Book: THE CHANCE YOU WON'T RETURN by Annie Cardi
Genre: YA contemporary
USA Release Date: Currently available.
Source: Won this in a giveaway from The Hanging Garden.
Rating: 4/5 stars
Recommended?: Yes, particularly because of the wonderful, nuanced portrayal of mental illnesses.
Content Note: Parent's nonspecific mental illness with delusions and people's reactions to it, including shame and anger. Decent depiction of anxiety in main character.
When your mom thinks she’s Amelia Earhart, navigating high school, first love, and family secrets is like flying solo without a map.
Driver’s ed and a first crush should be what Alex Winchester is stressed out about in high school — and she is. But what’s really on her mind is her mother. Why is she dressing in Dad’s baggy khaki pants with a silk scarf around her neck? What is she planning when she pores over maps in the middle of the night? When did she stop being Mom and start being Amelia Earhart? Alex tries to keep her budding love life apart from the growing disaster at home as her mother sinks further into her delusions. But there are those nights, when everyone else is asleep, when it’s easier to confide in Amelia than it ever was to Mom. Now, as Amelia’s flight plans become more intense, Alex is increasingly worried that Amelia is planning her final flight — the flight from which she never returns. What could possibly be driving Mom’s delusions, and how far will they take her?
Alex Winchester is an amazing protagonist in this story of love and mental illness. Alex's voice is delightful, sharp and funny without being bitter, with a razor edge to her wit. She's been placed in a terrible situation; tasked by her father to protect her younger siblings from her mother's mental illness, she's dealing with her own anxiety while trying to survive high school, including driver's ed and a confusing (and absolutely adorable) flirtation with her first crush.
I have bipolar disorder (which presents with OCD and anxiety). I'm always leery of the portrayal of mental illness in young adult books (and all media), particularly when the narrator is not the one with the mental illness being addressed. Too often, it's the "sane" character reacting to the things the person with the mental illness does, in a way that very much others people with mental illness. Not so here, in part because Alex deal with anxiety herself, a foil to her mother's delusions, but also because Cardi uses a deft hand writing both mental illnesses without blame or pity -- her characters remain nuanced and human, flawed and wonderful because of their flaws. Despite how much the mental illnesses drive the story, the characters never become just their mental illness.
I particularly liked the way the doctors struggled to find the right medication to treat the delusional disorder. I run into a lot of people who think meds are a miracle cure, but that's not how they work; there is a lot of trial and error, and it meant a lot for me to see that portrayed realistically here.
THE CHANCE YOU WON'T RETURN is at turns funny and romantic, heartbreaking and entertaining, and an absolute joy to read.
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