadows by Kelley Armstrong

The Sea of Shadows is a story shrouded in mystery and darkness. With a beginning filled with monsters and magic in a forest of death, the plot calms after the first few chapters. While still an adventure full of mishaps and dark magic; this allows for a wider range of readers. Well suited for people who are into the whole zombie apocalypse, and people who aren’t. The diversity of the cast of characters paired with the dark and compelling story line will draw in all types of readers and keep them engaged and eager for book two.- Claire C.

Interview by Flannery Fitch of Karen Fortunati Author of The Weight of Zero

Seventeen-year-old Catherine Pulaski knows Zero is coming for her. Zero, the devastating depression born of Catherine’s bipolar disease, has almost triumphed once, propelling Catherine to her first suicide attempt. With Zero only temporarily restrained by the latest med du jour, time is running out. In an old ballet shoebox, Catherine stockpiles medications, preparing to take her own life before Zero can inflict its own living death on her again.

But Zero’s return is delayed due to unexpected and meaningful relationships that lessen Catherine’s sense of isolation. These relationships along with the care of a gifted psychiatrist alter Catherine’s perception of her diagnosis as a death sentence. This is a story of loss and grief and hope and how some of the many shapes of love – maternal, romantic and platonic – impact a young woman’s struggle with mental illness.

Where did you get the idea for The Weight of Zero? Why did you choose to focus on bipolar disorder rather than clinical depression?

There was no one person or thing or event that inspired this story.  I didn’t consciously choose to write about a particular mental illness. Catherine, the main character, just appeared in my head one afternoon during a writing retreat. I knew immediately that she had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and that she feared life with this condition.

I’ve thought long and hard about why Catherine, why bipolar disorder and why suicide and I think she resulted from a blending of many of my life experiences. First, my husband is a child and adolescent psychiatrist and through him, I’ve learned about illnesses and treatments. Second, my life has been touched by suicide: the first by a work colleague and the second by an extended family member. Finally, I’ve witnessed the mental health journeys of family and friends, a few of which included bipolar disorder.

When I first started writing, I didn’t know that much about this condition, basically just the standard stereotypes so I threw myself into research. I’ve been asked if it was an emotionally difficult task to write this story. It was but not for the obvious reason of being inside a character with suicide ideation. I always knew how Catherine’s story would end. What got to me was the enormous responsibility I felt to make sure this story rang true; that it was authentic, accurate and respectful. I really worried a lot about that and without a doubt was the most difficult part of writing this story.

What do you hope Weight will do for readers?

The first is to reinforce for a reader struggling with any kind of issue is that they are not alone. I’d love for that reader to understand that help is really out there, even if it takes multiple attempts to find it. In The Weight of Zero, there’s a disconnect between Catherine and her first psychiatrist that becomes even more apparent when she forms a bond with her second psychiatrist. This was my vision from the very beginning and one that my editor embraced – this “failure” of care and the existence of quality treatment that might take some effort to find. I also wanted to underscore the tremendous potential when you form a true partnership with your clinician.

In addition, I’d like readers to gain an understanding of bipolar disorder by presenting an accurate portrayal of what many teenagers experience. It was critical to me that readers also appreciate how the stigma of mental illness – the stereotypes and jokes and even innocent phrases – so tremendously hampers treatment. The more aware we are, the more sensitive and respectful we become. These things have to happen if we are going to get mental health issues as mainstream as physical disorders.

What has been your favorite part of having The Weight of Zero published?

Meeting readers! As I write this, I’m less than a week out from the release date so my interaction is a little limited but I’ve done a number of appearances and have gotten to speak to readers who are awaiting the book’s release. It’s been incredibly moving to hear their reasons on why they want to read Catherine’s story and quite frankly, I’ve been blown away by their honesty. There have also been several reviews that have moved me to tears – the recognition of Catherine’s fears and struggles and equally as important, the sense of hope and optimism that the story has imparted.

