Kiss Me First By Lottie Moggach

Title: Kiss Me First

Author: Lottie Moggach

Publisher: Picador

First Published: 2013

Blurb:

A chilling and intense first novel, this is the story of a solitary young woman drawn into an online world run by a charismatic web guru who entices her into impersonating a glamorous but desperate woman.

When Leila discovers the website Red Pill, she feels she has finally found people who understand her. A sheltered young woman raised by her mother, Leila has often struggled to connect with the girls at school; but on Red Pill, a chat forum for ethical debate, Leila comes into her own, impressing the website’s founder, a brilliant and elusive man named Adrian. Leila is thrilled when Adrian asks to meet her, and is flattered when he invites her to be part of “Project Tess.”

Tess is a woman Leila might never have met in real life. She is beautiful, urbane, witty, and damaged. As they email, chat, and Skype, Leila becomes enveloped in the world of Tess, learning every single thing she can about this other woman–because soon, Leila will have to become her. (From Goodreads, 17th January 2014)

Review:

Reading the blurb of ‘Kiss Me First’ I knew I had to read this book! This is a brave first novel, but it is very well done. We are reading about suicide, but rather than stopping someone from killing themselves we are giving them the chance to go without the guilt of leaving their family aware of their death.

Leila begins posting on the forums of Red Pill, a website discussing philosophy and debating ethical issues. Leila feels that she has finally found like minded people, and begins to build a good reputation on the site. Soon she is contacted by the sites founder, Adrian, asking Leila to meet. And so begins ‘Project Tess’. Leila is learning all about Tess. Leila is going to pretend to be Tess after Tess commits suicide.

This hard hitting, very controversial topic just drew me in. At first I was surprised when I realised that this book was written retrospectively in Leila’s voice. But this works well. You begin to build up to understanding why she did what she did, and why she has reached where she currently is. This is a novel that you know has taken a lot of planning, and is skillfully put together.

This was an excellent thought provoking book that I would recommend to those who like psychological thrillers, and for those who want to have a good debate with other readers. Yes, I would say this is a book group novel. Or could lead to good debates in the classroom/lecture.

I can imagine some people will find this novel difficult due to the focus on suicide, but this is such a risky book that would always be the case. If you want a book that will make you think, pick this up.

However, this is all positive, yet I can only give ‘Kiss Me First’ a 4 out of 5. Why is this? Well I expected slightly more for some reason, I felt at points the novel stood still, and didn’t have as much speed as I expect. But despite this I still loved this novel, would read it again, and recommend to people.

4 out of 5.

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Your Voice in my Head By Emma Forrest

Title: Your Voice in my Head

Author: Emma Forrest

First Published: 1st January 2011

Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC

Blurb:

Emma Forrest, an English journalist, was twenty-two and living in America when she realised that her quirks had gone beyond eccentricity. Lonely, in a dangerous cycle of self-harm and damaging relationships, she found herself in the chair of a slim, balding and effortlessly optimistic psychiatrist – a man whose wisdom and humanity would wrench her from the vibrant and dangerous tide of herself, and who would help her to recover when she tried to end her life. Emma’s loving and supportive family circled around her in panic. She was on the brink of drowning. But she was also still working, still exploring, still writing, and she had also fallen deeply in love. One day, when Emma called to make an appointment with her psychiatrist, she found no one there. He had died, shockingly, at the age of fifty-three, leaving behind a young family. Processing the premature death of a man who’d become her anchor after she’d turned up on his doorstep, she was adrift. And when her significant and all-consuming relationship also fell apart, she was forced to cling to the page for survival. A modern-day fairy tale of New York, Your Voice in My Head is a dazzling and devastating memoir, clear-eyed and shot through with wit. In a voice unlike any other, Emma Forrest explores breakdown and mania, but also the beauty of love – and the heartbreak of loss. (From Goodreads, 24th November 2013)

Review:

When Emma discovers that her Psychiatrist has passed away she begins to reminisce about the man who had helped her to begin stabilizing her rather turbulent life. We learn about both Emma and her Psychiatrist through Emma’s words.

‘Your Voice in my Head’ is a novel written with a rawness that epitomizes the deep depressions Emma has encountered, along with the risky behavior of her highs.

