Sunday, February 2, 2014

Review of HER by Felicia Johnson

In many ways, Kristen Elliott is a normal, seventeen-year-old girl. Kristen loves her family. She works hard academically, and tries to please her mother. She takes on the additional responsibility of caring for her twin siblings, Nick and Alison. She idealizes her best friend, Lexus, who not only seems to lead the perfect life, but also catches the attention of John, the boy Kristen secretly loves. However, as is the case with many teenagers, Kristen feels frustrated, isolated, and confused. In other ways, Kristen is not like other kids her age. She knows something is wrong with her. Kristen feels like an utter failure. She is unable to please her abrasive mother, and scared to confront Jack, her abusive stepfather. She is also unable to protect Nick from Jack, making her feel all the more helpless. Adding to her problems, she knows she will never be as beautiful as her best friend Lexus. Kristen finds solace in self-injury, and the company of Mr. Sharp, her imaginary friend who encourages her feelings of self-loathing. After a failed suicide attempt, Kristen is placed in the Bent Creek mental hospital, where she is diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder. While in the hospital, she meets a group of peers suffering with their own mental illnesses, and a compassionate staff of doctors and counselors. From there, Kristen begins her journey to survival. She discovers the circumstances that brought her to this breaking point, struggles to understand her mental illness, and fights to be a survivor against her own worst enemy: her self-blame. Kristen’s tale of endurance illustrates the complex illness of Borderline Personality Disorder. Readers – including those suffering from BPD and their friends and family – can glean insight into BPD from Kristen’s humanity. Her story is an example of how, if we try to push the past away, we are either doomed to repeat it or let it haunt us to our graves.


Review of HER by Felicia Johnson
Poignantly Deep

I had a really hard time reading this book – but not for the reasons you automatically think.  Felicia Johnson tells HER story from an intensely perceptive, emotional perspective that draws you in, makes you hope against hope, feel the pain and suffering, and sometimes leaves you with as many questions as you have answers.  If you’ve ever had a loved one suffer with psychological disorders, you know that having more questions than answers is “normal,” and frustrating, and heartbreaking.  If you’ve never experienced this first hand, you will in this book.

HER is about 17 year old Kristen, who witnessed something so deeply disturbing in her young life that she was unable to cope with it, had an inadequate support system and saw no way out of her predicament.  After a failed suicide attempt, she is placed in a mental institution with other kids her age.  She learns what her true diagnosis is, what prompts her to self-mutilate and have negative feelings about herself, and how she can better deal with these issues.

Ms. Johnson demonstrates HER strength and weakness, her love and anger, her forgiveness and rage, and her hope and despair.  You will be outraged with her, you will want to reach in the book and help her – and shake her – and you will have a better understanding of mental illness as a whole.  You will see how it’s not something you should be ashamed of but wear your survival badge with honor. 

There were a couple of plot points that felt like the writer was building up to expand upon, and were important to the storyline overall, but were felt a little incomplete to me.  There were also a couple of dream-type sequences that were hard to follow until well into the passage, but this was not distracting enough to take away from the story.  
Overall, this was a very well-written book about the various circles of hell that someone with a mental illness suffers, often silently and alone.  I would definitely recommend this book to others and I'm very glad I had a chance to read and review it.

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