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A Danger to Herself and Others

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Member Reviews

This was interesting.Although I didn't like the nd in the beginning,I definitely empathize with her as the novel went on. A definitely twisty thriller.
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There is nothing that I love more in a story than an unreliable narrator, and Sheinmel has created one of the best ones yet. Hannah was such a compelling and complex character that I devoured this book in one sitting. I knew that I was really going to enjoy this book the moment Hannah told us she was lying about something she had said earlier in the book and I couldn't read this fast enough to try and determine what was the truth and what was a product of Hannah's mental illness. Hannah, was also not the most likable character but I was extremely empathetic towards her and her parents neglect towards her, and I think that that really worked to the advantage of the author's story. 

I did find some of the bigger plot twists to be rather predictable, but it still didn't take too much enjoyment away from the story. Ever since I read We Were Liars I've always been extremely skeptical around unreliable narrators and continually question what is real and what is not. So, I think me figuring out the plot twists is mainly due to how much I often overthink the plot of a book. I also enjoyed the open ended-ness of the book and loved that this makes you think about the stigma that comes with mental illnesses, the author handled the topic in a professional and thought provoking way. 

Overall, this is great psychological rollercoaster that I think will appeal to many readers!
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I have a soft spot for books that discuss mental illness. I guess it could be a way of seeing myself in a book, or getting an insight into what others may be experiencing. It makes me feel less alone and I find the topic fascinating.

Sheinmal does not disappoint with this intense look at mental illness. Her main character Hannah is a top student, a model daughter and she doesn't deserve to be institutionalised over a simple accident, but her lawyer disagrees. Hannah decides not to waste her time and uses this as an opportunity to befriend Lucy and show the doctors, lawyers and judge, just how wrong they are about her. She would never have hurt her friend. She is the perfect friend, how could anyone think differently?

Hannah is the perfect unreliable narrator, she makes that clear from the outset. 6% in and she tells you that outright.
"It's not true that I can only see a few plants from here. We're actually in the middle of a forest.
I was lying before."

This book drew me in quickly and had me completely invested in Hannah's life within a couple of pages. She is complex and fascinating. Because it's from her point of view, we never get other people's versions of Hannah, so we have to kind of just take her at her word. And it's hard to take someone at their word when they have hurt their friend.
Hannah starts out brash, confident and annoying. She is so sure of herself, that watching that façade crumble around her is heartbreaking. She becomes so vulnerable and unsure of herself that you just want to hold her tight and tell her it will all be ok. It's an emotional ride that was able to surprise me throughout.

I don't want to discuss the plot more as it will give away too much. I think part of the emotional investment in books like these comes from not knowing where they are heading.
I can tell you that the writing was superb and i feel like the author really did her research. The way she describes Hannah's symptoms and behaviours is realistic and honest. I liked that she didn't shy away from the ugly parts of Hannah's personality and illness. Hannah requires a great deal of your empathy and understanding, which can be hard for some as she isn't exactly the nicest girl.

My only problem with this book is that I wanted more, I wanted to know what happened next. I get why the author left it like this, I think anything more would have cheapened it, but it would be great if she could pop me an email to tell me how Hannah's relationship with her parents is going?

Overall this is a fantastic, emotional, contemporary read. I highly recommend.
I received a copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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[Review to be published February 4th on The Nerd Daily]

Alyssa Sheinmel’s latest book, A Danger to Herself and Others, is a young adult dark contemporary book about mental health and people’s prejudices, but also about gradually learning to accept yourself as you are.

Hannah Gold has been wrongly accused of hurting her best friend from summer camp and sent to a mental health institute to be diagnosed, even if she’s sure she shouldn’t be there with real patients.

"Of course, the other patients are here because there’s actually something wrong with them. I’m only here because of a misunderstanding, so there’s no need for me to panic."

