I recently listened to the audio book The Law of Loving Others by Kate Axelrod and enjoyed this emotionally charged, realistic novel about a teen girl dealing with her mother’s diagnosis of schizophrenia.
Emma is in her junior year at a boarding school in Pennsylvania, heading home to the metro NY area for winter break with her boyfriend, Daniel. Emma doesn’t have a lot of close friends at school, but she and Daniel connected at the end of September and have been inseparable ever since. Emma is looking forward to a fun break split between time with her parents, time with her best friend, Annie, and trips to visit Daniel in Manhattan.
When Emma arrives home that day, though, something strange is going on. Her mother is acting oddly, first thinking that someone somehow snuck into her closet and swapped out all her clothes and later, that damaging rays are bombarding the house. Emma is freaked out because her mother has always been a calm, rational force in her life, always there for Emma. She tries to talk to Daniel, Annie and her father, but they just reassure her everything will be fine.
Within days, her mother has been taken to the hospital, and Emma learns a startling secret: that her mother has had schizophrenia since she was a young woman (normally controlled by medications) and that she is now suffering a schizophrenic break. Suddenly, Emma’s whole world feels like it is spinning out of control. Not only is her mother very sick, but this is the first she’s heard of her diagnosis – or even that there was a problem at all. Is her whole childhood a lie?
The rest of the novel is focused on Emma’s response to this crisis and her attempts to try to make sense of it all. She worries that Daniel won’t understand, that he won’t be there for her. She worries about how much to tell other people. And, she worries about the cute boy she meets at the mental hospital, a young man named Phil whom she vaguely knows from Annie’s brother. Phil is in the hospital visiting his twin brother, and he seems to be the only person in the world who truly understands what Emma is going through. She is also worried that she might develop schizophrenia herself, once she finds out there is a genetic component to the illness.
Coincidentally, this is one of several teen/YA audio books I have listened to in the last few months dealing with mental illness, and they have all been very moving and educational for me. In this case, Emma doesn’t always make good choices or select healthy coping mechanisms, but I thought it was a very realistic portrayal of how a teen girl might respond in such an unthinkable situation. The Law of Loving Others is an emotionally powerful novel about a teen trying to cope with a life-changing situation.
NOTE: This novel is best for older teens or young adults, as it includes plenty of drinking, drug use, sex, and adult language.
Other teen/YA novels dealing with mental illness:
Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly
I Was Here by Gayle Forman
Falling Into Place by Amy Zhang
Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick
Release Date: September 30th, 2014 from the Penguin Group
Summary from cover:
"Mile's little brother Teddy is missing. The police believe he drowned at the beach-the very same day Miles had his first schizophrenic episode. But Miles knows better-Teddy is alive. Kidnapped. There was even a witness! Fueled by guilt, Miles sets off to rescue Teddy.
There is so much to overcome, though. The endless pills he must take. The girl who steals his heart and plays with it. The black crows that follow him.
As seen through Miles's distorted perception, his world closes around him as he pushed to keep it open. What you think you know about his world is actually a blur of gray, though, and the sharp focus of reality proves startling.
The New York Times bestselling author of Tweak offers a fascinating and ultimately quite hopeful story of one teen's downward spiral into mental illness."
I have always had trouble reading novels that contain addiction, mental illness, etc. Although I have trouble reading these types of subjects, there is something inside me that always draws me to read about them in novels such as Schizo: A Novel. Let me just say, I adored this book despite everything that happened to Miles.
This book was a relatively fast read, and it only took me a few hours to fly through it. The structure of the book isn't really the mainstream sort of layout, but, for a lack of better words, reminds me of a poem? I can't really describe it. Like, it looks like any other book would, but how it reads in my mind has some sort of poetic vibe to it. I actually really enjoyed that aspect. I think that was why it was so easy to read this book in just a few hours.
The story itself was very intense. Instead of just saying, "This is what Schizophrenia does to you and here are the symptoms", I was able to actually see the mental illness through Miles's eye emotionally. There were moments that I felt very uneasy or upset because of what Miles had to go through, and it really touched my heart that I was able to connect with a character so much to the point where I felt what he was feeling. Sheff did an amazing job making Miles a character that I was able to have this connection with despite not having Schizophrenia.
There are just a few things that I would like to point out. The outcome what happens with Teddy is actually very easy to figure out from just reading the first couple of chapters where the main character talks about him. On the other hand, I was really touched on how Scheff wrote Miles's reaction to the ending because it felt real. Have you ever read something and you thought, "Well, I can't see that happening in real life, but it was a nice shot"? This novel didn't have me thinking that way at all, and I'm very thankful for that.
(On an important note, this serves as a trigger warning for anyone suffering from suicidal thoughts, depression, etc. There is a suicide attempt that takes place towards the end of the novel. I felt the need to point that out because I really want to look out for anyone that struggles with these thoughts as much as I can. I hope I do not offend anyone with doing this because I mean no offense whatsoever.)
With all the important things taken care of for this review, I really do believe that this book deserves 5/5 stars. While I have read many novels pertaining to the subject of mental illness, I believe that Sheff was able to tell Miles's story very well. I can see how much effort the author put into Schizo: A Novel and how much time he spent in making the story as believable as possible to have the readers see Schizophrenia through the eyes of another. There was a beautifully done character development as well, and overall, I just really hope this novel earns a lot of praise.
This year’s theme is ‘Living with Schizophrenia’.
In a taxi the other day, I heard on the radio a DJ suggesting that cancer treatment be prioritized over mental health services. That was a jaw-dropper. Mental illness can be just as deadly as cancer. ‘People with severe mental illness die 10-25 years earlierthan the general population.’