Saturday, October 14, 2017

Depression Awareness Month: A Book List

Mental illness is still something that is widely stigmatized by society, especially in the United States. People often trivialize mental illness as something that can easily be gotten over with some exercise, proper sleep, and a good dose of nature (like this widely used meme). While these ideas are generally used for all mental illnesses, one of the ones most often considered to be "cured" by these is depression. Most people understand depression as just an inherent sadness all the time, but it is really much more than that.

Depression, or major depressive disorder, at its core causes feelings of sadness and loss of interest in activities that were once enjoyable. It can lead to changes in appetite, troubles sleeping or sleeping too much, increased fatigue, feelings of worthlessness or guilt, difficulty thinking or concentrating, and even thoughts of suicide or death. Novels that accurately portray these feelings, instead of just feelings of sadness, create mirrors and windows for those to understand the true effects of depression.

Since October is considered Depression Awareness Month, I came up with a list of books that I think have some of the most realistic portrayals of depression. Realistic portrayals in literature help to combat the negative stigma that is presented in the media, and also helps to show readers that they aren't alone.

It's Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini

Vizzini nails what it's like to be checked in to a mental hospital in this novel, not to mention he gives readers a positive portrayal of someone taking action in order to save their own life. Vizzini himself struggled with depression, and though his story didn't end happily, his works exist to hopefully inspire others and show them that they are not alone.
Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

This book deals with a variety of real-life issues, depression just being one of them. Charlie, and his fellow cast of characters, deal with their problems in a realistic way, and eventually end up getting help. This book will always hold a special place in my heart, and I think it's inspiring for a lot of people.

All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

This book features two teens that are struggling with suicidal thoughts, using each other to pull themselves out of their darkness. The characters in this book are what make it so successful, pulling the reader's quickly into their stories and showing that reaching out to someone might just save your life.

Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira

Told in letters much like Perks of Being a Wallflower, Laurel deals with her issues through writing letters to famous people. Her act of writing is somewhat therapeutic for her, showing readers that there are many different ways to work through their emotions.

Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You by Peter Cameron

This book features James going into therapy to help work through his depression, something not really depicted in the books listed here (except for It's Kind of a Funny Story). Through his therapy sessions, we are able to learn more about his life and what finally drove him to get help.

This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to realistic portrayals of depression in young adult literature; for more resources, I would check out this list from Buzzfeed and this list from Goodreads. I do think we're at a period of time where young adult literature is becoming stronger than ever, and I'm so happy to be able to read all of these fantastic books are being created.

If you or a loved one are struggling with depression or suicidal thoughts, seek out these resources and know that you are never alone.

The Trevor Project
Suicide Hotline
American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

Friday, October 13, 2017

Review: The Forgetting

The Forgetting Cover
"The past is never really gone. It only lies in wait for you, remembered or forgotten."
-Sharon Cameron, The Forgetting

The Forgetting occurs every twelve years in Canaan, when everyone forgets friends, family, and memories--unless they're written down. Everyone, that is, except Nadia. As Nadia starts to use her memories in order to solve the mysteries at the heart of Canaan, she discovers truths that will alter the structure of Canaan forever. As the Forgetting looms nearer, Nadia and Gray must figure out how to stop the threats at work in the heart of the city, before everyone forgets.

The core idea behind this novel was so fascinating to me. It explores a lot about the importance and truth behind the written word and people's ability to manipulate the truth. At first, it seems like your typical dystopian novel; some event has happened and thrown everyone back into the Middle Ages, they're sheltered from the rest of the world, and hidden behind a wall everyone is afraid to cross. However, when you throw in the Forgetting, everything becomes more interesting--no one knows how long they've been there or how long this cycle has been happening.

While the writing wasn't necessarily the best I've read (it was a little repetitive at times), the characters and the plot kept me going throughout the book, and the need to understand what the Forgetting actually was. The ending was complex, filled with twists that kept me turning the pages until I finally reached the very end. Like any good first book of a series, there's a cliff hanger that's sure to keep you hooked for the next book (which just came out this week!).

Overall, an engaging read certain to make you think about the way the truth can be warped.

4/5 stars

Friday, October 6, 2017

Review: Ready Player One

Ready Player One Cover

"Being human totally sucks most of the time. Videogames are the only thing that make life bearable."
-Ernest Cline, Ready Player One

Up next on Amanda plays catch-up on her reviews is Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. This book got lots of attention in the media, and is getting a movie next year. I made a playlist for this book a few weeks back, and now I'll finally give it my full review.

