Monday, May 28, 2012

Book Rant: Life Is But A Dream

I'm not crazy. At least ... I don't think I am, anyway.

Sabrina, an artist, is diagnosed with schizophrenia, and her parents check her into the Wellness Center. There she meets Alec, who is convinced it's the world that's crazy, not the two of them. They are meant to be together; they are special. But when Alec starts to convince Sabrina that her treatment will wipe out everything that makes her creative, she worries that she'll lose hold of her dreams and herself. Should she listen to her doctor? Her decision may have fatal consequences. 

Strangely enough, this is the second book with a schizophrenic character that I've read this year. I think it's great that YA literature is dealing with mental illnesses in a nuanced, insightful way. The first book I read this year was A BLUE SO DARK by Holly Schindler, also about an artist, although the main character and the one from whose point of view the story was being told, was the schizophrenic artist's young daughter. And similarly in both stories, the character diagnosed with schizophrenia is wary about medication and the consequences of taking or not taking the prescribed pills are very central to the plot.

Although I liked both books very much, I actually like this one better. It's more interesting, as far as I'm concerned, to read about schizophrenia from the perspective of someone who actually has it. The book's greatest strength is in describing Sabrina's world deteriorate before her in sounds and colors. It is absolutely breathtaking to see how the author details Sabrina's perceptions, because Sabrina's brain does not translate things the way a normal person's would. She has a lot of visual and auditory hallucinations, but to her, everything — real or imagined — exists in the same plane, and James does an extraordinary job of conveying that. The subtle differences in the writing from when Sabrina is on medication to when she is not are carefully and wonderfully done. For the literary mastery alone, you should read this book.

I had a few minor gripes, such as that I feel Alec's storyline is resolved a bit too simply, and that the ending seems a bit rushed. But other than that, I love the sensations James' impresses in his writing, and I do really think that this book is an experience for all the senses. It reminds me, in a weird way, of ROOM by Emma Donoghue, in that both books employ narrators with a unique way of seeing the world. In ROOM's case, of course, it's a ten-year-old boy. But if you liked ROOM, I think you'd like this book. This book is new, published in 2012, and I recommend it.

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