On a Scale of One to Ten By Ceylan Scott

Title: On a Scale of One to Ten

Author: Ceylan Scott

Publisher: Chicken House Ltd

First Published: 3rd May 2018

Blurb:

Tamar is admitted to Lime Grove, a psychiatric hospital for teenagers. 

Lime Grove is home to a number of teenagers with a variety of problems: anorexia, bipolar disorder, behaviour issues. Tamar will come to know them all very well. But there’s one question she can’t… won’t answer: What happened to her friend Iris? As Tamar’s emotional angst becomes more and more clear to her, she’ll have to figure out a path to forgiveness. A shocking, moving, and darkly funny depiction of life in a psychiatric world. (From Goodreads, 9th April 2019).

Review:

This was a novel that I enjoyed but it was very typical of the many mental health books that I have read in the past. Tamara is admitted to a psychiatric hospital due to a suicide attempt and her self harm. Tamara is diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder, a very underwritten about disorder, and really the reason I was drawn to this book.

This novel focuses on the relationships Tamara creates whilst at Lime Grove. But the relationships aren’t that well developed. But when you are admitted to a psychiatric ward you are placed with individuals and don’t have long to get used to their company. You are in a world where people’s most personal thoughts are shared, so relationships do become quite deep quite quickly, or what appears to be deep. So the setting itself may be part of the issue with the lack of development of relationships and is actually quite accurate of psychiatric hospital relationships for some.

I would say that some of this novel is very on point, whilst other parts aren’t that believable. There was a lack of focus on treatment and looking at ways to change thinking and working on a better set of coping strategies, which I feel is an important aspect to novels like these. However, it is based in a hospital ward and many people do not realise that the main point of an acute psychiatric ward is to get someone stable enough so they can work on their issues outside of hospital. The hospital is to keep an individual or others safe and reach a stage that they can engage in therapy once discharged. So I feel that this was an accurate description but I feel that recovery work should be looked at in novels like these. The ending felt rushed but did focus on the concept of hope, which is possibly the most valuable part of recovery when it comes to mental health issues.

This is an own-voices novel, and therefore the author has personal experience of mental health issues and this may be accurate to how she herself felt. I felt the thoughts and feelings of Tamara really did show a real insight into the mind of an individual diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder. The Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) setting was a reliable account, although I feel that some of the staff were not at all realistic, whilst others seemed pretty on point. I understand that you are going to get good and bad members of staff but I feel you are more likely to get good, some bad and some okay, and this balance was not made for me personally. But everyone has a different experience and different hospital experiences depending on the ward that an individual is admitted to so this is likely a really good representation of some wards. I think because it contrasted with my experience a bit that is why I found it difficult to relate to completely. Some parts rung true whilst others didn’t, and my own bias has probably resulted in my opinion on this.

There is also a bit of a mystery going on. What happened to Iris? And this is an intriguing plot point for the novel. And one of the reasons I liked this novel. It provides a story to follow rather than the novel being solely focused on mental health symptoms.

Overall I feel this is a book that was mixed for me, but is an account worth reading, and does depict the mind of someone with Borderline Personality Disorder well. It is in some ways very accurate, but as I have said I feel books about mental health difficulties have a responsibility to address recovery and look at things that can help. But the importance of hope, at least, was focused on.

3.5 out of 5

Other People By Kelly O’Callan

Title: Other People

Author: Kelly O’Callan

First Published: 7th March 2014

Publisher: Createspace

Blurb:

Painfully shy and socially awkward, Ginny avoids engaging in a world filled with “other people” as best as she can. After a failed suicide attempt, Ginny is diagnosed with borderline personality disorder and begins a journey towards improving her distraught life. In her quest to fit in among other people, Ginny studies the behaviors of her picture-perfect new neighbors, Jim and Nina, and tries her best to mimic their life skills. But, will Ginny’s attempts to be one of the other people help her fit into their world, or send her crashing back deeper into the dark, isolated world she is desperately trying to escape? (From Goodreads, 12th May 2014)

Review:

‘Other People’ is about Ginny and the way her life begins to change after her new neighbor, Jim, finds her during a suicide attempt. In arriving at hospital Ginny begins the process of therapy and is diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder.

‘Other People’ is the first fiction novel that I have read about Borderline Personality Disorder and there were both good and bad things in this book. Firstly, this book acknowledged the true complexities and extreme emotions an individual suffering from Borderline Personality Disorder is inflicted with on a daily basis. It highlights what can appear like a simple situation to most people can be devastating for an individual suffering with this disorder.

Another aspect that I enjoyed about this novel is that it had a regular story line that intertwined friendships, relationships, and their complexities and further complexities by bringing in an individual dealing with emotional instability.

However, I was not happy with the fact the psychiatrist in the novel described Ginny as a ‘borderline’. It really feels, to me, that those with Borderline Personality Disorder are ‘borderline’ and ‘borderline’ alone. Further, he describes such individuals in such a diagnostically list like manner, simply explaining ‘borderlines’ alongside diagnostic criteria. Although this is important to understand individuals with Borderline Personality Disorder it just didn’t feel ‘real’ to me.

This novel is the first of what I hope will be many novels that deal with personality disorders and the complexities they add to individuals suffering from them. Further, this novel begins to challenge the idea that individuals with personality disorders cannot get better, a debate that is long running in psychology and psychiatry circles. However, many individuals learn to deal with emotions and begin to lead successful lives.

4 out of 5.