Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Am I Normal Yet?

Starting at a new college, where no one knows her as the girl who went crazy, Evie is determined to get her life back on track and start being a normal teenage girl. She’s almost off her meds and is getting out and going to parties. She just needs one more thing, a boyfriend.

I didn't really have any sharable anecdotes. That's the thing about anxiety - it limits your experiences so the only stories you have to tell are the "I went mad" ones.

An excellent portrayal of a girl fighting against OCD, a much misunderstood mental illness. I liked the fact that it used Evie’s Bad Thoughts throughout the text, and how they escalated was representative of how the illness strikes. At the beginning she is much better at counteracting her bad thoughts with good thoughts. Her ritual behaviour is linked closely to her bad thoughts, the kind of behaviour that defines OCD.

Evie sees normal as having a boyfriend, so this becomes her top priority. She even starts to believe she is cured when she’s around someone special, despite the warnings from her therapist. It’s such a normal thing to want when you’re a teenager; to be just like everyone else. It’s only when you’re older and wiser (or Evie’s fab little sister Rose) that you realise there’s no such thing as normal.

The stigma of mental illness causes Evie to be scared to open up to her friends. In her eyes it makes her less normal and she just wanted to be accepted. She doesn’t want pity and she doesn’t want to be seen as a freak. It also shows how being stuck inside your head with your thoughts can make you act selfish, even if you’re not a selfish person. There’s too much else going on to stop and think that other people might be struggling too. That’s an important lesson to anyone who wants to help their friends in similar circumstances; give them time and they’ll be thankful for your patience. It highlights the importance of family and friends in recovery, about being open and not keeping secrets.

I liked Sarah. I thought she was a down to earth therapist, where so many mental health professionals are portrayed in a stereotypical manner. She was firm but kind and had some great “homework” for Evie.

Well , that's life. That's not just you. Life is better and then it's worse, over and over, for everyone.

Whilst educating teens on the subject of feminism is an applaudable thing to do through fiction, there were times I thought the lessons were a bit of an info dump. I loved the scene when they realise their conversations aren’t going to pass the Bechdel test and there are other lessons learned which do fit with the narrative, even if a little bit forced.

As for Evie’s presentation at the end, I think it’s a little unfair to blame women’s mental illnesses on men. There’s a tiny concession to the fact that men with depression are more likely to commit suicide, often attributed to gender stereotyping. The fact that men don’t seek help might actually mean the records showing more women suffer from mental illness are skewed. Victorian asylums were not just where women got sent for being hysterical but they were also a great way for a woman to get rid of her husband without a divorce (hard for the average person to do at the time).

If you’ve read Am I Normal Yet? and would like to learn more about OCD, I highly recommend The Man Who Couldn’t Stop, which is part memoir part exploration of the condition by a sufferer.

Goodreads | Amazon | Waterstones | Hive

Also reviewed @ Jess Hearts Books




Book Source: Purchased

2 comments:

  1. I'd heard about this book but I didn't know it was OCD that she had. I might have to look at this one.

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    1. I think a lot of people have been discussing it in relation to anxiety, which is something a lot more people relate to. In this case the anxiety comes along with the OCD.

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