Born Scared

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 30 Nov 2018

Member Reviews

“Born Scared” was my first read by Kevin Brooks. I love everything psychology and mental health related so when I read the blurb for this book, I knew it would be one that I needed to check out. Elliot is scared. The only thing he is not scared of is his room. That is his safe space. When something unexpected happens, Elliot is forced to face hi fears in ways he thought unimaginable but at what cost?
    “Born Scared” was not what I expected but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. As an anxious person myself, I could identify a bit with Elliot just a little. The writing style was good. I don’t know if this would be considered a middle grade read as some very adult things take place. I did enjoy the changing point of views although a few of them were out of place and really did not fit into the story in my opinion. 
**I received a copy of this book from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review**
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Thanks to Candlewick Press for an advanced copy of this title for the purposes of review:

	When it comes to recent fare from middle-grade literature, they generally have been following a very stream-lined approach of placing clichés and familiarity over the boldness that other, upper-level genres could provide. However, Kevin Brooks’ latest release, Born Scared, is anything but conventional. Starring a lead protagonist named Elliot who is afraid of almost everything in sight, the title features themes and situations that seemed to be restricted to young adult and even fully-fledged adult literature. These themes are scattered handily throughout the book’s evenly placed story, despite a lackluster finale that ultimately compromises what the previous moments in the story had accomplished. Nonetheless, Born Scared is a daunting and personal outlook into the psychological implications of what it means to be human that handles its dense themes with ease even if there are rough edges to be discovered. 

	As mentioned in the brief synopsis, Born Scared depicts the protagonist, Elliot, a young boy who has a heartbreaking condition as to where fear controls nearly everything in his life. After several incidents involving psychologists, he is finally prescribed medication that is effective in calming him. But on a snowy night and when he is running low on medication, his fear, the beast trapped inside of him, finally begins to take control. From the very start, it’s ultimately clear how mature the storytelling is. I was shocked by the depth Brooks takes when exploring the theme of constantly being scared. It’s a thrilling and daunting experience and one that is heightened by the character of Elliot himself. By the book being told in first person, it feels as if the reader is truly placed into Elliot’s head. As a result, when the scene turns icily tense, that same emotion is carried onto the reader, an effective achievement that is seen rarely in middle-grade literature. This achievement is also bolstered by the smart and quick writing style of Brooks. There is rarely a sentence or even phrase that feels off-putting or unnecessary. Each scene feels rightly integrated into the story and contributes to the greater emotion of terror and fear, making the moderate length of the book feel expertly paced.

	When it comes to issues with the book, it’s collectively clear that Brooks wasn’t entirely sure on how to handle the conclusion of the story, a worthy question given that this story is so unique to a genre that is usually considered childish. While the end result is still daunting and bold in its plot design, I wish that Brooks had taken the themes of the conclusion even further. It feels watered down as to where the potential emotional resonance of the final sequences are terminated almost immediately, leading to a rather drab final act. It certainly doesn’t help the book’s case that its ending is both abrupt and diluted as well. 

	As a collective whole, Born Scared is a riveting and in-depth portrayal of a theme that is rarely explored in the middle-grade genre. For that feat alone is Born Scared a worthy read, but it also goes far beyond with its intricate and tightly written structure that allows for a balanced experience. It may become diluted and confused in its thematic structure during its final sequences, but this issue never fully compromises the literary genius in some of the earlier moments. Born Scared positions itself as more than just another installment in a clichéd genre; it identifies itself as a work that is worthy for all genres. 


Score: 8.1 out of 10
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From the moment of his birth, Elliot’s life has been governed by fear of almost everything, even of his own fear — a beast that holds him prisoner in his room. The beast is kept at bay, though not eliminated, with a daily regimen of pills. But on Christmas Eve, a mix-up at the pharmacy threatens to unleash the beast full force, and his mother must venture out in a raging snowstorm to a store that should be only minutes away. Hours later, when she still hasn’t returned, Elliot sees no choice but to push through his terror, leave the house, and hunt for her. What happens if the last of his medication wears off and the beast starts scratching at the doors of his mind? Everyone has a breaking point — will Elliot come to his? 