However the reader knows something’s up from the first chapters of this novel. Hannah is in fact an unreliable narrator, and the book is told exclusively from her perspective. That’s why reading A Danger to Herself and Others was interesting, entertaining, and a challenge in itself.

"I gaze out the window. […] There are redwood trees as far as I can see, and when the fog gets thick, it condenses on the needlelike leaves and drips onto the roof. It sounds like rain, but it isn’t. It’s not true that I can only see a few plants from here. We’re actually in the middle of a forest. I was lying before."

This book has an excellent mental health representation. The main character spends almost all her days inside a single room and has daily meetings with her therapist. This way the reader gets to really understand how Hannah’s head works and why she has certain goals in her life. At the beginning she can even come out as a creepy character, for example when she seems determined to make new best friends with every girl who has something in common with her.

She is also calculative, determined to obtain what she wants, and she is not scared to use other people in the process. This is why the institute assigning her a roommate, Lucy, seems like a bad decision. However, her friendship with Lucy is going to end up influencing Hannah’s recovery in unexpected ways.

The represented mental illness is finally seen with different eyes in this book. A Danger to Herself and Others: there’s a reason behind the title and you’ll be reminded about it quite a lot (maybe too many times), but in the end it’s there to explain you that people with mental illnesses are not “crazy” or “not normal”. Their brains just work in different ways, and it’s not because of that that we should treat them differently and have prejudices against them. Ignorant people are scared of what people with mental illnesses could do to them, but it turns out they are more a danger to themselves and they are confused about what they should feel. As a result, they should be loved more than ever.

"But can you really call it sanity when it isn’t real, it isn’t natural, it’s chemically induced? When it doesn’t technically belong to me because I wouldn’t have it without the pills they keep giving me? Maybe I’ll never know for certain what’s real, what’s madness, what’s the medication."

All the characters shine in this book. All of them have their rounded personality and goals. I particularly found Hannah’s closeminded parents to be very unlikable and vexing, but that’s why they stood out so much.

I also enjoyed the writing style a lot, as it was quick and simple, but not too much. It really showed Hannah’s personality.

The plot was perhaps the weakest part of this novel. While the mental illness representation and the acceptance process were really well done, the rest wasn’t as exciting. The reader is left with Hannah’s thoughts for the entirety of the book, and only a few major plot points happen. Sometimes she wanders a bit too much with her thoughts when there’s no reason to be given that information. This can lead the reader to feel bored, even if the writing style never lets you put the book down. The “mystery” also wasn’t exactly a mystery as it was advertised.

In conclusion, this book is highly recommended to people who are tired of seeing mental illnesses romanticised and want to see good YA representation instead.

"That’s just my imagination, not a hallucination. That’s okay."
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This is a gripping, well-written novel about mental illness. Based on the synopsis, you can tell there will be an unreliable narrator (which is an understatement!). She's a straight A student, the perfect daughter, and is at a summer program to get ahead for college when her roommate, Agnes, falls out a window. Her parents are out vacationing in Europe and the family lawyer doesn't have much experience, but they're content with leaving her there, so she decides to stick it out.

The representation of mental illness and mental illness institutions were very good. They weren't positive, but they were real. The mental illness is also rarer to find in YA, so it was interesting to read about.

Overall, I really liked the book. I couldn't put it down because it was that good. I also really liked the writing because it went perfectly with the content. The main character, Hannah, was also really intriguing. She seems very sure of herself in the beginning, but as the book goes on everything begins to unravel (just like her). I highly recommend that everyone pick this book up!
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Hannah is an unreliable narrator with a story to tell.  We are given glimpses of truth through a reality that may or may not be real, through the eyes of the self-assured girl who believes for all the world that she does not belong in the institution she has found herself in.  Very readable and intriguing from the start.
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A Danger to Herself and Others is a YA novel that deals with mental illness and coming to terms with a diagnosis. The book is part mystery, part thriller and is a compelling and fast read.  I recommend it and I plan to read Sheinmel’s previous books. A Danger to Herself and Others grabbed me with the very first sentence: 

“When I first got here - when they brought me here - a man with blue pants and a matching shirt, both of which looked like they were made out of paper, asked me questions.”

