Born Scared

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 30 Nov 2018

Member Reviews

Born Scared
By Kevin Brooks
Genre: young adult, thriller
Trigger Warnings: violence, violence against minors, descriptions of severe wounds, kidnapping, death
Description: “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? With plot twists and turns that keep readers on the edge of their seats, multi-award-winning author Kevin Brooks offers a high-suspense exploration of fear and what it means to truly be afraid.”

​Born Scared is intense. Main character Elliot has severe anxiety that causes him to fear the most ordinary of things. As someone with anxiety myself, I found Elliot to be relatable. While I don’t get anxious around sheep or animal noises, I can empathize with his over-exaggerations and his struggle between logic and fear. At times, Elliot’s anxiety can be a little frustrating to read about, especially when I’m getting stressed just reading about his stress, but after taking small breaks from his narrative, I’m ready to get back into the story.

The storyline itself is very intriguing. I like how the book transitions between multiple perspectives. We don’t only just get hear from Elliot, but the main antagonists of the story and many other minor characters. The switching between perspectives allows for readers to understand exactly what is happening, instead of only hearing Elliot’s unreliable narration.

I found most of the characters to be fleshed-out and realistic for the story. I have to admit, Elliot’s mother does lack some characterization, but she has enough to be understandable. I do wish there were more diversity between the characters. As far as I could tell, all the characters were white and cisgender. By having a more inclusive cast, the book could be even more relatable. Overall, I thought Born Scared was a good novel and I recommend it to any looking for an intense thriller.  This edition of Born Scared will be released September 11th, 2018.
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The premise of Born Scared is very interesting and although the writing isn't a style I usually like, it drew me in and kept me turning the pages.

Ultimately, though, the extreme number of coincidences that were required to make the storyline work just broke the immersion for me. The quick flips between POVs were annoying and left me wishing the story had just stayed with Elliot the whole time. By the end, I wasn't sure whether the story actually happened or was some kind of weird allegory for Elliot facing his fears. If it was, it went over my head.

What did work for me is the description of Elliot's fear and how they affected every part of his life. His growth in facing his fear through his adventure was extreme, but I felt it worked quite well. His reactions are not always logical, but there is nothing logical about his anxiety. 

Although the story didn't work as a whole for me, I was intrigued enough by the storytelling and the writing style that I'll check out the author's other works.
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I give Born Scared by Kevin Brooks 3 stars. I feel like the age recommendation (12 and up) is a little young, and would call it more YA than middle-grade, due to the stressful events, some language, violence and crime. I found myself holding my breath most of the time, confused sometimes, even disoriented, but I believe that may have been the goal, and if so, that was a great job! I don’t typically read thrillers, but if that’s your go-to genre and want a quick read you might want to check this out.
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Thoroughly enjoyed this novel, it was simple, it made sense.
There was history on the characters before they all linked themselves together within the story.
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Elliot has extreme anxiety. He can’t leave his home, or meet other people than his mother and a few trusted others. He’s had anxiety since he was born, and is finally on a medication that lessens his fear. But when his mother leaves (in a snowstorm, no less) to refill his medication, and doesn’t come back, it’s up to Elliot (and his twin sister, who lives in his head), to venture outside and find out what happened. 

There’s a lot of good things about this book. I like how anxiety is handled here; often it’s treated as frivolous when compared to other mental illnesses, but it’s a very real medical condition, and Elliot’s struggle is treated honestly and with compassion.
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Okay, so

I'm a psychology student and I REALLY think mental illnesses should be treated with extreme care in literature, specially thrillers, specially psychological thrillers. And while I don't think this book was awful in that aspect, I don't really think the author made an effort, really. Elliott's mental illness is never named. We kinda assume it's schizophrenia bc that's what it more likely is when there are those kind of visual and auditory hallucinations. But we get told his doctor doesn't know what it is, so maybe it's some invented mental illness? Which if it is would be walking on the line of right and wrong. Sometimes Elliott felt like he was JUST his mental illness, which is something that can happen when we show a character that's confined to his house since he was little, but that was easily avoidable and just not ideal at all.

Also. Just. Using a gun against the bad guy to make it seem right is SUCH an American trope and as a latina I'm so done with it please stop it's not right nor cool.

The story felt really short bc it's set in such a limited period of time (maybe an hour?? and then lots of flashbacks), and it was not always a good thing. Like, I have no reason to say it but somehow I feel Elliott wouldn't pick up a gun just because, and the book doesn't give me information to tell me I'm right or wrong, so sometimes the lenght of the story is just used to make the main character do things without justification.

