Imagine Us Happy

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 23 Nov 2018

Member Reviews

I would like to apologize to Harlequin Teen for taking so long to read this, because yikes am I ever late to reviewing this. I’m still catching up on stuff from August 2018 on my blog. I’m sorry for being a disaster.

Sometimes I forget why I love reading books with mental health rep and then I read them and remember exactly why I love them. They always feel like home. I get to see myself in a book and it feels amazing (#representationmatters). Imagine Us Happy was no exception.

The book follows Stella (who has depression and is taking medication and seeing a therapist for it) and Kevin (who also has depression and is seeing a therapist, but I forget if he’s on medication) and their relationship. It’s told from Stella’s point of view, but we still get to see both of their struggles with the illness that also controls my life. I loved getting see how depression affects them both similarly and differently. Normally with mental health YA you only get one mentally ill character and a neurotypical love interest, so it was really nice to get to see how depression affects two different people. Content warning for self-harm (discussion of scars, relapse)

There were also so many thing Stella does that I do. Struggling to get out of bed in the morning until the last second, getting angry as defense mechanism, and other things I’m blanking on. Not all of those necessarily have to do with depression. It was just nice to be able to see myself in these characters.

Going off that, the characters were well done. They all felt really complex and human, which is always nice to see. Kevin and Stella weren’t just their depression. They had interest, passions, goals. A lot of the side characters were also similarly complex.

Imagine Us Happy is told in non-chronological order and it really works for the story. There are no surprises. The reader knows Stella and Kevin aren’t together by the end at the beginning of the story, so it’s all about discovering how they got there. There are friendship breakups, neglectful parents, parent marriages dissolving, and even an acknowledgement that they probably shouldn’t try a relationship before they even start anything. You get to see how that all contributed to the ending, and it’s fascinating to watch.

Speaking of fascinating to watch, I was hooked for the majority of the book. I needed to know how this all went down. There were some spots where my enjoyment faltered, but for the most part I didn’t want to stop reading.

This book also made me beg Twitter for an explanation of the American school system, so it was also a learning experience. Our schools are very different (at least where I’m from), so thank you to the many kind people who explained things to me.

The one slight complaint I have is that I felt a sort of disconnect from the story. I have a similar complaint for a lot of the books I’ve read recently, so it could very well be my depression’s fault. It’s not that I wasn’t interested. It’s more that I never really latched on to anything in the story. Like I would recognize something I do in the characters, but I never had a moment of “Oh my god this is so me”. I hope that makes sense.

Overall, Imagine Us Happy is definitely worth the read if you’re looking for a book with depression rep, earning it 4 stars out of 5.
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Harlequin Teen and NetGalley provided me with an electronic copy of Imagine Us Happy.  I was under no obligation to review this book and my opinion is freely given.

Stella is a depressed junior in high school, just trying to survive with the stresses of life all around her.  She has her friends, but does not think that they can relate to her particular set of circumstances.  When Stella meets Kevin, a senior who understands her low feelings, will the connection they share allow her the liberty to be happy?  What happens when their relationship becomes rocky?

In an effort to portray Stella's story in a unique manner, the author jumps back and forth through the events that make up the main plot.  This haphazard way of telling the story serves only to confuse the reader, especially because Stella is an unreliable narrator.  Her version of events, jumbled as it is, are simply all over the place.  There is a lesson to be learned regarding asking for help, but the way that the information is presented affects the moral.  In a genre full of YA novels regarding mental illness, teenage angst, and relationships, Imagine Us Happy simply does not stand out for me.
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I received this book as an arc from net galley for an honest review. I feel as though this was the perfect time to read this book. My review has taken awhile because I needed to mull over my thoughts on this novel for awhile. Overall I gave this book a 4.5/5 stars. I really enjoyed the writing and the main character I could relate to on many levels. I felt as though its been awhile since I've been able to connect to a character so strongly which is why I really enjoyed this novel. I highly recommend.
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I received this arc from Netgalley for an honest review. I'm happy that there continue to be more novels about mental illness for teens as it is much needed in that genre. That being said there are a lot of triggers in this book that may also harm so readers. All in all an okay read, but something I will definitely purchase for my teen collection.
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Jennifer Yu used her incredible ability to craft a work that I was easily able to connect to. This heart wrenching story was excellently written and allows the reader to fully immerse themselves in the world of Stella. There should be some trigger warnings but oh my goodness was it excellent.
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Thank you Netgalley/Publisher for an early copy

A well-written YA contemporary novel that deals with important topics  I will be reading more from this author in the future. I recommend this to fans of YA Contemporary.
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*I read and reviewed an ARC of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.* 

This book took me a fair amount of time to get into because I'm one who is always looking for a Happily Ever After and this book tells us from page one, that the romance isn't going to be happy. It has been so long since I've read a book with the romance not working out that it took me a long time to remember that love doesn't determine if something is good or bad. Much like when the therapist in this book mentions how our happiness shouldn't rely upon someone else and mutual love. I had to step back and remember that sometimes personal growth and understanding can be better than being in love in a unhealthy relationship. Once I did, this book was much more enjoyable.

