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Book Review: A Danger to Herself and Others by Alyssa B. Sheinmel

A Danger to Herself and Others

 

Disclaimer: This book was sent to me by the publisher, SOURCEBOOKS Fire, via NetGalley for an honest review.

Genre: YA/Teen, Fiction, Contemporary, Mental Health, Suspense

Plot: Only when she’s locked away does the truth begin to escape…

Four walls. One window. No way to escape. Hannah knows there’s been a mistake. She didn’t need to be institutionalized. What happened to her roommate at her summer program was an accident. As soon as the doctors and judge figure out that she isn’t a danger to herself or others, she can go home to start her senior year. In the meantime, she is going to use her persuasive skills to get the staff on her side.

Then Lucy arrives. Lucy has her own baggage. And she may be the only person who can get Hannah to confront the dangerous games and secrets that landed her in confinement in the first place.

Opinion:

My heart just cracked wide open.

This book is beauty and sorrow.

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Hannah has just been institutionalized for something she didn’t do. Soon they will realize that this is all a mistake, that she’s innocent, and they will let her go home, right? After all, Agnes was her best friend. She would never do anything to hurt her. Well, not intentionally anyway. It’s all just a big misunderstanding. Hannah is a straight-A student after all. She might even know more than the people that work in this institution, but she has to be smart. If she wants to get out, she must follow along with their tests and show them just how sane she is. They will see the truth when Agnes wakes up. It was all just an accident…wasn’t it?

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A Danger to Herself and Others is everything, and nothing, I expected it to be.

Hannah is the most fascinating character I have come across in SO long, and it’s precisely because of the multitude of layers and substance that she possesses. As soon as you think you have this girl pegged, you will be told to keep listening. As soon as you think if she is innocent or guilty, you will be told to be quiet and to sit back down. As soon as you think the last sentence of each chapter is a tell-all for what the point of this story is…well. You’d just be wrong.

I love nothing more than a blindside, and A Danger to Herself and Others is just that.

Hannah is every single opinion and idea I had for her while reading, and that is EXACTLY how she was designed to be. I found her to be slightly arrogant and a know-it-all, but also humbled for the extravagant life she had led before the institution. She is focused and sharp, but is easily pulled into her thoughts and fantasies. In one instance she comes across as incredibly rational and straightforward, but in the next she is breaking apart and analyzing things in a highly erratic way and repeating phrases over and over in her head. Every time she would say or do something, my opinion of her innocence and person would change. She’s innocent and sane, she’s guilty and insane. Back and forth, back and forth.

But what I can say is true for Hannah, is that she is BOTH of EVERY side.

She is sane and insane.

Rational and irrational.

Content and irate.

Morbid and Neutral.

Happy and Miserable.

Lonely and comforted.

She is all these things and none of them. And as soon as you figure that out, you start to wonder just how different and not so different you are from her.

Because Hannah is every single one of us, and none of us at once.

She is the victim, and she is the villain.

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The author, Alyssa Sheinmel, has a gift for entwining suspense into this story and making me question every single aspect of it. She would beautifully make a statement from Hannah or Dr. Lightfoot that sounded factual, whilst turning it with a flick of her wrist so you questioned every single sentence thereafter. I couldn’t help but dissect EVERYTHING that was said, because I was completely caught up in finding out the truth as quickly as possible. I kept comparing myself to her, thinking about what I would do or say in her situation, and then usually coming to the conclusion that she’s being framed or she deserves to be there. I didn’t actually believe the outcome until the book finished.

Making a reader continually question a book until the end takes SERIOUS talent.

As I read through my notes on this book, I am noticing every single instance where my opinion is thrown around, and every time I question something I thought I knew was true. But as I move down my notes of wishy-washy-ness, it comes to a sudden halt at the bottom when I realize that this isn’t the mystery/suspense story I thought it was. Because suddenly my notes change from accusing Hannah of WHAT and WHO she IS, to only this:

I think this just broke me.

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Hannah at the end of A Danger to Herself and Others is…heartbreaking. I kept saying “oh honey..” out loud and wanting nothing more than to reach into the pages and hold her. I think it can be quite easy for an author to make a reader love and care for a character. But to make the reader feel empathy, loneliness and sorrow when the character feels those things?

That’s just magical.

At the beginning of this read the publisher has a letter to the reader, in which they state how they only strive to publish books that change lives. I can confidently say this book has shifted my thoughts and being into one with much more compassion and love. This story isn’t just a work of fiction, it’s a message and an alarm clock to wake you up.

Read this.

 

And to Sourcebooks Fire I say this:

You succeeded in your goal.

 

5-stars

 

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