I mean, it was okay, but barely.
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A harrowing novel written from the point of view of a young boy/teen (?) who is afraid of EVERYTHING. His fear paralyzes him to an amazing degree. He can't go anywhere. He's almost all out of the only medication that even takes the edge off his terror, it's Christmas Eve, and there's a blizzard. His mom goes out to meet the friend who offered to pick up the prescription, but doesn't return, so the terrified boy, in his desperation, ventures out in the storm to find her. The book is poetically written and absolutely gives words to the terror he feels. There were a few plot elements that weren't very clear, but this is a good novel for the middle- and high-school reader and will generate good discussion about coping with fear and anxiety. (Netgalley review)
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I received an e-Advanced Reader Copy from Candlewick Press through Netgalley in exchange for a fair review. Many thanks for the opportunity to do so! 

Born Scared by Kevin Brooks follows Elliot, a boy who from childhood has suffered from severe, paralyzing anxiety. Right before Christmas there’s a mix-up at the Pharmacy and Elliot is given the wrong medication. Knowing that the Pharmacy will be closed for several days for Christmas Elliot’s Mother sets out during a massive blizzard to get the correct medication for him. When his mother doesn’t return Elliot is forced to overcome his own monsters to find out what happened to her.
I had a hard time with this novel. I found it to be fairly boring for the most part. The reason why Elliot’s mom didn't come back was really out there and highly improbable and while improbable things happen all the time it just ended up annoying me that it was what was picked for a reason. Secondly, the perspectives of Gordon, Jenner and Dake seemed out of place. I would have much rather followed Elliot the entire time until the end. I think this would have made the book more suspenseful as you would have no idea where his mom was the entire time instead of finding out halfway through the book because of these perspectives. 
I was a little confused about Ellamay. It’s said early on that she is his imaginary friend from when he was little. However, the line between having an imaginary friend and having auditory/visual hallucinations gets blurred now that he’s older. I wasn't clear as to if it was meant to be this way or if it was something that was there because it allowed for Elliot to have dialogue when there was no one around.  
The end of this book gets a little confusing. Elliot ends up waking up in the hospital. With the way that this is written it made me wonder if everything that happened to him after he finds his mom actually happened or if he’s just having withdrawal from his medication or something like a fever dream. I wish that this clarified and spread out as I think the main reason this ended up being confusing was because it felt really rushed. To go with this I wish the the effects of withdrawal from his medicine was talked about more, not just with “The Monster” coming back but also with things like headaches, nausea. Dissociation may have happened but again with how the ending is it’s unclear.  
This book wasn’t quite what I was looking for. For the most part I just wished the ending was done a little bit better and I think that this would have helped with my overall enjoyment of it.
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Elliot is always scared.  He has a feeling that he was even scared in the womb.  His fear is controlled by a pill that he takes six times a day, but if he is late or misses a dose, the fear returns with a vengeance.  It is the day before Christmas Eve when Elliot discovers that the pharmacy gave him the wrong medication.  It was scheduled to be corrected on Christmas Eve, but there is a snow storm and his mother’s car won’t start.  His aunt is willing to pick up the medication, but when his mom goes to check on his aunt and doesn’t return, Elliot sets out to find his mom and his medication.  What will happen when a boy who is always scared ventures out into an unusual storm?  

Born Scared is a stand-alone novel that will be interesting to reluctant readers for many reasons.  Brooks has written a short book that doesn’t take long to finish and he has included a fast-paced storyline that will keep the reader’s attention along the way.  Although the protagonist has a mental issue, readers will still be able to relate to many of his processes as he works his way through various ordeals.  Born Scared is a great quick read and I recommend it to all readers.
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Elliot is a young man whose life is defined by fear.  The circle of people he trusts is extremely small so his medical doctor makes house calls and has tried to find just the right medication to help keep most of Elliot's fears at least at a distance.  After two years of trying various medications, nothing has completely eliminated his anxiety. His mother teaches him at home and he rarely leaves the confines of his room. Besides his mother, an aunt is the only other person he trusts--at least that others can see. Elliot also keeps a running dialogue with his twin sister that died at birth, but that is the entirety of his existence.

Elliot's mother is always very careful about keeping his prescription filled as lapses in medication can be disastrous.  Elliot has a brand new bottle so he should be fine through the holidays. Except that when he opens the bottle, the pills look different and he realizes that he's been given the wrong medication. This unfortunately starts a series of events that force Elliot to face a multitude of fears head on.

The book is mostly told from Elliot's point of view and the filter of his skewed perceptions and fear. Readers experience first hand the consuming reality of fear in Elliot's life. Just when Elliot's imagined fears can't seem to get any worse, he stumbles across men intent upon hurting those he holds most dear. The parallel story line of the men is a little hard to follow with little explanation for what came before or after their involvement in the story.

Born Scared is an interesting tale that gives readers a glimpse into one young man's struggle with mental illness. The circumstances that Elliot faced would have scared the bravest among us and the picture of someone rising to a herculean challenge was inspirational. The book closes very quickly after the story's climax and readers are left wondering how Elliot will fare after his ordeal and whether justice will be served.  I do prefer a story that ties up at least the largest threads within a story, so I feel the ending sort of betrays the reader. To be held in agonizing suspense only to be left hanging in the end seems rather unfair.