Not that it was easy to read-- there are some heavy topics brought up, such as depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, self-harm, and of course the feelings when in an unhealthy relationship. Really though, I think it is all handled beautifully. I was very happy that characters were supportive of Stella and not her relationship and kept trying to help her and of course how everything happened. It all feels so real. Truly, this book feels like it could be a diary of someone's life and I think that is why the book hits that much harder. 

An interesting thing I didn't know until I started is that this book isn't always told in chronological order. The chapters are mixed around. At first it took me a bit to get into, but then I really saw why and enjoyed it. It kept some things in suspense and helped spread out all the rough patches. It felt like someone going through their memory of Junior year and the way it is written helps the reader fully understand how a person can stay in love and a relationship when it seems so negative. 

I think the only thing that really kept me from totally loving this book is that I disliked Kevin. I never thought he was a great guy and felt more like a "nice guy" to me. He is so pretentious and he felt more like a college student than a high school one. I also wasn't sure why Stella and Kevin like each other so much... perhaps we didn't get to see those scenes? 

So, do I recommend this one? Yes. This isn't light and fluffy, but if you're looking for something real and emotional but still have some happiness at the end, you should check it out. I'll be reading more by Jennifer Yu in the future.
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{trigger warnings: depression, mental illness, cutting} Stella, who is navigating her own life with depression, is determined to survive her junior year, tune out her parents’ arguments and hang out with her two best friends. But everything changes when she meets Kevin, who understands her in a way that no one else has. Their relationship quickly becomes all-consuming, and Stella soon finds herself spinning out of control. Now, I read the entirety of Imagine Us Happy while I was on a road trip, and that was an interesting experience because it’s a very weighty read. It wasn’t easy to read about what Stella is going through, her thoughts, her feelings and her experiences, but it felt raw and authentic and I think that was supposed to be the point. I also appreciated the narrative choice of going back and forth between the present and the past, because it built up the tension and kept me reading. While it wasn’t easy to read and while I wouldn’t necessarily classify it as enjoyable, I thought Imagine Us Happy was a solid read.
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Imagine Us Happy is a change from the usual YA novel that contains a cute, happy ending. The main character, Stella warns the reader of this from the very beginning. This warning had me hooked. Not that I don’t enjoy a feel-good YA novel every once in awhile, I am far more drawn to something more realistic. The focus on mental illness was so-so on the realism side and the nonlinear timeline was rough, but all in all this was a good read and I am so thankful for the deviation from the typical YA novel.
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I did not love this. I started reading as I was hoping for something a bit less "neatly tied" than typical YA genre, and also because I think it's important to be inclusive of mental illness in the content that is presented to our youth. This minimized the issue of mental illness, in my opinion, by putting too much stake in the role of a relationship in reconciling it. Come on, YA writers - do better.
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After Stella returns from an experimental wilderness summer camp for teens with mental health issues, she just want to get through junior year the best she can. Her friends Lin and Katie are ready to help her. That is until she meets Kevin who turn Stella's world upside down. Unfortunately, Kevin has his own demons which lead to a tumultuous six months. During this time she loses track of herself as well as her friends. I enjoyed the way the book starts out with the "last" chapter. Then starts to the beginning so the reader can see the signs of how Stella gets to the point of where she is. Although it would be good for any girl to read, probably best for grades 8 and up due to language, sexual content, underage drinking & drug use.
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There are some stories where you know things aren’t going to end well and watching the inevitable train wreck is just painful. For me, IMAGINE US HAPPY was one of those books. Our main character, Stella, says from the beginning that there won’t be a happy ending between her and her boyfriend Kevin. Despite this warning, watching things between them go so badly was uncomfortable for me. There are so many red flags in their relation that reading this book felt a bit like a horror movie. 

In a way, IMAGINE US HAPPY is a nice change from the usual YA contemporary filled with meet cutes and happy endings. The lessons it teaches are important, particularly in a world where we’re repeatedly told that meeting the right person will “fix” us. My favorite element of the story was Stella’s friendship with Lin and Katie. Their relationship felt so relatable and the distance that grows between them reminded me of instances in high school when I lost friends due to their relationships. Getting Stella’s perspective in that situation made me feel a little more understanding of those friends and how sometimes we all need help finding our way back to the friendships we still value. 

Fans of contemporary who are looking for something different should give IMAGINE US HAPPY a try. My threshold for being uncomfortable is too low to make this an enjoyable reading experience but the story IMAGINE US HAPPY tells is important and well done.
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Rating: I barely remember reading this book, and I just finished it last week.

