A Danger to Herself and Others
Author: Alyssa Sheinmel
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Publishers Author Page
Publication Date: February 5, 2019
Genre: Young Adult > Coming of Age > Literature & Fiction > Social & Family Issues > Depression & Mental Illness
Page Count: 320 Pages
My Rating: 5 Stars
About the Author (From Author’s Website):
Alyssa Sheinmel is the bestselling author of young adult novels including A Danger to Herself and Others, Faceless, Second Star, The Beautiful Between, The Lucky Kind, and The Stone Girl. She is also the co-author of the New York bestselling novel The Haunting of Sunshine Girl and its sequel, The Awakening of Sunshine Girl. Alyssa grew up in Northern California and New York and attended Barnard College. She now lives and writes in New York City. For more bio information on Alyssa visit the BIO Page of her website.
About A Danger to Herself and Others (From Publisher’s Author Page):
Girl, Interrupted meets We Were Liars in this gripping new novel from New York Times bestselling author Alyssa Sheinmel.
Four walls. One window. No way to escape.
Hannah knows there’s been a mistake, She doesn’t need to be institutionalized. What happened to her roommate at that summer program was an accident. As soon as the doctor and judge figure out that she isn’t a danger to herself or others, she can go home to start her senior year. Those college applications aren’t going to write themselves. Until then, she’s determined to win over the staff and earn some privileges, so she doesn’t lose her mind to boredom. Then Lucy arrives.
Lucy has her own baggage, and she’s the perfect project to keep Hannah’s focus off all she is missing at home. But Lucy may be the one person who can get Hannah to confront the secrets she’s avoiding-and the dangerous games that landed her in confinement in the first place.
For all other books by Alyssa Sheinmel, please refer to the Books Page on her website:
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In Alyssa Sheinmel’s compelling fictitious novel A Danger to Herself and Others, she takes on mental health by writing about the psychotic episodes of a coming of age teenager. Hannah is the only child, comes from a well to do family, is conspicuously more intelligent than those of her age, is quick-witted and appears to know exactly where her path in life is taking her.
Sheinmel included an Author’s Note at the end of her novel in which she writes, “This book is a work of fiction, and is not meant to educate readers about mental illness or institutionalization. No doubt I granted myself some creative liberty to tell the story I wanted to tell: no good doctor would keep Hannah confined to her room the way she is for much of the story, and Hannah might not be sent home quite so quickly following her diagnosis.” The key words here are “good doctor” and “sent home so quickly following her diagnosis.”
The truth is we are experiencing a mental health epidemic in the United States today, and the mental health disorders do not discriminate whether by age, sex, religion or any other orientation. Mental health disorders come in all shapes and sizes, are overt and covert, and those with a mental health disorder can go undiagnosed for years, or life. These are the facts. Look at how many young people have gone into schools, malls, movie theaters, churches, etc., and taken the lives of so many innocent children and adults. These individuals had mental disorders that were not acted on even though family members, friends, and neighbors all spoke up after the fact, too late to intercede and prevent the killings. As I read A Danger to Herself and Others I could not stop thinking that every one of us must report another’s unusual behavior and actions, whether brother, sister, son or daughter, friend, neighbor, teacher, etc..
Sheinmel may have written a fictitious novel, but it is a novel that must not be dismissed as “not possible” or “unbelievable,” or whatever dismissive means that have been used in reading and reviewing this novel. The truth is we all know, regardless of age, race, economic class, etc. that what we read in A Danger to Herself and Others is possible, believable and happens every day. If you are shrouded from seeing the effects of mental disorders, you need to wake up to real life because although this particular novel is fiction, it is real life.
Hannah may have been confined to her room for the majority of her stay at the mental health facility, but in actuality, Hannah was only in the faculty for one and a half months, maybe two. It’s easy enough to calculate because we know Hannah’s parents sent her to California to attend summer school and Hannah had already been in summer school for two months before the incident happened that had her ordered to the mental health facility for observation and being a potential danger to herself and others.
And because Hannah was considered a danger to herself and others, she would have, in reality, been kept away from the other patients until she was correctly diagnosed, after which she would start a medication regiment. Here’s another fact, there is no one size fits all when it comes to medications and diagnoses. We know that when Hannah returned to New York with her parents’ school had been in session for a month before her return. So, again, do the math. Also, remember that Hannah was a juvenile so it would be natural to turn her over to her parents to be taken home for additional monitoring and treatment. There are roughly three-thousand miles between New York City and San Francisco.
Alyssa Sheinmel also wrote in her Author’s Notes, “Additionally, I read that antipsychotics may take effect after a few days, but following acute episodes, they can take as long as four to six weeks…” This is also not fiction; it is a fact. As I said, there is no one size fits all. What works for one may not work for many others.
Sheinmel’s novel is skillfully written, and although she makes it clear that her novel is a work of fiction, she wrote a novel befitting a non-fiction novel. It was clear to me that Sheinmel had not just put pen to paper and began to write, just as it was manifested in her writing that she had spent more than enough adequate time researching the topic of mental health disorders and medications used to treat disorders. In this case a psychotic disorder. Sheinmel was very much on point when writing A Danger to Herself and Others.
I have to admit that I was dismayed by the 1-3 Star reviews that Alyssa Sheinmel’s novel A Danger to herself and Others received. I was also put off by the dismissiveness of what is and is not believable or capable, as I have already addressed. I would suggest to the readers and reviewers who have doubts about psychosis and psychotic episodes that they get themselves a Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Health Disorders, 5th Edition: DSM-5 and familiarize themselves with mental illness as Sheinmel clearly did. It is unfair to the novel and the author when someone reads a book and decides what is right or wrong about the book, or reads a book that may be in your genre, but the subject matter is not in your genre. You are not required to read a book that is not in your genre, simply notify NetGalley that you are not going to write a review because the book was outside of your genre. Don’t bash a novel or the author that put hundreds of hours into writing the novel you are criticizing. The negative reviews are as wrong as the 1-3 star reviews that A Danger to Herself and Others received from reviews on NetGalley. I have to say that I would like to see how things go for Hannah now that she is back in New York with her family, or is she? I hope there will be a sequel to A Danger to Herself and Others.
Thank you to Sourcebooks Fire, Alyssa Sheinmel and NetGalley for the opportunity to read and review A Danger to Herself and Others. And a special note of thanks to Alyssa Sheinmel for taking on a subject too many turn their backs on.