Disclaimer: I received a free digital copy of Born Scared from NetGalley for the purpose of review. No other compensation was received.
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Born Scared just oozes with emotions. I felt the mother's frustration, Elliot's life crippling fear, and Ellamay's quiet, unending patience and understanding as I read. I love the ending of this book because it leaves everything wide open. I have more questions now than I did as I read. Born Scared would be a great book to discuss - with middle schoolers on up to an adult book discussion.
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Elliot's character was written very well; I understood the depth of his fear.  It wasn't like a person who can't stand snakes, it's a bone deep fear of all things that has no rationale.I thought the author did a great job of getting this across.  Except for a moment or two when I thought the book was going to go the way of the television show St. Elsewhere (hopefully others aren't too young to get the reference), i thoroughly enjoyed the book.
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Born Scared is a middle grade novel about a boy who has extreme anxiety and fear of...well, everything. He relies on his mother and his medicine to help him cope with day to day activities. Elliott was born a premature twin, and unfortunately his twin didn’t survive. Elliott attributes much of his anxiety to the fact that half of his self was taken from him. Because he relies so heavily on his anxiety medication, when he finds his aunt is detained in bringing him his refill, Elliott struggles to cope. Venturing out to find his medication leads him right into the middle of a heist. Will Elliott overcome his anxiety long enough to be a hero? 

I was very excited to read Born Scared. I love finding books that will get young boys excited about reading.  This book does just that. Not only does Elliott have a relatibility factor with his inner struggles, but his need for medication adds a diversity factor to his story. The suspense and back and forth between villain and Elliott from chapter to chapter makes this a quick and engrossing read for children. I would recommend this book.
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Elliot is scared of almost everything , and has been from almost the moment he was born. His experience of the world around him is drastically different from most, and the number of people in his life is limited to his mother, his doctor and a family friend who looks after him occasionally. Colors, noises and strangers are terrifying and the only thing that keeps his fear at a manageable level are his tablets, but when a mix up with the medicines leaves him close to running out on Christmas Eve his mother is forced to leave him alone, and go pick up a new supply. When she doesn't come back and stops answering the phone, his fears begin to spiral out of control and he must conquer them to face the outside world and try to find his mother.
As a portrayal of how difficult it is to live when you are hampered by fear, this book stands out. Every moment of Elliot's terror is so vividly described that it's almost enough to scare the reader too. As a character, he is so empathetic that it is impossible not to root for him to succeed in his quest. The way in which several innocent encounters send him spiraling into increasing anxiety and panic is incredibly well executed. 
I read and reviewed an ARC courtesy of NetGalley and the publisher, all opinions are my own
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Elliot has extreme anxiety. He can’t leave his home, or meet other people than his mother and a few trusted others. He’s had anxiety since he was born, and is finally on a medication that lessens his fear. But when his mother leaves (in a snowstorm, no less) to refill his medication, and doesn’t come back, it’s up to Elliot (and his twin sister, who lives in his head), to venture outside and find out what happened. 

There’s a lot of good things about this book. I like how anxiety is handled here; often it’s treated as frivolous when compared to other mental illnesses, but it’s a very real medical condition, and Elliot’s struggle is treated honestly and with compassion. 

I am not 100% convinced this is a middle grade book. I know it’s being marketed as one, and Elliot is certainly the right age to be a middle grade protagonist... but there’s a lot of adult things happening here, presented in a very adult way. Lots of middle grade books tackle difficult subjects, but it just feels different in this book. There are scenes of adult drinking and drug use, drunk driving, and gun violence. Just an FYI. 

Elliot’s POV is just one in the book: we get many others, and it toggles back and forth. I wish we spent more time with Elliot, because his journey is the one we’re most invested in. 

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for an arc.
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Enslaved by intense fear and anxiety from birth, Elliot spends the majority of his time in his bedroom at home. The only thing that keeps “the beast” living inside him under control is his “anti-fear” pill, and due to a pharmacy mix up he has found himself with only enough to last him 24 hours. Thanks to the addition of a raging snowstorm and it being the day before Christmas Eve, his situation has become exceptionally more desperate and unfortunately for Elliot, things are only going to get worse.
Brooks does a wonderful job portraying Elliot’s fear. In particular, I appreciated how well done the scene involving him leaving the house on his own for the first time was.  The back and forth panic of “I’m going” and “No, I can’t” really hit home for me. As someone who prefers to have more details when a character is suffering from mental illness, I would have liked more information on what was going on with him though. Did he never get a proper diagnosis? It is not something that is super important to the story, just something extra that would have been nice. 
I found myself mildly annoyed with how short each “chapter” was. It is the kind of story that goes back and forth between two main perspectives, but the way it was done felt a bit jolting to me. Just when you get used to one point of view and character mindset, we go back to the other. It also felt like there were far too many unnecessary details. Pretty much everyone who shows up in the story has a first and last name and enough information to give you a little detail about them. We do not need this level of detail for each police officer or each person Elliot runs into. It comes off as filler to me.

