Title: A Danger to Herself and Others
Author: Alyssa Sheinmel
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
First Published: February 5th 2019
Audiobook Narrator: Devon Sorvari
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. (From Goodreads, 19th February 2019)
We meet Hannah in a locked room of a psychiatric hospital, but we do not know what has brought her there. We are drawn into her mind, seeing everything from her point of view. To begin with, she only has short interactions with her psychiatrist who she names Lightfoot. Our only knowledge of why she is there is written on her file, Hannah is deemed “a danger to herself and others”. We begin to learn more about Hannah when she gains a roommate, Lucy. When Lucy arrives Hannah begins to reveal her more manipulative side and we start to feel the undertones of why Hannah may be in the hospital.
A Danger to Herself and Others is a difficult book to review as I do not want to give any spoilers. For the first third to half of the book, I was questioning a lot of the reality of the setting and treatment given which gave me an inkling about the progression of the novel. I felt uneasy about the novel but I think this was intentional. Once we learn more about Hannah and what brought her to the hospital things begin to make sense and the book became more comfortable to read.
This novel has a very constrained list of characters and focuses almost solely on Hannah and her view of things and this means we have an unreliable narrator. For some people, this novel may feel quite slow as there isn’t too much action, especially in the beginning, but it is a good insight into someone’s mind. This is what I found interesting, was the slow build-up of character. A Danger to Herself and Others is different from most books set in a psychiatric hospital that I have read as this novel does not focus too heavily on the interactions between patients, other than between Hannah and Lucy. Things begin to progress a bit faster in the second half of the book as we begin to learn more about what transpired leading Hannah to be placed in the hospital. This is when I began to enjoy the book more.
An issue I had, however, was the ending, it was sudden and although realistic it did not really highlight the potential for recovery, it focused mainly on the negatives like recurrent relapses. This I felt was a negative way to end a book, which I feel could have done more to inspire hope towards readers.
My overall opinion of A Danger to Herself and Others was that it tackled mental health problems that are usually not seen in young adult fiction. But it lacked depth into these illnesses and did not inspire hope in the way that it could have. I understand being realistic but I just felt the ending was drab. I felt a lot more could have been done with this novel.
I listened to the audiobook of A Danger to Herself and Others and felt the narrator did a fantastic job of bringing to life Hannah as a character. I would recommend listening to this audiobook for a more immersive experience.
3.5 out of 5