Review: Red Tears by Joanna Kenrick

Red Tears
Red Tears by Joanna Kenrick

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is one of those books that’s nigh-on impossible to review and I wish I could rate it a solid 3.5 as the 4 star feels undeserving.

In some parts I felt like the author was glamorising mental illness whereas in others, it felt like she was giving a true voice to what it’s like being a teenager going through mental illness. During the entire book I felt torn between it being cliché (the misunderstanding parents, the bitchy friends, the ignorant school etc.) and scaringly relevant to other experiences I saw growing up.

My main criticism about this book is that it makes recovery look easy and that belittles the entire approach of the book which is to develop compassion and understanding for teenagers going through mental illness. The conversations with the therapist (not a spoiler as it is mentioned in the preface) were accurate to my own experiences of therapy but they were too shallow and too much of a quick fix. In reality, mental illnesses can take years to recover from and it is a difficult process with usually a lot of relapses.
In this book, I think the lack of focus on the difficulty of recovery and the likelihood of relapse is actually dangerous given the books’ subject – self-harm and depression.

I also found it very distasteful that the author’s advice for anyone experiencing mental illness is to visit her book’s website for more information. I feel there should be more practical advice such as speaking to a friend/trusted adult and that there should be information for parents/carers on how to identify mental illness in their children and what to do about it. The one-page endnote does not seem enough given the likelihood of someone reading this book encountering mental illness in their own life or that of their loved ones.

That being said, the book’s strength lies in its ability to explain the rationality behind a person going through mental illness. What is a logical thought for someone experiencing depression could seem completely ridiculous to someone outside of the condition and that often leads to dialogue breaking down as it makes accessing help more difficult. I’m sure that this book has helped many young people open up about their problems or at very least, identify that they themselves or someone they know may have a problem and for that reason, I’m reluctant to say it’s not worth reading as there is nothing more precious than saving one person.

However, I think it is worth pointing out that this book is often quite negatively provoking. Through the main character’s reasoning about her actions it is quite easy for them to seem reasonable responses to her circumstances and I think, given the book’s target audience, this may be harmful on young adults that are particularly impressionable or are having difficulties (hence my wish that there should be a greater attempt to list supportive resources at the end).

It is recommended on the caution that this book shouldn’t be read without the opportunity to discuss the issues it raises in a secure and understanding environment and that this book is a lens through which to approach mental illness and not appropriate without further supplementation/discussion.

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Review: Fool Moon (Dresden Files #2) by Jim Butcher

Fool Moon
Fool Moon by Jim Butcher

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Brilliantly witty and entertaining, Fool Moon was an excellent step-up in the Dresden Files series from its anti-climactic first book, Storm Front.

The Dresden Files series was recommended to me by a history lecturer I have the utmost respect and admiration for so when I ploughed through the first book in the series, Storm Front, I was incredibly confused and disappointed. However, Fool Moon has managed to completely turn that around as the initially misogynistic, highly unlikeable, arrogant character that is the wizard Harry Dresden, has turned into quite a well-developed and sound guy. I’m not sure at what point this transformation happened but it made this book so much more enjoyable than its predecessor!
Another giant improvement in this book is its plot – it was sufficiently intriguing, action packed and mysterious for a detective novel and though it could be worked out quite quickly, the action alone was enough to keep the reader hanging on to see what would be around the corner. However, this was a double-edged sword as the intensely packed action scenes began to grow tiresome towards the end and it felt like the author was being stretched to fill a word count by adding more and more instead of leaving it well alone while the going was good.

As a standalone book, I probably wouldn’t have enjoyed the plot very much given how action-saturation it was but again, in view of the progress of the series, it was a refreshing break away from the lengthy description and background information doled out in Storm Front.

The characters in this are all much more developed (and realistic!) than they were in Storm Front, Butcher was careful this time around to add quirky little details which livened up the plot and gave the action scenes a nice emotional boost.
The world-building was also much better, in part because it actually told us information as and when Harry learned it himself rather than him dropping in the piece that solves the puzzle as a conveniently forgotten magical-world afterthought.

Something I enjoyed in Storm Front cropped up again in Fool Moon but this time, instead of turning the book around, it was incredibly frustrating. The action scenes already stretch the imagination to its limit by involving an array of creatures from the Nevernever (that’s the magical world) described with Harry Dresden’s colourful imagery but they begin to happen so often in this book that it’s difficult to pay attention to them or to keep up with Harry’s latest injuries. This gets to the point where the action scenes begin to lose all of their momentum because the amount of suspense building them up just can’t compensate for them getting devalued by sheer quantity. It was a real shame to see my favourite aspect from the last book being overused and ruining its impact in the follow on, I hope the balanced gets worked out as I read the third book in the series, Grave Peril.

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