Published October 11th 2016 by Delacorte Press
Being bipolar is forever. It never goes away. The med du jour might work right now, but Zero will be back for her. It’s only a matter of time.
And so, in an old ballet-shoe box, Catherine stockpiles medications, preparing to take her own life before Zero can inflict its living death on her again. Before she goes, though, she starts a short bucket list.
The bucket list, the support of her family, new friends, and a new course of treatment all begin to lessen Catherine’s sense of isolation. The problem is, her plan is already in place, and has been for so long that she might not be able to see a future beyond it.
This is a story of loss and grief and hope, and how some of the many shapes of love—maternal, romantic, and platonic—affect a young woman’s struggle with mental illness and the stigma of treatment.
My gut instinct told me that the book would be well researched and well-written, because Karen clearly has the wit, talent and empathy to write such a book.
But I was also slightly dreading the book, because I’ve seen firsthand what bipolar disorder can do to a person. A loved one is bipolar, and has struggled over the years, and I honestly wasn’t sure if I could handle an in-depth look at the disease in fictionalized form.
(It’s for the same reason why I couldn’t read When We Collided, after realizing what the book was about.)
So I opened the book with a wary eye, and started reading. And I can honestly say right now: Fortunati has written one of the most effective, candid and significant looks at mental illness and bipolar disorder in YA.
Catherine’s journey is a troubling one, but painfully realistic. Fortunati doesn’t hesitate to show the ups-and-downs of the disease, including a nod at the genuine unrelenting depression that those who suffer the disease experience – but is also careful to show that bipolar disease isn’t solely dictated by crazy outbursts, as so many erroneously believe.
So when Catherine begins treatment, readers can’t help but feel empathy for her struggles, and genuine joy at the growing symptoms of recovery. It’s an uphill battle – especially as Catherine struggles with her own approaches toward combating the stigma attached to the disease – but readers want nothing more than for her to get on the permanent road to recovery.
Bottom line: Though Fortunati never minces words and is almost bluntly candid at the toll the disease can take, her ultimate message of treatment leading to recovery is an appreciated and honest sentiment that will resonate.
And for my part: Karen, thank you for writing this book. You're helping to remove a stigma that I've seen attached to the loved one in my life, and it will make a difference.