In the year 2044, pretty much everyone lives in a virtual reality, called OASIS, because life outside of it is miserable. Wade Watts exemplifies this, living in a trailer stacked on top of other trailers, barely scraping by and dedicating his life to figuring out the puzzles hidden within the game by the creator James Halliday. Whoever figures out the clues gets the rights to OASIS, and Wade has just solved the first clue. Thus the race begins--and the only way Wade is going to survive is by winning.

I'm definitely not a gamer, and my pop culture knowledge is often pretty lacking (unless it's about books), but I still absolutely loved this book. It was packed with action, and I love quests spurred by riddles. Cline created a story that I was able to immerse myself, and of course, I always have a weakness for dystopian worlds. And this one is pretty believable, which is...scary.

Cline's ability to build worlds is one of the strongest aspects of this book. He's able to explain things enough so that non-gamers (like myself) can understand everything he's created. There are a plethora of 80s references throughout the book, given that James Halliday is a huge fan/nerd of the 80s. While I didn't understand all of them, I had enough base knowledge to understand most of them. Wade is relatable and realistic, adding to the colorful tapestry that Cline has created in his world.

Though the book is a little on the long side, and drags a little before the end, it's still an a fantastic work of science fiction. Engrossing, entertaining, and great for science fiction fans of all kinds.

4/5 stars

Monday, October 2, 2017

Character Playlist: Writing Edition

Sunset Writing Quote

I've been in a bit of a creative rut lately, because I've been working a lot and don't feel like I have a lot of time to just sit and create. Today, that comes in the form of choosing a character to create a playlist for, so today I'm going to dedicate my playlist to some of my favorite music to listen to while writing. Most of it is movie soundtracks, which are beautiful and wonderful to write to.

Here are ten songs that I like to listen to while writing!

"Obliviate" by John Williams
From the Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows soundtrack--can you really go wrong with John Williams?

"Cloud Atlas Finale" by Tom Tykwer
If you haven't seen Cloud Atlas, go and watch it. And then listen to the soundtrack on repeat.

"Time" by Hans Zimmer
From the Inception soundtrack, another favorite and constant go-to.

"Rue's Farewell" by James Newton Howard
Emotional, moving, great inspiration for writing. From The Hunger Games movie.

"Harry's Wondrous World" by John Williams
I listen to the Harry Potter soundtracks a lot while writing, admittedly.

"Interstellar Main Theme" by Hans Zimmer
The organ in this soundtrack is absolutely gorgeous.

"Woman Woman Theme" by Hans Zimmer and Junkie XL
I loved this in the movie, and it feels empowering when writing.

"Mother of Dragons" by Ramin Djawadi
Daenerys' themes in the Game of Thrones are the best, in my opinion.

"Mischief Managed!" by John Williams
The third movie has such fun, jumping music.

"The Hanging Tree" by James Newton Howard
This is the only song with words, but because this song creates such a strong theme in the movie and it always gives me chills!

Friday, September 29, 2017

Review: Bad Feminist

Bad Feminist Roxane Gay cover

"Books are often far more than books."
-Roxane Gay, Bad Feminist

I'm still a little (re: a lot) behind on reviewing books I've read for the past 3 or 4 months, so bear with me while I attempt to catch up! This particular book I read back when I was in England in June, and though I don't read a ton of nonfiction books, I think that's going to be one of my goals for the coming year, at least until I go off into graduate school world. Then, reading for fun might be few and far between.

Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay is a series of essays on her own journey as a woman of color, taking readers through the culture of the past few years while commenting on the state of feminism today. The essays within the book range on a series of topics, from television shows to her personal experiences, working together to create an overall commentary on where we find ourselves in relation to feminism. Gay's essays really make the reader think about the way that they consume culture, and inspires readers to take action to do better.

This is a book that had been on my to-read list for a long time, and I'm so glad that I finally got the chance to read it. As a literature student, I've already been trained to critically consume culture, analyzing the way things are portrayed and what they're reflecting from society as a whole. Gay took this to another level for me, as I come from a place of privilege (being white) that she doesn't. Her viewpoint on different elements of culture opened my eyes to the ways that others might view some of the pieces of culture that I loved, forever showing that reading is one of the ways to help open someone's eyes to someone else's struggles.

