Author- Holly Bourne
Title- Are we all Lemmings and Snowflakes
I haven’t actually read any Holly Bourne before although I always meant to. The front covers always seemed so overwhelmingly hyper-teenage with garish covers and exclamation marks that I convinced myself they would be a younger version of chick lit.
I also convinced myself that I wasn’t a book snob. Oh how wrong can you be! I’ve realised that I do look down on people who adore Twilight and when chick lit is all they read I almost feel superior. So as a slap in my own face (and a reminder that for years I exclusively read Mills and Boons so get off your high horse) I forced myself to read Holly Bourne and I am so glad I did.
Are we all lemmings and snowflakes is about a girl called Olive who agrees to attend a 6 month trial summer camp for teenagers with mental health issues.
Olive, who declines to know her diagnosis, goes in the hopes of somehow making her a better person, someone who doesn’t hurt her family, friends and schoolmates. And she’s feeling pretty good about this. Almost on top of the world in fact.
Camp Reset hosts students with OCD, depression, social anxieties and mood disorders and we get to see Olive try to make friends, avoid romantic entanglements and try to change the world.
I loved this book. As someone who studied psychology at University, I found it fascinating to read the different illnesses and the depth of research that had obviously gone into them. They weren’t just stereotyped symptoms or one size fits all diagnosis. The variation in the different types of OCD showed that the author had really done her homework and the feelings of frustration of the sufferers was something I have not seen in many other books
As a nerd I also loved the nods to maths and the algorithm making people sane.
But as the treatment started to take effect and their mental illnesses started to recede I found myself looking at the story more as a person who has mental health issues.
I could see the start of Olive’s mood swing and the sheer elation and feeling that she could conquer everything. At that point I knew it was bi-polar and could suddenly see Olive’s reasoning that as soon as you knew her diagnosis, everything she did was labelled by that. That once we pin that label to someone we do then stop thinking of their behaviour as their own fault but that of their illness. In the same vein, though, we sweep all of their achievements under that same umbrella and they become more a label than a person.
I especially empathized with Olive and her dark states and those few chapters towards the end when she hits the downward spiral are some of the most realistic portrayals of depression that I have ever read.
It was very interesting to see the budding romance through the eyes of someone who is aware but unable to stop their behaviour.
So the plot was great, the writing was sharp and witty without descending into “Pseudo-Dawson Creek” territory and the characters were both flawed and engaging.
What’s not to love? Maybe the neon cover? It did put me off reading it for so long. It’s pretty but made the book feel younger that in actually is. It is a teen book, however and that is my own personal opinion.
All in all I thought this book was beautiful, heartfelt and not just on point but even ahead of the curve.
More books should treat mental illness like this and I will definitely be picking up more of Holly Bourne’s books.