I am so excited to be part of this blog tour today because I LOVED this book. It is so important! You can check out my review here. But, for now, let's learn a little more about the book...
Publication Date: May 10, 2016
Publisher: Dial Books
Reading Level: Young Adult
Pages: 256 (Hardcover)
Sixteen-year-old Solomon is agoraphobic. He hasn’t left the house in three years, which is fine by him.
Ambitious Lisa desperately wants to get into the second-best psychology program for college (she’s being realistic). But how can she prove she deserves a spot there?
Solomon is the answer.
Determined to “fix” Sol, Lisa thrusts herself into his life, introducing him to her charming boyfriend Clark and confiding her fears in him. Soon, all three teens are far closer than they thought they’d be, and when their facades fall down, their friendships threaten to collapse, as well.
The reason I needed to write about mental illness was because of how frustrated I was that I couldn’t explain how I felt when I was having a particularly bad episode of my anxiety disorder and depression a couple of years ago. It seemed too impossible, for so long, to find the right words to describe the irrational thoughts that were constantly swirling through my head. Sometimes they were brought on by triggers and sometimes they were random with no warning or explanation. And I’ve learned that this is the nature of many people’s anxiety—it’s unpredictable and it’s very damn clever.
So, the first thing I hope teens, specifically ones with mental illness, can take away from this book is the small comfort in knowing that there is no one answer to whatever they are struggling with—we are individuals who are vastly more complicated than a diagnosis and all the stigmas that come attached to it. My best hope is that teens with mental illness who meet Solomon will see at least a little bit of themselves in him and in his struggle to both come to terms with his illness and to push himself to deal with it more seriously. Solomon, you see, has decided that the best and only treatment he needs for his anxiety is to stay in the comfort of his home in Upland, California, and never face the cruel world that he could never feel safe in again. It seems like complacency at first, and perhaps most of all to our other main character Lisa, but what Solomon’s story is supposed to suggest is that teenagers with mental illness have a right to explore whatever safe means necessary to keep themselves feeling sane. In the first chapter, the narrator says: “All he was doing was living instead of dying. Some people get cancer. Some people get crazy. Nobody tries to take the chemo away.” This is our narrator’s argument for Solomon’s situation—his own prescribed treatment of never leaving his home again. And the reason I didn’t have Solomon’s agoraphobia be the actual struggle he was most trying to deal with at the outset of the novel is because I thought it important to try and represent the nuances and complexities of mental illness as much as I could in one person. Oftentimes, one mental illness leads to another and, in Solomon’s case, his extreme anxiety pushes him into a state of agoraphobia, which is currently classified as its own mental illness. So I wanted to delve into the complicated nature of that very thing—that he believes he’s treating his anxiety with his agoraphobia. And I wanted to say, most importantly, that to survive, sometimes we have to do whatever works. When I had my last bad anxiety and depression episode, I hid a way.I spent most of my time with my boyfriend playing strategy games and binging on TV and books and just trying not to freak out and have panic attacks.And it didn’t hurt anybody.Some people didn’t understand—took me for antisocial or rude, maybe—but when I was brave enough to open up about my situation, and explain how it compelled me to tell Solomon’s story, I realized that I, too, was doing what I needed to do to survive that time in my life.
My advice to my characters is also what I’d like teenagers, and readers of any age, to take away from this story: That you don’t have to understand someone’s mental illness to be there for them, and you don’t have to cure them either.You just need to be there.And to understand that mental illness, as confusing as it is to outsiders, is equally confusing to those suffering from it, but that confusion is attached to fear, shame, embarrassment, and the frustration that we live in a society where being “crazy” is so easily stigmatized and, very often, still a source of amusement. But, we are trying to share a place—not just a society, but a place in history—and that requires us to keep evolving in the best ways we can. For me, this book is my way of adding some small piece to the conversation about mental illness and how important it is that we talk about it.All of us.The more everyone knows about it, the more people can survive it, no matter how it decides to attack them.
This is such an important guest post, and I am honored to be the one to post it. Thank you!