I wanted this book to make conversations about mental illnesses a little easier and I’ve been floored at the response this story generates. Friends, work colleagues, neighbors, readers, potential readers, booksellers and librarians, basically anyone I spoke to about this story has had the same reaction. I give the synopsis, say the words “bipolar disorder,” “depression” and “anxiety” and the expression on their face immediately changes. The responses have been immediate: “Oh, my son/sister/ daughter has that” or “I struggle with anxiety/depression.”  That was how little it took, a thirty-second summary, to open the door to an open and honest discussion.

Why did you include a history project in this story and what was its impact on Catherine?

I was very much influenced by a paper that I wrote in school about Judy Chicago and her struggles as a female artist in the male-dominated art world of the 1960s and ‘70s. She turned to women in history for inspiration and strength but was also infuriated at how so many of their contributions had been omitted from mainstream history and culture. Her artwork, The Dinner Party, was her response.

When I set out to write The Weight of Zero, I wanted Catherine to draw inspiration and strength from a historical figure so I used a school project as a way to introduce this character. In my research, I focused initially on the D-Day Invasion and by complete luck found an article about the four women buried in the Normandy American Cemetery. Three of these women are from the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion, the first all female, all African-American unit to serve overseas. These soldiers suffered horrible prejudice especially in the 1940s because they were women, they were black and serving in a segregated military. And like so many accounts of women in general and during World War II, they remain basically unknown.

In The Weight of Zero, Catherine is inspired by the fictional character of Private Jane Talmadge, who is based on the recollections of members of the Six-Triple-Eight. Talmadge suffers tremendous prejudice – horrific racism and sexism – yet still forges on despite the stigma. Catherine draws on Talmadge’s example for strength to battle the mental health stigma she experiences.

Do you have any plans for future projects?

I’m finishing another serious yet hopeful contemporary young adult novel that looks at a young woman’s experience at the often-dangerous intersection of mental health and law enforcement. Bipolar disorder is at the heart of this story too but this time it’s seen through the eyes of a sibling and it examines the secret prejudices we may carry.

 

 

 

 

 

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The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow

In the first book of the Prisoners of Peace duology, Erin Bow introduces us to a new type of future dystopia. A dark sci-fi set in a terrifyingly plausible future, The Scorpion Rules is a true masterpiece. Complete with a captivating storyline, sprinkled with wry humor and gems of wisdom, The Scorpion Rules is one of those rare books that demands your attention and is impossible to put down. In The Scorpion Rules, Bow demonstrates a unique writing style that defies every cliché and expectation. With complex characters who think and act like real people, and plot twists you won’t see coming, as Bow explores the very meaning of friendship- and love. The Scorpion Rules, in conclusion, is a true gem in the world of Young Adult literature.-Claire C

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Invictus by Ryan Graudin

In this fast-paced time-travel novel, Ryan Graudin blends everything from sci-fi and fantasy to historical fiction, romance, and humor. With a compelling and action-packed storyline, and a vibrant and unique cast of characters; Invictus is perfect for a wide range of readers. Graudin brings a new take to the idea of time-travel, weaving in themes of friendship, romance, mystery- and the odd red panda. Whether or not time-travel or sci-fi is your usual genre, Invictus is a book that will grab you from the first chapter and not let go until you reach the last page. In the space of five minutes you’ll laugh, you’ll cry. And you will definitely fall in love with Imogen’s rainbow hair, Priya’s patience, Farway’s ego, Gram’s cluelessness, and Eliot’s mysterious mission. Hop aboard the Invictus, and sit back to enjoy this wonderful, quirky, mysterious, beautiful book.-Claire C

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Carve The Mark by Veronica Roth

Veronica Roth’s “Carve The Mark” was an amazingly well written and creatively thought out story. All of the characters were extraordinarily enticing, and very realistic with all of their decisions and actions. I found myself at many different points through the book, wanting to dive even deeper into each and every person’s personal story. Although the very beginning was a bit confusing, due to the large magnitude of information about this new universe, eventually everything tied together and became much easier to understand. The storyline was easy to follow and had a great balance between the themes of friendship, love, and always followed by a thrilling action scene. I enjoyed this book very much, and would definitely recommend this novel to just about anyone. Once I started reading it, the hardest part was putting it down due to its captivating plot.-Will L

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A Face Like Glass by Frances Hardinge

Face like Glass by Frances Hardinge is completely original and imaginative to the point of near insanity. It’s the kind of fantasy that forces the brain to stretch and contort and stretch into brand new outlooks. It forces the consideration of brand new perspectives and possibilities.