We soon learn that our protagonist is Hannah Gold, a 17 year old high school student is in a mental institution after her roommate Agnes is in a terrible accident and she is a suspect.  Hannah keeps reminding herself and the reader that it is exactly that — an accident.  She wholeheartedly believes that her “imprisonment” is a huge mistake and is determined to correct it and get back to school.

A Danger to Herself and Others keeps the reader guessing and it’s not clear what’s real and what’s not. Is Hannah a reliable narrator? I was intrigued by Hannah’s description of the hospital’s setting the end of chapter 1 and the end of chapter 2, which led me to suspect that she is an unreliable narrator:

“I stand on my tiptoes to look out my small window and wait for the few plants and trees I can see to dry out and die.” (end of ch.1)

“It’s not true that I can only see a few plants from here. We’re actually in the middle of a forest. I was lying before.” (end of ch. 2)

One gets to know Hannah well through her internal thought process. Some of her thinking is pure stream of consciousness which I enjoyed reading, like at the beginning of chapter 5 when she looks at and contemplates the sky, then the ceiling, then the walls, and then the ceiling lights. From there she imagines what would happen if the bulbs stopped working. Would they let a maintenance worker come in her room to fix them, considering that they have labelled her “a danger to herself and others?” Would they send her outside? There is a lot more detail to these thoughts in Hannah’s mind. 

Sheinmel writes Hannah as witty and clever, which makes A Danger to Herself and Others a more entertaining read. For example, she nicknames her psychiatrist Dr. Lightfoot because she wears ballet slippers and taps the floor as she walks. Also, Hannah doles out interesting tidbits to ponder along the way.

"I suppose your name is the first thing that ever really belongs to you, but when you think about it, it’s not yours at all. Your parents chose it.”

“They needed someone to blame, and I was the only available scapegoat. Their daughter was my best friend. Playing the scapegoat was the least I could do under the circumstances.”

“Being locked up is absurdly boring. The monotony is enough to drive a sane person crazy.”

Some of Hannah’s thinking is amusing, which endears herself to the reader. She is a likable protagonist and I found myself rooting for her.

“I know a bedpan is supposed to be humiliating, but I have to disagree. There’s something oddly luxurious about not having to leave the bed to pee. And about the fact that someone else has to take your waste away. You don’t even have to flush it yourself.”

“I don’t feel like talking. I don’t feel like thinking, either. Thinking means doubting, and doubting means Lightfoot has gotten under my skin like a rash that won’t stop spreading. Doubt means I’m beginning to believe what she says about me. I wish there were an antidoubt drug I could take instead of whatever Lightfoot gave me.”

Hannah alludes to a classic psychology experiment in the early 1970s in which a psychologist and others easily get themselves admitted to a mental hospital after claiming they heard voices saying empty, hollow and thud. Once they are diagnosed and admitted, these pseudo patients explain that they are not insane and act normally. However, now that they have been labelled, all their subsequent behavior is viewed thru the mentally ill filter.  For example, they take copious notes since this is a research experiment but such behavior is considered obsessive-compulsive by the hospital staff.  The conclusion was essentially that one cannot differentiate between the sane and insane within the confines of a mental hospital.

“‘Whoa there,’  he says, reaching out to catch me. I want to shrug off his touch, but I don’t. He might report it to Dr. Lightfoot. I imagine her noting the incident in my file. Hannah Gold doesn’t like to be touched by nameless strangers. Out in the real world, that’s good common sense. In here, it’s a symptom."

“Well, I understand everything. I understand that Dr. Lightfoot is lying to me, playing some kind of game, enjoying a sick power trip. Maybe she’s still mad at me for getting locked out of my room the other day. Maybe she wants to remind me that she’s the one in control, that as long as I’m in this room, the truth is whatever she decides it is.”

