Thursday, August 23

A Journey of Nothing, of Hope, and of Kindness: Are We All Lemmings and Snowflakes? by Holly Bourne

Welcome to Camp Reset, a summer camp with a difference. A place offering a shot at “normality” for Olive, a girl on the edge, and for the new friends she never expected to make – who each have their own reasons for being there. Luckily Olive has a plan to solve all their problems. But how do you fix the world when you can’t fix yourself?

Received in exchange for an honest review from Usborne Publishing UK.

Trigger warning: depression, self-harm, sexual abuse and suicidal ideation.

Let me start off by saying I'm yet to be disappointed by a Holly Bourne book. Having read and loved all her work so far, I knew she'd pull it off marvelously when I learnt that Are We All Lemmings and Snowflakes? was going to deal with mental health- and pull it off, she does. Unlike her Spinster Club trilogy which featured a main character with OCD and also talked about many other things besides, here the sole focus is pretty much on mental illness. It is Olive's journey, and it's a journey of Nothing, of hope, of kindness, and it shows how being kind can do you a world of good, even when things aren't always going that well. 

We are introduced to Olive hiding away in her room, under her desk, in a cocoon of pillows and duvets. She only wants to cancel all the noise, of people, of everyday things, because it had a tendency to make her anxious. The noise got to her and she was just trying to escape it- but her mom thinks, knows, otherwise. Olive was going into a depressive episode for the 3rd time, even though she had being doing so great up until then, and try as she may, she wasn't able to get herself out of it. Things somehow end up with Olive on a cliff, and ultimately her GP gives her a suggestion: Camp Reset. It was a camp that gave teenagers like her a shot at 'normality', teenagers like herself who were struggling with mental health issues, and Olive is all for it. What if this was it? The magic pill? The cure?

Filled with newfound hope, Olive starts at Camp Reset. It is still difficult, but she manages to make friends, have conversations, be...normal? Whatever normal is. She even comes up with an idea to bring about a difference in the world- spreading kindness on an epic scale. Olive is thriving, brimming with enthusiasm for this new project of hers which she knows would save the world...but little does she know she was spiraling out of control. How can she possibly go about saving the world, when it is she that needs saving first?

I'm pleased to say the author scores with the mental health rep- again. A lot of research obviously went into this book, and it is apparent in the manner things are presented to us. Olive shies away from being labelled, and we don't get a diagnosis per se, throughout the course of the story. I loved this about the book because mental health is more than just a label- the author addresses serious topics like this in a very nuanced way. The writing, I loved as always. Holly Bourne has a way with words that drives home important things while also giving them a light tone when necessary, and it is perfect, especially for a book that deals with issues as complicated as these. I had no problem getting invested in the story, right from page one, and the author managed to keep me hooked even though the book was on the longer side, at around 400 pages.

Apart from the convincing writing, it is the characters that I loved the most about this book. It was tough being in Olive's head, especially when things were looking bleak for her, and she was hardly what you'd call...likeable? But I understood where she came from and loved her all the more for it. While things were undoubtedly heavy and dark at points, the rest of the cast was just fantastic enough to keep things balanced. I loved most of the other characters, especially the friends Olive makes at Camp Reset, and I loved getting to know them, their stories and their struggles with mental health. 

While the ending was anything but closed, I personally felt it was realistic and fitting, and it gave just enough hope while also driving home the message that kindness could, perhaps, be the solution for most things after all. Are We All Lemmings and Snowflakes? was a book with great writing, a wonderful cast and spot on mental health rep that, according to me at least, left nothing to be desired. Keep in mind the trigger warnings, though, and pick it up ASAP, maybe?

Plot: 5/5
Mental Health Rep: 5/5
Characters: 5/5
Cover: 4/5
Enjoy factor: 5/5 

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