When Master Grandible, a reclusive cheese artisan, discovers a lost child in Caverna’s highly secluded tunnels, he realizes immediately that the girl is different. Seeing an opportunity but also wishing to protect her, he takes her in, hides her strange expressive face behind a black velvet mask, and raises her as his apprentice. Weary of Caverna’s society, he barricades them in, dealing only with a select few through his well-defended door. Seven years later the girl, called Neverfell, follows a small white rabbit to a crack in her master’s domain and wanders out into the world of Caverna. Caverna’s inner city is beautifully detailed and immersive. The passages and caves are so convoluted that anyone who tries to map them goes mad. The elite families are at constant war with each other for control of the city, and for the favor of the Grand Steward. The Grand Steward is so obsessed with staying in control that he has artificially extended his life and cleaved himself into two beings so that one part of him will always be awake. The members of the elite class are trained in a wide array of facial expressions, each carefully donned for the greatest manipulative effect, while the commoners are not allowed to have visible emotion and must wear only five approved faces. In contrast, Neverfell wears her thoughts and feelings on her face and that is the most dangerous thing of all. But there are people that definitely finds such a thing to be useful and that is how Neverfull ends up becoming a pawn in a dangerous game of power.

The progression of this story follows Neverfell in a character arc that shows realistic, slow growth. For the first part of A Face Like Glass, Neverfell is nothing but a pawn being moved from side to side and things happen to her. But as she starts to interact with people and learn about the true facade of life in Caverna, the more she grows, changes and becomes an active participant not only of her story but of everybody else’s in Caverna. Her resolve, goodwill, and resilient nature make her an engaging heroine, not an irritating one. All the characters of A Face like Glass are three-dimensional. In many ways, the elite are just as trapped as the commoners or even more so. The Grand Steward may be the most imprisoned of all. Frances Hardinge draws him so subtly and with so much nuance; it’s hard not to feel sympathy for him. Overall, A Face Like Glass is a multi-faceted tale, forcing the reader, to not only join in on a world full of lies, but also to question the lies in their everyday life. Even more than that, though, it is a tale of revolution and of resisting control in terms of social class.-Nika G

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What to Say Next by Julie Buxbaum

What to Say Next is about two teens in high school finding their way to truth. The novel features dual narration from the two main characters Kit Lowell and David Drucker. Kit, a usually outgoing girl, is struggling to make sense of her world with her father’s recent death. She befriends David, a frank and relatively lonely person. David lacks in social skills as a result of his autism, but is eager to have a friend. They bond quickly, becoming closer friends and finding comfort in each other’s company. Kit asks David to help her uncover the mystery of her dad’s car accident, but their friendship is put to the test when they reach the truth.

Throughout the novel, the characterization is well developed and strengthens the writing. David starts off as an intelligent and analytical character, and is hard to relate to because of his unique perspective on the world. He does not have many social skills, and is further separated from his peers due to his label as a “retard”. The tone and diction of his chapters illustrate his rational mind, and it’s clear that he needs certainty. Later, he becomes more relatable and is not defined by labels. He is truly seen as a person instead of a stereotypical misunderstood teen.

Additionally, the hierarchy of typical high schools is pointed out to be unfair and biased. When David defends himself from the foot, the principal suggests moving him to another school. Instead of removing the bullies from the situation, the victim is targeted and told to start over at another school. Principal Hoch is valuing the football stars, and trying to protect them rather than David. She is unjustly perpetuating the high school hierarchy and labeling people. She even refuses to hear David’s side of the story, and does not care about his several death threats. This focuses on the harmful effects of valuing certain individuals over others, and using damaging labels without seeing beyond them. It leads to the people on top becoming complacent, and the people at the bottom being confined to their labels and unable to safely be themselves.