But that is Hannah’s mission, as she sees it, to prove to them that she is completely fine, this has all been a terrible mistake and what happened to Agnes was an accident.  But does she know what she is really up against? Is her thinking in fact faulty and is she irrational?

Thank you to Sourcebooks Fire and NetGalley for an advanced reader copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.
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The point of view of a teenaged girl suffering from psychosis was compelling. Watching the story unfold through her experiences was compelling. The ending of the book felt abrupt and instead of punctuating the story, left me feeling stranded. I understand what the author intended, but for me, she didn't achieve it. Still, I recommend this book highly to YA readers, especially those who are YA aged.
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I have to admit I mostly wanted to read this one because of it’s stunning cover. It was so eye-catching that along with the title I decided to give it a go. I tend to find the whole taking place in an institution (which seemed very outdated to me) very interesting. I would consider this one very fast paced, I felt like I flew through it.

I feel like going into this one with just a vague idea of what it’s about really helped with the overall flow of the story. I didn’t see a lot of what was coming, and going on with Hannah until the moment it happened. Hannah is a complex character, to say the least. I was very intrigued with her, but had the hardest time trusting her.

I do read a lot of books that take place in mental hospital settings, so I was almost convinced I knew how everything was going to play out. Luckily for this one it was completely unique to any others I’ve read. The writing was absolutely stunning and I got real Girl Interrupted vibes for sure.
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I wanted to give this book 5 stars but I just couldn’t. Although I fell completely in love with this book, it just started too slow for me.

When I read the blurb I was so impressed that I just had to read it. I didn’t quite devour it in the way I thought I would. It was mysterious all the way to the end and it leaves a lot of questions unanswered. I understand why it was so slow but it doesn’t mean I had to like it. If the author, Alyssa had given it away right at the start, there wouldn’t have been a book.

I love how when you think you know everything that there was to know about Hannah and then it gets taken completely taken away from you and you and you are left wondering yourself if you are completely sane.

This good is a must read. It has a lot of mystery surrounding everything and what exactly happened that even leaves you wondering what next.
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It's the perfect bad girl "I'm innocent and right about everything" story that I love. You're constantly turning the page to find out WHY she's been locked up. Fresh and unique. Love it!
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This book was utterly unputdownable! Sheinmel has done me proud! The storytelling was enveloping and was paced very well.
	The plot of this book was unique. I enjoyed reading from the perspective of a patient and how their mental illness impacted them and their family. The narrator was unreliable, which led to some surprising plot twists!
	The ending was satisfactory enough as to not leave me disappointed, but not so definite as to tie up everything. the ending is left up to interpretation, but there is a good opening to a possible sequel (?).
	I enjoyed the writing style as it was clear and simple to understand. However, on occasion, the descriptions given seemed lacklustre. Alongside this, a lot of information is given in parentheses which sometimes disrupted the flow of sentences.
All in all, a great read that I’d recommend to a younger, teenage audience!