This is a novel about grief and loss, as well as about finding strength, and using the lessons of those who are dead to help you in your future. It shows us the selflessness of some people, and the selfishness of others. This is a novel about people. The good and the bad. However, unlike many novels about mental illness, in this novel Emma manages to work, and continue with life even when this seems impossible. This was ‘nice’ because many books out there about mental health, memoirs and fiction, deal with people who do not function, cannot work and often are institutionalized. In this case it was a breath of fresh air to see someone dealing with severe mental illness but still holding life together, however precariously. Considering the majority of people with mental health problems are treated in the community and manage to work, it is a group highly under represented in the book world.

At the time of reading ‘Your Voice in my Head’ I had just suffered a bereavement and initially gave this book 3 out of 5 stars on my Goodreads account. However, I feel after writing this review that I did not appreciate this books as much as I think I would have if I were to have read it at a different time. I now believe this is a novel I will have to re-read in order to give an accurate rating, but due to the points I raised above I will give ‘Your Voice in my Head’ a 4 out of 5.

A Voice in the Distance By Tabitha Suzuma

  ‘A Voice in the Distance’ is the companion novel for ‘A Note of Madness‘.

Now in his final year at the Royal Collage of Music, Flynn is under more stress than ever before. His bipolar disorder begins to rear its ugly head again and is worse than it was before. Becoming manic very quickly and forcing his friends to phone for an ambulance and police he is saved from being sectioned (detained in hospital) due to his older brother. His ‘perfect’ older brother, who is a doctor, promises to take care of him and make sure he takes his medication.

It is difficult being a young adult at university/collage never mind being a young adult with a mental health problem who also has to cope with the pressures of collage and the competitive nature of the Royal Collage of Music. These pressures continue to erupt for Flynn and his mental health deteriorates again, this time he is hospitalized, putting pressures on all his relationships. Manic to the extent his girlfriend is frightened of his behavior and struggles to cope. His friendships are put on the line.

The problem with bipolar disorder is the Depression that so often follows the Mania. Here we say the destruction in a darker light. We see the struggles of those who love Flynn and the unbearable pain and devastation Bipolar can leave in its wake.

A fantastic novel for any one interested in mental illness. The music side also kept me interested as I once was a trumpet player, though I can imagine some people disliking this side. A young adult novel and a great conclusion to ‘A Note of Madness‘.

This novel looks more at Flynn’s manic side and thus has a different feel to ‘A Note of Madness‘ and therefore is not a rehash of the first novel.

I gave ‘A Note of Madness‘ 5 out of 5. I say ‘A Voice in the Distance’ is even better and again must be a 5 out of 5.

A Note of Madness By Tabitha Suzuma

   Flynn is enjoying life. He is at the Royal Collage of Music and has been given the opportunity to play the piano at an important concert. But things begin to change for Flynn. Sometimes he is bursting with energy and feels invincible. Other days however he cannot get out of bed and wishes he was dead.

Flynn is beginning to experience the symptoms of Bipolar Disorder and it threatens to wreck his music career. His behavior worries his friends and family but his brother manages to get him some help from a psychiatrist that he knows. Flynn must begin a battle with erratic mood swings and medication.

I read this book several years ago but am writing a review now because I read it and loved it. This is a novel which deals with the onset of mental illness which often occurs in a persons young adult years in which they are at a pivotal point in their lives – here it is collage. Unlike most books about Bipolar Disorder Tabitha Suzuma does not focus solely on the manic episodes but shows the depressive episodes which are often the main problem people with Bipolar Disorder experience. The debilitating depression often comes in the wake of a manic episode and lasts much longer. Flynn must battle to get out of bed and continue with his studies before it is too late.

This is an excellent novel aimed at a young adult audience. A introduction into the world of mental illness and that it can happen to anyone. Those with Bipolar Disorder do not have to be famous or on drugs. It can happen to anyone.

I feel that Tabitha Suzuma understands that there is no easy answers to mental illness. This shows through the writing. Medications don’t work straight away and the side effects are sometimes harder to deal with than the illness. You might have to try a variety of medications to find the correct balance. Talking therapies also play a role. This book is not overly medical which is a good thing. It explains things in a way that is easy to understand without overly simplifying them.

I am giving this novel a 5 out of 5 as it is a book I would read again and again.