I related on a less extreme level to Elliot. My fears can sometimes cause me to become numb to the world. I think the book did a fantastic job with describing how fear and anxiety can be so debilitating. I was able to really get into Elliot's mindsets as he tried to calm his inner fear beast and find his mother.  The suspense of the book kept the pages turning for me until about three quarters of the way through. The end fell flat and didn't really wrap up the events that led us there. It felt like it just ended abruptly.

I received this book from Netgalley in return for an honest opinion. I enjoyed the book but would have like to see the ending fleshed out a bit more.
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Born Scared tells the story of Elliot, a young boy who experiences fear to a very high degree and spends the majority of his life at home. He takes pills throughout the day to keep his fear to a manageable level, but then something happens with getting a refill and his mother has to leave him to get more pills. When she doesn't come back in a reasonable time, Elliot goes out after her, facing his fears head on. 

The book started off pretty good, but the transition between characters was choppy and there was never any detail given to the other characters, until much later in the story. I wish more information had been used to explain things better and to give more depth to the other characters. Overall, it was a short, but thrilling (especially at the end) story.
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🌟 I want to thank Candlewick Press and NetGalley for providing me with this copy in exchange for an honest review🌟 

This is a kind of strange book being honest, but I think it was an interesting and new experience for me. It’s a pretty short story with a fixed central plot and I liked that, I liked that although it’s short, it’s very intense and you can really feel everything that happens to the main character in a very raw and real way.


The book follows the story of Elliot. He’s a thirteen-year-old boy who fears of almost everything since he’s only a baby, he lives isolated in his room specially built for him and his needs, but he’s also helped by a pills that he takes daily which help him with his illness, making it the every day easier. On Christmas day something happens and his mother must leave the house for a few hours to look for her son’s medicine, but she never comes back and Elliot’s forced to go out and look for her, and it’s from here that the story begins and Elliot must face her worst fears 

This book focuses on a mental illness as the main theme throughout the book, and I honestly feel that I must say it, in case some people are sensitive to this kind of thing, especially because I’m not sure if it was touched in a correct way, because I have no information about it. Personally I liked knowing more about this illness, but at the same time I feel like it fell short of information, I would have liked to know a little more

I didn’t expect it to be as dark as it was, it’s a rather dark thriller, where we see the main character have hallucinations and be lost in his own mind under the effects of his illness and honestly see everything he was going through and how the author described it was really scary, I can’t imagine what it would be like to live in this way, with a constant fear to the point that it becomes something physical, it’s really hard to read about it.


In a beginning it may be somewhat disorganized, the change between one character and another felt kind of weird and we don’t know what role they take in the story and what has to do with Elliot, but after the 50%, take shape and I think that makes sense. Although there are no very memorable characters really

I was more interested in following Elliot all the time so the other points of view didn’t really catch my attention, although in the end all the stories connect in a very good way and I liked that. It was very interesting to see Elliot leave his comfort zone and face the outside world, it broke my heart to see how every simple thing in our life was a challenge for him, and if I think about it, he faced it all for his mother and the love he has for her and that was very brave. On the other hand, I think the author gave a very mature voice to a 13 year old boy, and that felt weird , I didn’t mind at the time of reading, but I feel like you forget the true age of the character at times because he talks and reasons as an adult

I feel that I love the beginning much more than the end, I don’t think it was a good closing for the story, I understand what the author wanted to show but I think it felt very open and I don’t always enjoy those types of endings, it was strange for me I expected a better conclusion.