Ultimately, What to Say Next explores important themes of identity and friendship. I would rate it a ⅘ stars, and would recommend it to anyone interested. Thank you so much to Bookshop SC for providing me with the opportunity to read and review this ARC, and I can’t wait to read the final published copy in July.-Genevieve B

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Girl in Pieces by Kathleen Glasgow

The novel Girl in Pieces is an amazing story depicting the hard life of a teenage girl. Kathleen Glasgow writes from the perspective of the seventeen year old Charlotte Davis. The writing is so raw that it feels as it Charlotte is a real breathing person.

Charlotte Davis, or “Charlie”, is seventeen years old and has lot practically everything. The only way she is able to cope with her traumatic life is to forget. She takes thick shards of glass and cuts and cuts until all the sorrow and memories have flown away. Charlie tries to forget about her dad and his plunge into the river, her only friend who is broken and will never be the same, and the seed house where young girls go into the room filled by mattresses with strange men. She tries to cut it all out. If she cuts deep enough maybe she won’t care about “f#%*ing Frank” and how he is still out there, or her abusive mother. Charlie is admitted to a rehab hospital for girls.
Everyday in Group she listens to girls cry until they are empty. To their stories of self harm and drug abuse. Unlike the girls who drain their bodies of tears, Charlie never talks or cries. She doesn’t tell of her life on the streets, the drugs, or of the underpass. When her family can no longer pay for her treatment, her mother comes, but once again throws her onto the streets.

Through out Charlie’s journey you will become attached and sincerely care for her. While reading I became addicted to the pages and kept reaching for more. Glasgow was able to capture an angle that is not always seen, the uncensored side of teenage life. Nothing is held back. Charlie’s story is heartbreaking brutally honest, and one to remember.

Pick up a copy at Bookshop Santa Cruz. Follow us on instagram— teen_book_crew.

Highly Illogical Behavior by John Corey Whaley

Highly Illogical Behavior is a sweet coming of age story that comments on the topics of agoraphobia, anxiety disorders and stigma surrounding mental health. John Corey Whaley does so by blending humor with heart while being sure to write with a touch of empathy.

Solomon Reed is 16years old. He hasn’t left his house in three years, since a panic attack compelled him to sit in the fountain at his school until his parents came to take him home. He’s smart and funny, he loves movies and books and Star Trek: The Next Generation, but the thought of leaving his house makes him hyperventilate to the point he cannot breathe. So while his parents worry about his future, for now they’re content to let him go to school online and spend his life inside his house, with only them and his spry, sassy grandmother for company.

Lisa Praytor is determined to escape her home town and make something of herself. She has her sights set on attending the second-best psychology program in the country, but there’s a catch: her essay must deal with her personal experience with mental illness. After a chance encounter with Sol’s mother, she finds a solution to that problem: she’s going to “fix” Solomon and get him to leave his home again. Lisa soon realizes that Solomon is more than his disease and the two form a strong friendship. Lisa soon introduces Solomon to her boyfriend Clark, with whom she is having slight relationship problems. As Sol shares his secrets and starts to think about life outside his house, Lisa starts questioning her relationship with Clark, and what Sol’s role might be in the problems they’re having.

Highly Illogical Behavior has well-developed, believable characters, however it’s portrayal of other aspects regarding mental health leaves something to be desired. Solomon is a very pleasant and realistic character. He is funny, very aware of his limitations, relatable, adorable, and intelligent. His character traits are not portrayed as less important than his agoraphobia, on the contrary his agoraphobia only serves to increase the depth of his character without taking away from his personality. However the main plot point of this novel: Lisa’s attempts to fix Solomon seem insensitive and degrading. The novel’s suggestion that people with mental illness are something to be “fixed” is crass and derogatory. Lisa felt manic and manipulative, her portrayal as an “anti-hero” was unsuccessful. The novel’s portrayal of Solomon’s mental illness felt simplistic. Solomon felt mostly comfortable inside, but he got spontaneous panic attacks and negative thoughts with no background or lead up. The end was rushed and didn’t end off with a clear resolution, or a clear message about anxiety. Overall, Highly Illogical Behavior by John Corey Whaley is an acute, fluffy read that was slightly insensitive at times.