I have mixed thoughts about this novel. On the whole, I liked it. But it was like two very different stories in one, which I kind of think would have been better told as separate to themselves.
One was the story of a teen girl, Allison Jeffries, who thinks she is mentally ill and may have murdered a classmate. Sweet! A story discussing mental health and its care, especially as it pertains to teenagers, would be excellent and interesting reading. Such is how this novel started. Learning about synesthesia, which is a real sensory condition and NOT a mental illness, was interesting and I wanted to have more of that. I wanted to have more about Allison’s time in the psych hospital, learning about her condition, how to cope with it, and learning that she is not insane despite a lifetime of being told the contrary.
Then enter storyline number two. The girl Allison is accused of killing, Tori Beauregard, is still alive and is, in fact, an alien. So is the neuropsychiatrist who had been helping Ali with her synesthesia. Tori had been snatched back to the mothership or something to get healed when Allison injured her (non-fatally, obviously) in a fight. The plot points of this particular story arc are really fun and would make an awesome sci-fi novel of its own. But added into the existing plot of mental health, it just felt disjointed to me.
I think my main issue with the novel was that by having aliens be the deus ex machina, it relegates some very real mental health issues to something of a silly role. Oh, you’re not crazy, aliens did it. I’m sure that is not what the author intended, but that’s kind of how it felt. Mental illness is a real problem, not something that can be handily fixed or explained by aliens, even though that second plot was fun and I would have loved to see it as its own separate, hard sci-fi book. Nor is mental illness itself a prop to be used as a way to solve the trouble the characters are in and hey look, I just happen to have a rare condition that everyone thinks is a mental illness and only I can get us home using my weird sensory abilities that are actually almost driving me insane. That part really hit me wrong.
Source: public library
Publisher: Carolrhoda Books