So, I recommend it, although I feel it’s not for everyone, there’s something in it that makes it heavy, intense and brutal, and it can be difficult if you’re a sensitive person, especially since it touches a very sensitive issue like a mental illness. If you’re looking for a strong and short thriller it’s perfect for you
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Elliott is afraid of everything. In fact, he doesn't remember ever not being afraid. His mother, his aunt and his doctor are the only people that don't remind him of monsters. But there are even some things he has to keep secret from them....like the fact he sees and talks to his twin sister, Ellamay, even though she died shortly after they were born. The only thing that shuts down the beast, his fears, are the little yellow pills he takes six times a day. The pills quiet his fears enough for him to not spend every second of every day terrified. Then one day the pharmacy makes a mistake and he might run out of medication during a holiday. His aunt goes to pick up his meds....but doesn't arrive at their house. Then his mother goes out to find out what happened and doesn't come back. It's a bit more than 500 yards from their house to his Aunt Shirley's home. But, Elliott doesn't usually leave the house. It's scary out there. Anything could happen. Elliott knows he has to brave his fears this one time and find out what happened to his aunt and his mother. 

This story is so different. I wasn't sure I was going to enjoy it at first, but then as the characters developed more and the story started forming, I couldn't stop reading. What an awesome way to bring about more awareness about mental illness and its effects on children. This story is amazing! At times Elliott was so adult -- he understands he has a mental condition, he understands he needs his medication and he understands that at times how he feels is irrational......but then at other times, he is a 13-year old child dealing with a constant mental battle, feeling lost and alone, surrounded by monsters. The story is told from Elliott's point of view, painting a picture of how he views the world. His fears control his life, but he's still willing to step outside and find his mother.

Outstanding book! I'm not sure I would call it a "thriller'' like one of the book blurbs I read. For me, it was more emotional, showing the world from the point of view of a fearful, mentally ill child. It would be terrifying to almost be out of medication on Christmas Eve, then to have your two trusted caregivers disappear. That 500 yard walk to his aunt's house was terrifying.....and the situation that developed afterwards made Elliott face many more fears than just a walk through the snow. 

**I voluntarily read an advanced readers copy of this book from Candlewick Press via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.**
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I received this book as an e-ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Here's what I thought!

I liked that this book gives us a glimpse into the mind of someone with severe anxiety. And I liked that this story was essentially an unplanned session of aversion therapy for Elliott. I would have liked to see some sort of conclusion with Ella, or just a bit more character development for her. After reading this book I was left a bit befuddled, and I don't see why the twin spirit was even necessary. It could easily have just been his inner dialog but instead we have an imaginary sister which leaves me questioning if Elliott has other psychiatric issues going unaddressed. I had trouble staying interested when Elliott became overwhelmed and lost his boot. His actions just seemed a bit unbelievable and kind of silly. It's not the worst book but I don't think I would want to recommend it as there are better books that address anxiety while still having an engaging story.
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I have no idea whether or not the condition that this child has is real or not, but it doesn't really matter, because the story was utterly fascinating, and I couldn't put it down. The only problem that I had with it was the ending which could have been fleshed out more, so that the reader had a better idea what happened to Elliot, and even the lesser character of Gordon. The relationship between Elliot and his twin sister who died at birth is interesting.
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Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher Candlewick Press for the free digital ARC in exchange for an honest review.


Part of this story is told from the perspective of a teen that suffers from almost debilitating anxiety and fear and he rarely leaves his room. Despite those fears, Elliot does manage to get out of his house and go on an adventure.

The author is excellent at getting the reader inside the head of the main character Elliot and helping the reader understand his condition. The other part of this book is about two criminals who are planning a bank heist.  The author does a great job of intertwining the two stories. The book was a little too short for me to feel invested in any of the characters.

The ending wasn’t extremely satisfying to me. It was abrupt and didn’t give me enough of a wrap-up on what lays ahead for the characters. Although i appreciated the topic of anxiety in teens because there are not many books that deal with teen mental illness out there, it wasn’t a book I can say I enjoyed. Again, it isn’t because it wasn’t well-written or portrayed, it is just quite a stray from my usual fantasy reads and it was pretty grueling (and stimulating) emotionally to read. I do think this is for a very advanced and mature middle grade reader (12+) due to the topic and intensity.

#bornscared #netgalley
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It was a near-painful experience, reading this book from the perspective of a 13 year old boy who is afraid of a myriad of everyday things and feels pain intensively. And illuminating read, but I can't really call it enjoyable.
Thank you, Netgalley for the e-review copy of this book.
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Born Scared by Kevin Brooks is a fast paced story that truly takes the reader into the world of Elliot, a teen who suffers major anxiety, who rarely leaves his room, let alone his house. 