*Thanks to Netgalley I received a digital ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.
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Born Scared is a gripping and heartbreaking look at childhood mental illness.  Elliott was born scared.  Born premature and a twin, he loses his sister within moments of their birth and begins his life in terror of everything around him.  People, cars, animals, and even colors terrify Elliott.  But his mother has created a safe environment for him in his home where he lives of most of his life in his bedroom, rarely venturing out.  But a mix-up at the pharmacy leaves Elliott with the wrong prescription and fixing that mistake will lead Elliott and his mother on a series of devastating events.  
Born Scared was absolutely heartbreaking but also very inspiring.  I spent much of the book thinking of Elliott's mother-there isn't much written about her because the focus is on Elliott-and how she must cope with Elliott's fears.  Elliott is literally scared of everything.  Everything but the three people closest to him.  But even through Elliott's fears, he is still able to gather the courage to leave the safety of his home to find out what has happened to his mother and aunt.  Excellent story.
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This is a book about fear. Elliot’s fear. And Elliot is afraid of just about everything.

The story is about Elliot being put in a situation where he is nearly out of his medication, and the person he can always count on goes to get a prescription and doesn’t come back. That’s about all I can say without spoiling it.

I found the way this book dealt with mental illness to be very interesting. It gives pretty detailed descriptions and Elliot comes to feel like a real person. It’s handled in a very thoughtful way. As an emotional atmosphere, it is claustrophobic and sometimes Elliot’s fear is so real that it jumps off the page at you.  I also loved seeing the world through Elliot’s eyes. It gave me a perspective that I don’t think I’ve ever read before. It made me want to go and learn more about this particular type of illness. After all, everyone experiences fear at some point, but raw, visceral fear that is ever present and associated with nearly everything? That’s something else entirely.  I felt like a lot of thought and research went into making this character seem so vivid. And it worked. I was invested. 

Elliot goes through a number of emotions in this story, apart from fear. There’s a lot of depth to his character, and thusly to the story. His relationship with his mother was the core of it. I can’t imagine what it’s like to have a child with that particular mental illness, but I loved the way it showed how much she cared and looked after him. 

My main issue was with the way that it ended. I was along for the wild ride, but I feel like more was needed to close it out. There wasn’t any real development for any of the other characters. There are hints mentioned about several of them that makes you curious, but they’re not taken anywhere. The other issue was that on occasion it veered into what I considered unrealistic behavior for the major characters towards the end.

Overall, it was a suspenseful but enjoyable (and at times downright frightening) read and great for giving a picture of mental illness without sugarcoating or flossing over it. Elliot is a compelling character, and I rooted for him the whole time. I will definitely be checking out anything else written by Kevin Brooks. I’d give it 3.5 stars.
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This was a very interesting quick read. I especially liked the split narratives between the chapters which made it very easy to read and created and diverse setting for the book. The writing was very good as well which always helps.

The reason for the three stars is mainly because even though I enjoyed it I did feel like a lot of the good action was left a little too late to the end. Also, I was left kind of wanting more at the end I don't really know why but I'm one of those people that really like to know what happens to everyone, and in this instance, I really wanted to know what happened to Gordon. But I suppose this is the idea for a thriller and a mystery.
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Thanks to NetGalley and Candlewick Press for the opportunity to read an ARC of this book.

From the publisher:  Elliot has lived his first thirteen years confined to his home, incapacitated by fear. Now he’s out of pills, snow is falling, and his only safe person is missing. A terrifying thriller from Carnegie Medalist Kevin Brooks.

As the parent of an anxious child, I was immediately drawn to the title of this book. Thankfully, our life looks nothing like this book.   Elliot is afraid of everything - including his own fear. A virtual prisoner in his house - even in his own skin - everything is controlled by a regimen of pills that he takes six times each day.  Elliot's mother, his aunt Shirley and his doctor are the only people with whom he will communicate. When a mix-up at the pharmacy on Christmas Eve means that Elliot's mom has to leave him at home to retrieve the pills that hold the beast (his fear) at bay, what begins as a normal day ends as anything but normal. From a car that won't start, to a drunken bank manager, to a crime gone wrong, Elliot must face things and people and do things he never thought he would - or could. The last 15% of the book held me as a breathless hostage. And even the end had me feeling as though I had just been hit by a freight train.  Though slow in a few parts prior, this was a solid, quick read and one that I wouldn't hesitate to recommend.
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