Title: A Danger To Herself and Others
Author: Alyssa B. Sheinmel
Release Date: February 5, 2019
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Only when she’s locked away does the truth begin to escape…
Four walls. One window. No way to escape. Hannah knows there’s been a mistake. She didn’t need to be institutionalized. What happened to her roommate at her summer program was an accident. As soon as the doctors and judge figure out that she isn’t a danger to herself or others, she can go home to start her senior year. In the meantime, she is going to use her persuasive skills to get the staff on her side.
Then Lucy arrives. Lucy has her own baggage. And she may be the only person who can get Hannah to confront the dangerous games and secrets that landed her in confinement in the first place.
ARC provided by the publisher via netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
I suppose your name is the first thing that ever really belongs to you, but when you think about it, it’s not yours at all. Your parents chose it.
What would you do if the most important thing in your world – your brain, your mind, your intelligence – suddenly came into question? That’s what happens when Hannah is sent to an institution for observation after an unfortunate accident with her summer program roommate, Agnes. At first glance, Hannah seems like the perfect high school junior: perfect grades, well-rounded, lots of best friends. She’s looking forward to starting her senior year and applying to the top colleges in the country. And when she’s taken to the institution, she isn’t worried. She knows this is all just some huge misunderstanding. After all, why would she hurt her own best friend?
Of course, the other patients are here because there’s actually something wrong with them. I’m only here because of a misunderstanding, so there’s no need for me to panic.
As the story continues, it becomes clear that there are definitely some inconsistencies in Hannah’s stories. This book is told from Hannah’s POV, so the reader is privy to all of her internal monologues. It becomes obvious that Hannah is a very unreliable narrator, and a lot of her reasoning raises some red flags. When Hannah gets a roommate, Lucy, she decides to prove that she couldn’t have hurt Agnes by showing what a great best friend she is to Lucy.
It was so easy when I was five, to manipulate my parents’ friends into being ashamed of their own children, into thinking I was so much better. It’s still so easy.
Unfortunately, this situation isn’t one that Hannah can manipulate her way out of, and as her story continues, the reader gets to discover the truth right along with her. When everything else is taken from her – her choices, her books, all of her best friends – will Hannah be able to deal with what’s left behind: the truth?
I ended up giving this book 3.5 stars overall. The writing was unique and intriguing, and I loved the little bits of mystery that were left along the way. While it’s marketed as a YA contemporary, it almost reads like a YA mystery some of the time, which I really enjoyed! I also LOVED Lucy, Hannah’s roommate at the institution. She was hands-down my favorite character, and I wish we could have had more of her!
Unfortunately, I am just not a huge fan of the “unreliable narrator” trope, so Hannah and I got off on the wrong foot right away. Not to mention, she’s also just not… likable? I admire how determined and driven she is, but she’s also manipulative to everyone around her and at times cruel. However, the author did a GREAT job at portraying Hannah’s story. I really felt for her as she learned more and more about herself, and struggled with the truth of her situation. The writing really put me in her shoes, and I could see how terrified and distraught I would be if I were her.
I also felt like not a lot happened. Since the story takes place mostly in Hannah’s thoughts and in the institution, the plot isn’t all that exciting. I saw the one twist coming miles away, so that was a little disappointing. HOWEVER, this was a super quick and entertaining read, and I enjoyed the process!
It also touched on something that I felt was so so important. While I can’t speak to how accurately the author portrayed mental illness and an experience in an institution, she did touch a lot on choices, and how it feels to have simple, daily choices taken away. For example: Hannah no longer gets to choose who she talks to, or when. She doesn’t get to choose if she can take a shower, or take a pill. Coming from a life where she’s made all of her own choices from a very young age, this is such a culture shock, and I can’t imagine how that must feel. The author also did a great job at getting to the root of Hannah’s internal struggle: what makes up a person? What makes you, YOU? Is it your brain? And what happens when you can’t trust your own mind? What does “normal” mean anyway?
The orderlies don’t understand that a pill can be more invasive than a shot. Taking the pill implies that it’s your choice. Willingness to swallow what they hand you suggests that you agree with them: There’s something wrong with you; you need to take your medicine. If they force a shot on you, at least you’re taking a stand. At least they haven’t made you believe there’s something wrong with you.
While I definitely had some issues with this book, it was an entertaining, although very dark, read. I really felt for Hannah, and was rooting for her throughout the book. If you like unreliable narrators with a couple of good plot twists thrown in, this is a book for you!
Maybe I’ll never know for certain what’s real, what’s madness, what’s the medication.
A Danger To Herself and Others is releasing on February 5, 2019.
*All quotes taken from an ARC and are subject to change prior to publication.