When his Mother heads out to his Aunty's to pick up his medication he desperately needed, she doesn't come back. So with the monster in his head kicking in, he finds himself in a desperate situation. Does he search for his Mother? Or does he stay put in case his Mother returns.

On the other side of town, 2 criminals are laying wait at a home with a hostage in tow, awaiting the return of a bank Manager, who is extremely late for their heist.

How does these two fit together? I am unable to say without giving away spoilers, but somehow Kevin manages to merge these two stories into one in a thrilling, fast paced and one hell of a day! 

Kevin Brooks' writing truly have you inside Elliot's head, better understanding what he is going through. Taking the adventure with Elliot was truly an experience. The writing is well researched, raw and poignant and the best part was how he managed to intertwine two seemingly unrelated stories, into one and slowly unfolded it for it's readers. This was probably the best part of this book for me.

I only gave Born Scared 2 stars as whilst it was gripping and interesting, I didn't find myself engrossed or heavily attached to any of the characters. Apart from that, the book was an exciting read, but it just wasn't the kind of thriller I was looking for. It is nice to have more representation of mental health on YA books though. 

The writing is different and speaks to a certain type of reader, but I  unfortunately was not connecting with it. However, Kevin still wrote it interestingly enough that I persevered to finish the novel, despite wanting to DNF it a few times, so I gave it an extra star for that.
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This is one of those books I was excited to read, but was disappointed in once I did.  The writing style was good, but the book left a lot unresolved at the end, so I was left wondering what happened to several characters. I was also disappointed in the way that Elliot's severe anxiety is gone, which is unrealistic.  Most people will struggle with their anxiety disorder their whole life, even with medication. There may be times where the symptoms aren't there, but the disorder is.
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#BornScared#NetGalley
Candlewick Press    Published Date September 11, 2018           Pages 256
Teens and YA
I had the privilege of being able to read this book before it was published. I did finish this book yesterday which is when it was released. This is the old cover but the new cover is a lot prettier.
This was a different book and I am still trying to process what I read. As of right now I am giving it 3.5 stars.
There were a lot of characters in this book and the transition between each one was a little rough.
This book is about a teenage boy who is afraid of everything. He is so afraid he doesn't go outside and is on medication which only slightly helps.
The story starts with him being born early at 26 weeks. He is part of twins. His sister doesn't live after an hour. He has named her Ellamay. Mom never named her. His fear starts from day one. Part of Ellamay lives within him. There are only three people that he isn't afraid of and they are mom, the doctor and his Aunt Shirley. When he was four he was caught talking with Ellamay and  scared his mom and the doctor. His mom's name is Grace and the Doctor's name is Owen Gibson. Everyone else he calls Monkems.
Enter new characters the two Santas who are Leodnar Dacre (Dake) and Carl Jenner. Dake is the follower and Carl is the leader. They are bad men. They are planning on robbing the bank vault, by using yet another person named Gordon. They will make Gordon rob the bank for them by using his mom as leverage. How do they know about Gordon well yet another character is used and that is Kaylee who is dating Carl. Kaylee likes Carl because he is different and fun. Kaylee gives him all the information about Gordon. She assures Carl that Gordon is so predictable that you can set a clock by him.
The story goes on and Elliot is given the wrong medicine so mom needs to go and the correct pills but her car dies and so she ask Shirley to go get them. Shirley is dealing with traffic because it is Christmas Eve. Before she drops of the pills she goes home to pick up the gifts to deliver them along with the pills. Shirley never makes it to their home so Mom goes to her house and she never returns either.
Elliot decides he needs to go and find his mom. This is were his adventure starts. He has a great adventure and was great to read. What happen to him? You will have to read the book. What happen to Shirley and Mom? Again you have to read the book. What does Gordon have to do with this story? I am being very careful trying not to reveal too much. It does get good but I didn't like the ending at all. You are left wondering on what happened to a few of the characters.
If you don't mind being left hanging at the end I would recommend this story. It made me a little upset because I wanted to know. I don't care if it is a good end or a sad end, I just want to know what happen. The jumping around was a little hard and I had to figure out who I was reading about. This is a story I have never read about and it was interesting. Would I read something else by this author, yes I would give him another chance.
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Kevin Brooks definitely understands anxiety. His main character Elliot has an extreme fear of…well, everything, so when he has to venture out alone during a snowstorm to refill his anxiety medication, the mere act of starting the journey is a lot tougher for him than it would be for most people. Even though his case is an exceptional one, I have to admit that I recognized myself quite a bit in Elliot’s characterization. I’m not sure how much of this review will resonate with people who haven’t lived with anxiety, but I’ll do my best to explain it.