3.5 / 5 stars!
**This is a shortened version of my review for Netgalley! If you would like to see my full review, it can be found here ->
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A Danger to Herself and Others pleasantly surprised me. As a person who loved the book We Were Liars, when I read the comparison, I was excited for another mind-twisting, creepy, psychological read but I was curious as to how this book was going to live up to the high expectations. 
This book managed to satisfy my craving for a book that is a psychological rollercoaster. As a psychology student who plans to work with people of Hannah's age, I was instantly interested in how the story was going to turn out. I love how I was increasingly interested in what actually happened. Hannah sort of reminded me of Mara Dyer in that I almost never trusted her. Hannah is not a nice girl and she isn't always likeable. She believes she's better, smarter, and more mature than everyone else. She believes she's always right (at least until some key events in the story unfold) and this was at times annoying, especially since I found myself not really caring if she even got out at all. Hannah didn't seem to care about Agnes' condition in the hospital at all, even though they were supposedly best friends for weeks. But I also love how strong she was. She believed she was wrongly accused of the crime, and was put into a psychiatric facility due to a misunderstanding, but as the story unravels, she realizes maybe she was the one who was wrong all along. 
I was surprised that both Lucy and Jonah were hallucinations, but with the comparison to We Were Liars, I wasn't as surprised as I would have been if I didn't know of that comparison. I liked how Hannah's hallucinations were "imperfect," and managed to show the diverse set of hallucinations that people with this illness can have. 
I also like how the story is not wrapped in a pretty bow. Hannah was right. Her life is changed forever and she will have to learn to manage her illness. Surprisingly, I felt the most anxiety during the last few pages when Hannah debates not taking her pill at all, when she considers keeping Lucy and Jonah around. I really wanted to shout "Hannah, take your damn pill!" at her! But it goes to show that this will be a journey for Hannah, and even though there were lots of times I didn't necessarily like her, I found myself wishing the best for her. I hope that she manages her illness. I hope that her parents manage to understand her illness better. I hope this experience was humbling for her. I hope she can move forward from this. I hope Hannah can live the full live she's always wanted.
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What a beautifully-written little mind f*ck. I finished A Danger to Herself and Others and spent a few minutes in silence, just wondering how it's possible for an author to dream up such a strange, dark, disturbing tale. I've always found Alyssa Sheinmel's style not to my liking, but there is something about this story, the characters and the bleak setting that really just... works.

This story paints a dark, weird picture of the friendships, rivalries and backstabbing that goes on between the patients   It's about intense female friendships and the deepest, darkest aspects of human nature. It's a really odd novel, straddling the line between contemporary thriller and paranormal mystery. It's a very psychological story. The reveal of the mystery itself comes far behind the strength of exploring the mindset of denial and acceptance as Hannah tries to deal with her diagnosis. She has go through treatment and it's a delightful treat to be in her head as she deals with the emotions and repercussions. She's suddenly given a roommate called Lucy, who adds a whole other element to this story, especially since she may be a danger to herself and others.

The writing is absolutely stunning. It is beautiful and haunting and Sheinmel establishes an atmosphere that sucks you in and compels you to read on. The prose gets under your skin.

The ending is very strange, a little stranger than I would usually like, but this is a powerful book about what humans are capable of under subdued circumstances- the good and the bad. Can you separate the lies from the truth?
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This likable and unreliable narrator (Hannah) tells her story from behind the walls of a mental institution and you can't stop reading. What really happened to Agnes? Where is Jonah? Why do they give her a roommate if she really is a "danger to others?" So many questions and as the narrative unfolds you learn more about Hannah and gain a better understanding of what it is like to live with mental illness. It is a bit terrifying to see our mental health system from that vantage point. Do books like this and "Gone Girl" make only child families look like breeding grounds for impaired mental health?

Thank you to Sourcebooks Fire and NetGalley for providing a digital ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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It’s time for a little confession I’d like to share with the group: I am entranced by books about institutionalization from narrators who are in those very establishments. There are many writers who do this well: Susanna Kaysen, Ken Kesey, James Frey, and I remember reading these books as a teen, finding parts of myself in these characters while also knowing with comfort that I identify with their humanity and not with their illnesses. Alyssa Scheinmel’s novel balances out the hard truths of recovery while also adding the drama that suspense enthusiasts, like myself, adore.

Hannah is a danger to herself and others. She has been committed since her roommate’s accident, and while Hannah knows that she is not responsible, she needs to prove that fact to the people who matter: Doctor “Lightfoot”, her parents, the judge. Hannah is smart and if she is to prove her innocence to these idiots, she needs an action plan. Lucy is Hannah’s new roommate at the hospital and maybe if Hannah is able to prove that she can play nice with the other kids, she will win back not only some hospital privileges but also her freedom.

