A troubled teenage girl and her grandmother bond through their book club as each faces a personal struggle.
Seventeen-year-old Megan is at it again: She cuts herself in order to be admitted to her favorite psychiatric unit. For her grandparents, Addie and Henry, it’s a familiar scenario that they would prefer Megan’s parents handle: “This time, Henry and I just want to be grandparents. Frankly, all of this has worn us out, and we just don’t have the energy any more to try to figure out what is real, what has been blown out of proportion, and what are just flat-out lies.” But Megan’s parents both decide they can’t handle Megan—her mother’s leaving town on a “spiritual journey” and her remarried father’s wife is having a baby—which leaves the difficult teenager with no one but her grandparents. The first few weeks of her hospital stay feature “four restraints, six seclusions, ten voluntary walks to the quiet room, two altercations with another patient in the dayroom, and two self-harm episodes,” attention-seeking behaviors typical of borderline personality disorder. This time, though, something seems different for Megan. She gains insight into her behavior, and she starts taking responsibility for her actions. She genuinely connects with Addie through their shared love of reading, and Megan successfully organizes a book club for the psychiatric unit. When Addie receives a sobering diagnosis, Megan finds that for once, she can be there for someone else. Debut author Hennessy knows her subject well; readers familiar with psych wards, their patients, doctors, nurses, techs and the forms of therapy employed there—good and bad—will find that every page rings true, down to the motivational posters written in glitter pen. The book club meetings make palpable the excitement of young people learning to unfurl a novel. More than that, Hennessy has created well-rounded, memorable characters who express themselves with intelligence and humor. Addie is especially down-to-earth and likable; in making an end-of-life decision, she tells her doctor, “Do all that you can do for the young, Scott; their dance card is wide open. Us? Our cards are pretty full, and I want to go out waltzing not crawling.” Megan’s recovery, though a little swift, is believable, and Hennessy successfully gets inside her head to show her somewhat-unhinged thought processes. By the end of the book, readers will find much to admire in a character who had seemed to be hopelessly self-centered.
An engrossing, entertaining psychological family drama centered on the important, often overlooked relationship between a grandmother and granddaughter.