Elliot says that he has a feeling of timelessness, as if he is always living in both the past and the future but never existing in the present. For someone who constantly obsesses over past failures (whether real or imagined) and worries about possible future calamities, this feeling is all too familiar. When you are consumed with thoughts of the past and the future, there is no time left to live in the here and now. Elliott catastrophizes — in other words, assumes the worst possible outcome in every situation — and becomes robotic when his anxiety level maxes out. At one point his brain short circuits to the point that he can no longer feel any emotions, and he tells someone that he’s “already dead.”

This is not a particularly spooky book — there are no ghosts or demons or monsters — but it is scary. The suspense is tight (though I did have to pause a time or two to wonder when this kid was going to catch a break) and the story moves quickly. With that said, there were several moments when I wondered if Brooks was taking the St. Elsewhere route with this book, as Elliot is fascinated with a snow globe his mother gave him and seems to have visions within it. The feeling of timelessness mentioned above comes into play with this snowglobe motif, with its single moment suspended forever in time. There’s also a touch of The Shining in there, specifically the scene in the film where Jack looms over the model of the hedge maze in the hotel lobby and the camera slowly zooms in to show Wendy and Danny walking through the actual hedge maze outside. That sense of menace and claustrophobia permeates the book and propels the action toward its wild finale.

Now that I have a little distance from the book, it feels like a grueling experience, something that you survive rather than something you enjoy. Brooks really puts his main character through the ringer, both physically and psychologically, almost like a YA version of Misery. I don’t want anyone walking away from this book thinking that there’s a cure for anxiety or that people with anxiety disorders should face their fears and essentially be thrown to the wolves in order to find some inner reserve of strength. Trust me, people who live with anxiety are already plenty strong.

I honestly can’t say if this reading experience would be more enjoyable for people who don’t suffer from anxiety disorders, but what I can say is that this is a well-written, compelling story that may help people understand what it’s like to live with mental illness. This book was hard to put down, but as someone who understands more than I care to about Elliot’s terror-stricken world, I’m not sure I’d want to pick it up again.
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In this story we follow Elliott who suffers from a severe case of anxiety and fear. To the point where Elliott is afraid of virtually everything and cripples his ability to live as a normal boy. Due to a medication mixup done by his pharmacy, Elliott is running out of his medication and his mother goes to retrieve it. However, she leaves Elliott to his own devices as she assumes it shouldn’t take her more than half an hour to retrieve his medication. The book really delves into the journey Elliott has to take to find his mother after the thirty minutes have passed and she has not returned.

This book was the first Kevin Brooks story I have come across and I really enjoyed his writing style. 
The way he described Elliott and his fear to everything had me anxious and restless. I had to take minor breaks as i would find myself pacing and needing to do something with my nervous energy, which is incredible for an author to actually make me physically anxious.

However, because the story was so short, it moved extremely quickly...a little too quickly to the point that it took away from the character development and the plot. It would’ve been great to see the plot expanded upon as the direction it took with the “anti-santas” would’ve made a greater impact and amped up the thriller aspect of the story.