The essays themselves are well paced, and flow easily from one to the next. Gay's essays certainly helped me to expand my thinking, and is a balance between social commentary, memoir, and critical analysis. Her points throughout left me thinking long after I finished the book, and there's certainly much to return to throughout her series of essays. Definitely a conversation opener about the topic of feminism.

5/5 stars

Monday, September 25, 2017

Character Playlist: Adam Thorn

I got the chance to meet Patrick Ness this past week, and he was so nice to all his readers. Plus, to hear some of the motivations behind his books was wonderful--he's definitely made it to the top of my list of young adult authors. I've loved every single one of his books. His last book is no exception.

This week, my playlist is dedicated to the main character of his latest book, Release, Adam Thorn. Adam Thorn feels a lot of things--but one of the biggest ones is how alone he feels. The book tugs at your heart strings, like all Patrick Ness books.

Without further ado, here is my tribute to Adam Thorn.

"Somebody That I Used to Know" by Elliott Smith
Throughout much of the story, Adam struggles getting over a boy he loved, Endo. A boy who didn't love him back in the same way.

"Screaming Infidelities" by Dashboard Confessional
In the beginning of the book, Adam goes on a run, which always helps him to deal with his feelings and emotions. I imagine the music he listened to would be a little angsty.

"Mix Tape" by Brand New
I chose this for the same reason as the last song--running angst music.

"This is Gospel" by Panic! At the Disco
Adam feels lost throughout most of the book, and as bad thing after bad thing keeps happening, he struggles getting out of the hole he's fallen into.

"Down by the Water" by The Decemberists
A lot of the book takes place near the river, near a lake, the theme of water reflecting the idea of release.

"Dreams" by Fleetwood Mac
Though he's only 17, Adam feels that he's felt true heartbreak--and he believes that it shouldn't be any less real just because of his age.

"Youth" by Daughter
Being a (mostly) closeted gay teen, Adam's love life hasn't quite been easy. Especially with a super religious family breathing down his neck.

"Rory" by Foxing
Lost love, lost connection, feeling alone. All feelings that Adam feels throughout the course of his worst day ever.

"Not Today" by Twenty One Pilots
Despite it all, Adam is able to make it through the day, with hope for the future.

"Heroes" by David Bowie
In the end, Adam learns that he can be the hero of his own story. I think this song just fits this story, kind of like it fits Perks of Being a Wallflower. 

Monday, September 4, 2017

Character Playlist: Kate Harker

Image credit:
I just recently finished Our Dark Duet by Victoria Schwab, and it was just as good as the first book in the duology, This Savage Song! I though the ending was quite fitting for the two books, even if it was a bit sad. Though there was never going to be a happy ending.

In tribute to this duology, my playlist this week will be for Kate Harker, one of the main protagonists. Last summer, I made one for August Flynn, which you can find here!

"Fight Song" by Rachel Platten
Despite her father constantly trying to keep her out of the fighting, out of harm's way, Kate was always born to be a fighter.

"Gasoline" by Halsey
During Our Dark Duet, Kate has to confront the monster inside of herself, the monster that was born out of the events from the previous book.

"Fix You" by Coldplay
When she sees August, all she wants to go is help him become what he once was. Mostly human.

"You Won't Know" by Brand New
Kate has been surrounded by a lot of death, and there's a lot of things that are left unsaid from people that she cared about.

"MakeDamnSure" by Taking Back Sunday
Hunting monsters, Kate tries to distance herself from all other humans. Making sure that everyone stays a safe difference from her and her danger.

"A Violent Noise" by The xx
Much of Kate's life has been filled with violence. What do you expect when living in a city run by monsters?

"Sucker for Pain" by Imagine Dragons, Lil Wayne, and Wiz Khalifa
Kate always goes into a fight without a second thought, knowing it's her duty to save the innocent citizens.

"Heathens" by Twenty One Pilots
Many of the people that Kate finds surrounding her are monsters, but maybe not always in an obvious way.

"Can't Pin Me Down" by Marina and the Diamonds
Kate's skill at fighting make it difficult for others to pin her down, and she is almost always able to fight her way out.

"Praying" by Kesha
Kate's father wasn't the person that she thought he was, hiding her away, using her weaknesses. But despite her upbringing, she is stronger than ever.