Other Possible Prompts: 22. An unlikely detective, 26. Has an “Author’s Note”
Trigger warning for this review: suicide and mental illness discussed throughout.
Quite possibly the fewest number of prompts a book has fit all year! I actually enjoyed this book for the most part, but I think it could’ve been at least one hundred pages shorter, hence my lower rating. The story is interesting, but I don’t know if it’s interesting enough to carry it nearly five hundred pages.
On the cusp of an incredible career in science, a Harvard degree, and his whole life ahead of him, Cady Archer’s brother Eric jumped from his dorm room window at Harvard University and left this world. His schizophrenia had turned his last few years into a disturbing frenzy, unlike the brother she had grown up with. Now, over a year later, Cady has decided to start her own degree there by joining the class as a freshman…however, there’s a lot more than legacy to her decision. Eric left behind a series of cryptic notebooks and unanswered questions, and Cady wants to know more about that last year of his life that took him from her.
As she meets his friends and teachers, and sees the sights he did, Cady grows increasingly confused by what she learns. Were Eric’s final months more than a delusion? Was he onto something with his concern about being watched – but too far into his illness to get the help and attention he needed? And what, then, of the voices she herself hears?
There was a lot going on in this book. There’s just…a lot of different story elements, so it becomes a bit hard to follow the point. I think it makes it entertaining, but as for the point she was trying to make…that was a bit lost in translation. There’s the mental illness aspect; Eric was schizophrenic, and evidently, Cady becomes concerned she is meeting the same fate. While she would already be predisposed to it, in her efforts to track Eric’s last movements, she put herself in the same environment that brought on his own schizophrenia and thus increased her odds of developing it. Then, it seems like maybe those voices are ghosts. Each of the voices in Cady’s head have historical reference at the college, which Cady picks up on from time to time. But then also, maybe they’re voices and bodies from another dimension? See there’s a lot happening here and it’s ultimately not clear to me, even at the end, which one we’re supposed to believe (or maybe we’re not supposed to care?).
Everyone Cady meets at Harvard sucks. I was going to sugarcoat it, but it’s honestly true. There isn’t a single character I liked without hesitation. Her roommates suck, her love interests suck, the professors suck. And while they’re not from Harvard, her parents, a central part of the story, also suck. Cady isn’t my absolute favorite, but she sucks significantly less than everyone else. I at least understood her; the other characters around her do really annoying, awful things with no rhyme or reason. It’s really no wonder Cady was having a bad time at Harvard.
There was an author’s note at the end detailing the historical research Serritella did to inform the personalities of the “ghosts”. I respect that, but what I was actually most worried about was her representation of schizophrenia. This is a huge part of the book, and truthfully I wouldn’t know if she had or had not done it justice, or given her characters and over-dramatized version of it. There is no mention of her background or research in this area, which bothers me. Has anyone read this and have some background knowledge that would shed some light on her representation of schizophrenia? I would be much more worried about this, than of her historical representation of some ghosts.
I think what bothers me most, even having enjoyed the ride of this story, is that it truly goes nowhere. The ending, in my opinion, clearly seems to be aiming for something, but misses its target. I couldn’t tell you what she meant by it.
This book was decent, but I don’t think I’m recommending it. I wouldn’t read it again, given the opportunity. Have a wonderful weekend.