‘My heart feels like it’s been sliced down the middle and every painful thing that’s ever happened is oozing from it.’ Olive is standing on the edge of a cliff, screaming up at the sky. Screaming because she feels scared and worthless and wants that feeling to end. The outstretched hand of a policeman coaxes her away from oblivion, and Olive finds herself agreeing to a month’s trial treatment at a teenage mental health facility. We join her at Camp Reset, as she struggles with therapy, relationships, and the biggest dilemma of all, how to make this crazy world a kinder place. Are We All Lemmings and Snowflakes? by Holly Bourne is the latest from one of our most popular YA authors.
Smart, funny, and often focused on mental health issues, a new book by her is always a grand event. Here, she portrays Olive as charismatic and unstable. Olive refuses to let the doctors tell her what her diagnosis is, but readers learning of her swing ‘from euphoria to suicidal in one earthly rotation,’ will reach their own conclusions.
At Camp Reset, she meets a diverse bunch of teens displaying varying degrees of fragility. Cannabis psychosis, sexual abuse, self-harm, the heaviest of burdens. The febrile environment produces fiery disputes, sexual risk-taking, and at times blank despair, as these young people edge closer towards a tentative friendship. Their questions would test the wisdom of Solomon. Is mental illness preventable? What if the problem is not them but the world itself? Maybe the world needs to be fixed, and Olive is a girl with a plan.
Holly Bourne writes with insight, compassion, and not a hint of condescension to her young readership. As the story progresses, we see the group begin to work together and, what I enjoyed most, to shed their defensive cynicism. Their ultimate plan will intrigue you, involving papercraft, the Notting Hill Carnival, and an unexpected adaptation of the term ‘going viral.’
A challenging and absorbing read.
Interested in more books on teen mental health? Try Juno Dawson’s Mind Your Head.
Are We All Lemmings and Snowflakes? by Holly Bourne is published by Usborne Publishing, 348 pages.