All in all, it was an okay read as I feel that the story was not long enough to create a sunstantial plot, nor character development, as the only one who was done really well was Elliott.
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This book was okay. I love how he described his anxiety, like a beast that was trying to escape. I can’t speak to the accuracy of it, but it sounded like how others have described it. I also like his interactions with Ellamay and how she kept him going at his lowest points. Initially, I wasn’t sure how the three separate plotlines would come together, but I enjoyed the lightbulb moments as I started to connect the dots. 
However, there were a few plot points that really bothered me as well. For one thing, Elliott (the main character) seems to remember something from right after he was born, when he was still in his incubator. I just… what? It makes no sense at all. He’s about 12 or 13, and I have an incredibly hard time believing that he could remember something like that. 
And then, once again, we have the ending. WARNING: SPOILERS LIE AHEAD. I’m not sure someone with as severe anxiety as Elliott could have done what he did, but fight-or-flight is a strong instinct. And then there was the very ending. Again, I highly doubt that someone with that level of anxiety would just snap out ot it like that. I had a feeling it was heading that way, but I didn’t want to believe it. I will also say I have little to no experience with anxiety, so I could be completely wrong.
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True fear and conveyed very well.  You feel absorbed in the story very quickly and I read in one sitting.  I loved the way the author makes you feel the fear and tension is perfect.
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Well, huh. I don't really know how to rate Born Scared. It wasn't at all what I expected, but I did mostly enjoy it.

We follow Elliot, a 13-year-old boy so afraid of *everything* that he has become a shut-in, spending nearly all of his time in a sound-proofed room completely devoid of anything he deems "scary".  Elliot takes pills to help somewhat dampen his constant feelings of fear, but due to an unfortunate series of events, his prescription is about to run out and if the refill is not picked up today, he'll have to go several days without as it's the day before Christmas.

What follows is an incredibly odd mash-up of a very real-feeling, quite accurate insight into a mind wracked with anxiety and a madcap Christmas action/heist movie. If something can go wrong, it does, often in a terribly spectacular fashion. This has the result of which building the anxiety all around while still being rather humorous. My brain found it a bit difficult at first to reconcile such juxtaposing ideas working together, but in general, it really worked for me. 

I got very caught up in this story and read it almost in one sitting; for the most part I found it highly enjoyable. Elliot's scenes were so well-described that at times I found myself shivering, feeling cold from reading about the blizzard he was trekking through. I believed in these characters even though they were doing some pretty ridiculous things at times.

Unfortunately, the ending just didn't do it for me. It was very abrupt and I would have preferred just a bit more of a wrap up or indication of what the future holds for Elliot and the other characters in the story. 

Also, I went into this thinking it was a middle grade book (I see I'm not the only one who thought that, so I'm not sure if the publisher changed the description or not) which threw me off a bit at first. This is most definitely too advanced and intense for most middle-graders. I can't really imagine anyone under about age 14 "getting" a lot of the subtlety, and really I think this book will be best enjoyed by adults and very mature teens.

Thank you to NetGalley and Candlewick Press for providing me with a DRC of this book.
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Born Scared is told through the perspective of a young boy with what appears to be some form of mental illness. We never receive a straightforward answer as to what mental illness plagues the narrator, Elliot, just that it causes him to be scared of everything. This fear end sup making Elliot a bit of an unreliable narrator in the sense that situations such as you or me would consider "normal" are made fantastical, unreal, and frightening when peering through Elliot's eyes. Brooks has a knack for turning the everyday into the unnatural and unnerving. 

The suspense and paranoia that arises from using Elliot's perspective made this a quick read with some truly terrifying moments—especially if you binge the book in the evening and into the night as I did.

Note:  A longer review will appear on my blog on September 7th.
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I'm not really sure what to make of this. I thought it was middle grade for some reason, so was very confused when I started reading it. Apparently it's YA, but there's really nothing YA about it--I would consider it adult. 

The writing is good, but it doesn't sound like a kid. This bothers me less if it's adult. I don't know how to classify the book either. It calls itself a thriller and there's a criminal part, but mostly that's to set up the rest of it. It's mainly about mental illness. But then it also turns into a survival story as he struggles through the winter landscape.

So overall, it's odd, but it's interesting!
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