Title: My Friends Are All Strange
Author: Margaret Lesh
Publication date: October 18th 2016
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult
My friends are all strange.
Right now I’m living at Brookside, a place for people like me. I’ve met a kitty girl, a brooding beautiful boy, one who can’t be touched, and others. My new friends. Strange people. People like me.
I’ve always been different, but lately, more so. My hands sometimes don’t seem to be attached to the rest of me. I cut up all of my clothes. I’m hot, so hot, all of the time. If I sleep, a wizard haunts every dream. I don’t sleep. Sometimes I want to run, but where do you run to when you’re trying to escape your own mind? I don’t know if I’ll ever be the same. I’m smart. I’m nice, sometimes. I just want to be normal(ish). But, right now, my friends are all strange… Like me.
Dark, funny, snarky, seventeen-year-old Becca struggles to cope with mental illness in My Friends Are All Strange, the gripping contemporary young adult companion novel to Normalish.
My Friends Are All Strange is a hard-hitting and emotional story which explores seventeen year-old, Becca’s, nervous breakdown and recover at Brookside, a “bridge to wellness”.
Margaret Lesh uses Becca’s first-person narrative to be able to open and honestly explore Becca’s state of mind, including that “wah-wah” feeling she experiences along with her dreams and hallucinations in which Troy the wizard appear.
As someone who has suffered with mental illness problems since my teens I really identified with much of Becca’s story. The issues the patients at Brookside deal with are varied, but Margaret Lesh approached them all with sensitivity and I feel My Friends Are All Strange is a really important novel, not only for its intended young adult audience but for older readers too. This is because mental illness is still misunderstood and as such sufferers, like Becca or myself, feel that they have to hide behind ‘normality’ just to be accepted. My Friends Are All Strange reveals Becca’s difficulties, but also that much of the circumstances leading up to her breakdown, like her father’s death and the pressure to graduate, are actually beyond her control. With help, support and coping mechanisms Becca actually has a chance at recovery and this leaves the reader with hope.
Becca may be the main character in this novel but it is through her eyes that we meet others who play an important role. There is Roman, Becca’s boyfriend, who is a constant in her life despite her stay at Brookside; Bobby, a patient with anger issues, and my favourite of all, Kat.
Kat loves Hello Kitty, but has memory problems after suffering a head injury in the car accident that killed her parents. Through her relationship with Kat, Becca learns about friendship, though I must admit that my heart broke every time I read the words, ‘ “Hi, I’m Kat” ‘. I think the most relevant thing about Becca’s relationship with Kat is that being lost in depression can be a lonely place, but Kat’s situation teaches Becca to be empathetic,
“How was she able to remember words, and that she loved Hello Kitty? How did she know how to do things like eat or fix her hair up in sparkly ponytail holders or French braids but not remember a person she’d been speaking with five minutes before? I hugged myself, imagining living in a terrible movie where you relive the same day, over and over again. Except I’d seen that movie, and this was so much worse.”
I became so absorbed in My Friends Are All Strange that I couldn’t put it down. Despite the difficult issues that Margaret Lesh confronts the narrative flows beautifully, and I truly cared about Becca. Whether or not you have personal experience of mental illness I would really recommend My Friends Are All Strange.
**WIN an ebook copy of MY FRIENDS ARE ALL STRANGE . . . . a random commenter on my post will be chosen***
About the Author
California native Margaret Lesh lives in a narrow canyon populated by herds of wild burro and packs of coyote. The canyon is also populated with her creative, handsome husband, her feisty mother-in-law, her not-brave-at-all Border Collie, Echo, and sometimes her son (who is away at college. And she is not quite sure how that all happened so fast).
She writes books to entertain young and not-so-young readers as well as herself. She believes tacos are magic.