JULIET THE MANIAC by Juliet Escoria


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A fictionalized teenage version of the author comes to terms with her bipolar type I disorder.

Escoria (Witch Hunt, 2016, etc.) narrates Juliet’s troubled teenage years from the vantage point of her more stable 30s in this semiautobiographical novel. Mania, hallucinations, and drug use characterize the teen’s experiences, along with the ordinary humiliations of high school. Juliet passes unsuccessfully through several different types of schools as she comes to understand “the foreign thing” that plagues her mind, eventually landing in a rural, institutional boarding school with other addicted and mentally ill teens. Escoria writes in short, journallike chapters with occasional insertions of handwritten “found” documents such as notes, drawings, or Juliet’s diagnostic records. Descriptions of Juliet’s hallucinations are vivid, fantastic imaginings: “I no longer slept,” Juliet says. “It was so loud all the time. Each day I was assaulted by ringings and whispers, my heart pounding out the center of the chaos like a metronome, the order of the days splintering, popping apart, the ropes that once tethered me to the rest of the world had snapped and I had floated too far to find my way back.” The book is divided into two halves: pre–boarding school and institutional life. At times it becomes a numbing catalog of Juliet’s teenage parties and hangouts: “Nobody had anything to drink or smoke, so we went over to Walgreens....Then we went to Togo’s, where our friend worked, and he gave us free lemonades to mix with the rum. We drank our drinks and more people showed up and it seemed like it would be a good night—two parties, both in houses.” Juliet’s story is most compelling when she is contemplating her future or breaking through her own narrative to directly address the reader.

A vivid if sometimes-repetitive rendering of mental illness and disaffected youth.

Pub Date: May 7th, 2019
ISBN: 978-1-61219-759-3
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Melville House
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1st, 2019


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