Imagine Us Happy promises to add to the ever=growing list of books about mental illness, but it's mostly conflating mental illness with teen angst. For the most part, the depression explored here is that of the over-medicated masses-- not that that's necessarily a bad thing, or that it shouldn't be explored. Rather than Stella's life spinning out of control, a more accurate description would be that it's seemingly collapsing in on itself. Surrounded by self-centered, toxic people and their even-more-toxic relationships, and either not self aware enough or else not motivated enough to seek an elevated perspective, Stella is stewing in a cesspool. She clings to Kevin, hoping he'll prove to be her life raft, or else a savior who will pull her out, but he turns out to drag her even further under. 
I think the best thing about this book is that a lot of young women-- and those who need it the most-- will read themselves into it, and hopefully explore different parts of themselves, perhaps examining certain relationships or nuances in a different light. We've seen this story plenty of times before, and Yu isn't really adding anything here, but I think work like this, which offers a reader the possibility of relating or feeling less lonely because someone else has experienced the same thing and come out the other side of it relatively unscathed, is important.
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I fear that this became a victim of my own expectations.  I was very excited to read a YA book that dealt with mental health issues.  This took me a long time to finish because of two reasons.  One: PDF is really hard to read on an ereader, I wish publishers would stop sending them.  Two: the story jumps around a lot.  I hate having to remember the chapter number to know where in the timeline I am.  
There were parts where I questioned the author’s choice of words.  Did she speak from experience or from research?  I wanted a novel that was a coming of age story of a teen with mental illness but instead got a story of two teens with mental illness that are in a toxic relationship.  I wish the author hadn’t given the MC a mental illness and just made her a normal girl dealing with a toxic relationship.
2.5 stars
ARC provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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This was a decent story. I enjoy the focus on mental health, but feel that it perpetuates the myth that mental illness can be healed or cured by finding the right person. I’m sorry, it’s a great theory, but it just doesn’t work that way.
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On the surface, this book has everything to be totally captivating - deeply flawed character, an ill-fated romance, quirky best friends... But then in reality, we bounced around from past to present, the stories kept alluding to how toxic their relationship turns, but i read it all and at the end couldn't figure out what was SO bad. Don't get me wrong, it wasn't a healthy relationship, but I've read others that make me really understand what went wrong.
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Stella was a very familiar character but not memorable. I think the toxic relationships and mental health issues was handled appropriately but again, it was a very familiar story line seen in dozens of other books and Yu didn't  stand out to me.
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The story line bounced back in forth which kind of got on my nerves. It was raw and real subject that is down played a lot but was really brought to light in this book and gives the readers a real insight to the abuse.
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The format of Imagine Us Happy was very engaging and added to the book's emotional appeal. At times it felt rushed, but overall I felt the book was a fresh take on an important subject.
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Image Us Happy
By Jennifer Yu
Genre: young adult, realistic fiction
Content Warnings: depression, anxiety, self-harm, parents fighting, toxic romantic relationship
Description: “Stella lives with depression, and her goals for junior year are pretty much limited to surviving her classes, staying out of her parents’ constant fights and staving off unwanted feelings enough to hang out with her friends Lin and Katie.

Until Kevin. A quiet, wry senior who understands Stella and the lows she’s going through like no one else. With him, she feels less lonely, listened to—and hopeful for the first time since ever…

But to keep that feeling, Stella lets her grades go and her friendships slide. And soon she sees just how deep Kevin’s own scars go. Now little arguments are shattering. Major fights are catastrophic. And trying to hold it all together is exhausting Stella past the breaking point. With her life spinning out of control, she’s got to figure out what she truly needs, what’s worth saving—and what to let go.”

First off, let me just say while I loved Imagine Us Happy, I cannot speak for its accuracy on toxic relationships. The characters were so well-rounded. Even side characters had backgrounds and stories that mattered. I loved the sensitivity that each character was handled. For instance, Stella’s best friend Katie who is a party girl is given thoughts and a personality that impacts the story in ways more than just her encouraging her friends to have sex. She is actually a fleshed-out being. Stella’s abusive boyfriend is handled with a similar sensitivity but in a way that does not defend his actions. 

The structure of the story was unique and while it took some time to get used to, I found the structure appealing. The chapters are shuffled around a bit, positioning a few later chapters between earlier ones. Additionally, reflections from Stella are interweaved within the story, assisting readers in figuring out the exact timeline of the story. While the mixed-up chapters were confusing at times, I loved the symbolism of the disorganization. As you get deeper into the story, the chapters become more and more muddled. 

I thought the depression representation was good. Readers are able to see two different people with the disorder that exemplify the diversity within the depressive community. While both Kevin’s and Stella’s depression were very different from my experience with the mental illness, they both seemed realistic. I have to admit, I would not suggest people with depression to read this book as some of the self-harm scenes may be triggering. Overall, Imagine Us Happy was a great read and I recommend the book for its character development, structure, and depression representation. Imagine Us Happy became available October 23rd, 2018.
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