´╗┐Darker than an angsty teen’s soul // Beside Myself Review

The exams are over, but the assignments are not, so my reading time is still very limited (Although I bet if my parents ever read this blog they’d be raising their eyebrows right now).

In the land of fewer assignments and more free time, I read Beside Myself, which was one of my more spontaneously chosen reads. The concept was intriguing, I’m drawn to a hardback and it’s discounted on Wordery right now which is always a win. I knew the plot wouldn’t be full of sunshine and roses, but the darkness almost seeped through the pages, and it stuck with me.

So here’s the thing. Helen and Ellie are twins. Like most duos, there is a leader and a follower, and they fit in these roles respectively. Until one day, aged 5, they pretend to swap as they are identical, which of course dooms Helen, who is now demoted to the sidekick role. Not only does Ellie refuse to switch back, but it results in a downward spiral of mental illness and trauma for Helen who slowly loses her identity as Ellie quite literally takes over her life. Not being a twin, I cannot relate obviously, but as harrowing as it was for me I cannot imagine how traumatising it would be if a twin was reading this.

You can’t help but feel frustrated and on edge throughout as the world seems to repeatedly turn its back on her. Her sister thrives and flourishes thanks to her upgraded identity and continues to shove Helen into the shadows, However, one of the most important factors that defends Ellie’s actions are in the prologue. In this introduction, we see that Helen pushes Ellie around, and some may suggest that she is bullying her. This could indicate why the roles get reversed so literally later on, however you can’t deny the horror of the consequences and how easy it is to just give up completely. Anne Morgan writes with such poignant accuracy resulting in even non-twins feeling shaken by the plot, and that’s why I liked it.

If you’ve got a spare fiver then thrill yourself a little, it’ll be worth it.

The Thing About Bath

A few weeks ago I went to visit my oldest and closest friend in her university, which is luckily in Bath.

I say luckily, because it is a truly beautiful place. I feel like I say that about everywhere I go, but then maybe that is because I like to see the best in things, however looking at the header image alone would surely give you a positive opinion of this city. Unless you have a fear of birds.

So there’s this guy known as the pigeon man. He’s trained the local pigeons over the years and earned their trust, so now he’s a popular tourist attraction, for want of a better phrase. Suddenly I turned the corner and there’s a gazillion pigeons hanging out in the square, and I was not emotionally prepared. I guess it was an excuse to duck into Bath Abbey and explore the wonders there, but he must be their guardian angel or something! I wish I could be like that with puppies- that is the true dream.

What I loved about Bath, was that like Chester, it’s a modern city but has still maintained its roots. The buildings are old and have retained the classic architecture but it is not lacking in sights to see as a result. All the shops you could ever need are in the centre, and Ben’s Cookies are the most glorious things I have ever tasted (and I literally spent my entire childhood craving Millie’s Cookies from Cardiff Shopping Centre).

Another thing that stood out to me was the bus ride leading up to Bath Spa University itself, purely because of those SWEET SWEET VIEWS. The single winding road is flanked by mountains which remind me of home, and it must be comforting to take that journey on a daily basis, even if it does take half an hour out of your day each way. Then again, I would have preferred that to the half an hour walk merely down main roads to my University in my first year.

There’s so much scenery, if you were an Instagram addict you’d be in heaven. I took the picture above while on a walk around the university, and you could totally walk through the forests and pretend you were an angsty teen in a coming of age film.

To sum up: Bath is underrated, and I’ll be back.

Hitting Home // It’s Kind of a Funny Story Review

Happy World Book Day! Apparently it’s the 20th year, meaning it began a few months after i was born, so thank you parents for that excellent timing??

ANYWAY, I read It’s Kind of a Funny Story a while ago, thanks to my friend, and it’s taken me a while to actually write this review, along with countless others, because I live off a healthy diet of naps and stress.

This book follows the story of a guy who checks himself into a mental health hospital after cracking under the pressure of school. According to a report from last year, 90% of headteachers have reported an increase in mental health problems in schools, and this book highlights this terrifying statistic. More than half of all adults with mental health problems were diagnosed in childhood.

What still sticks in my mind about this story, months later, is the fact that it hit home. Not because it was dramatic, or extreme, but because of how perfectly plausible it is. How his situation could be mirrored in any of our lives.

His family are supportive. His home isn’t broken. He is a bright, creative person. He had friends. He had the potential to be happy.

However, anyone has the potential to be sad too, and that’s what people don’t notice. That is what the author described so beautifully and humorously in this book. Things change, attitudes change, and sometimes the littlest incidents can trigger a lifetime of struggle, at least until you get the help you need.

What is also interesting are the reactions of his friends, old and new. As I mentioned in a blog post around this time last year, in real life your friends won’t be attached to your side like lapdogs, because, surprisingly, they have their own issues to deal with too.

What makes me happy is that it leaves us with hope. That it’s okay to go through something and move on from it.

The author of this novel committed suicide in 2013, but that doesn’t mean we all have to when we are faced with darkness.