From what I know of delusional people (which I should clarify, is not a lot), Alyssa Sheinmel nails it. We have a narrator that jumps around, is potentially untrustworthy/forgetful, has a low opinion of others, and an inflated sense of their own intelligence. And yet, I love this character! She is smart, resourceful, an avid reader – all things that I value in myself and others. I actually started to be persuaded by Hannah, which is dangerous because she is under observation for potentially hurting her friend. Seeing things from her perspective, you are drawn in as her peer. I found myself getting angry and offended on her behalf since I thought her actions were justifiable responses to the treatment she was receiving.

However, over the course of the novel, you learn that her perception of reality is heavily distorted. While Hannah is unwell and telling us things from her perspective, we also get to witness how Dr. Lightfoot starts to help Hannah understand that responses she thought were acceptable were actually harmful. A Danger to Herself and Others offers not just introspection from Hannah’s point-of-view but also examines the external factors contributing to her situation, like how she was raised and what her family dynamic is like. One final thing I will mention on this point is that I also thought that the level of treatment that Hannah received was startlingly accurate. As someone who has been on a long-term medication plan, this novel perfectly describes the issue with side-effects and how they can sometimes be worse than the symptoms you are trying to treat.

Just as Hannah has to earn privileges in the hospital, I like that I have to earn the privilege to know about her relationship with Agnes (her roommate on the outside) and the critical details of the accident.  Sheinmel does a fantastic job of rewarding the reader with fascinating information while holding some things back if we stick with Hannah. There are enough juicy details revealed that waiting seems worth it. If you decide to pick up A Danger to Herself and Others, you are in store for a very bingey read.

A Danger to Herself and Others by Alyssa B. Sheinmel is available for purchase starting February 5, 2019. A big thank you to the publishers for a free reading copy in exchange for an honest review.
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3.5 Stars
Review by Nancy
Late Night Reviewer
Up All Night w/ Books Blog

A Danger to Herself and Others, by Alyssa B. Sheinmel, was a quick, engaging and very interesting read. A take on mental illness and those who suffer from it. I went in with an open mind and was surprised to see where Alyssa B. Sheinmel took the story. 

Hannah finds herself in a mental institute after her best friend suffers an accident that leaves her in a coma. She is being accused of possibly causing the accident but, why would she hurt her best friend? That was the big question. Was Hannah involved, was she a harm to herself and to others? It took me a little while to truly understand and like Hannah— I couldn’t get a grasp on her character.

Although I did enjoy this book, I felt it lacked in some areas. The writing was great but I couldn’t completely fall in love with the story. There were a couple twists I did not see coming and those kept me reading. I was captivated up until the end, where I felt like I needed more closure than I was given. Nonetheless, I enjoyed the story! 

**I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own. **
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It’s been a recent trend lately where the female protagonists are named Hannah (think Thirteen Reasons Why, Pretty Little Liars, Hanna Fell From The Sky) in novels, and both films and shows haven’t been immune to this phenomenon either (think Girls, Hanna, and recently The Exorcism of Hannah Grace). So when I started reading this novel I noticed that the protagonist’s name was Hannah, I somewhat groaned. I hope you five me, but I’ve overdosed on Hannahs as of late.

On the upside though, is that the author writes with such clarity and poise that I could forgive her naming the protagonist Hannah. And it helped that the story was narrated in the first person, meaning that the name would be used even less.

Apart from my dislike of the name choice, I really, really, REALLY enjoyed this book immensely. I don’t know what it says about me that I LOVE books that take place in any sort of mental institution whether it be contemporary fiction, nonfiction, or historical. I really enjoyed having the story being told by Hannah’s point of view. She’s smart, sarcastic, and somewhat manipulative. This is probably why the reader initially may believe Hannah into thinking that she has no place being in the mental institution, after all, her best friend Agnes falling out of the window could’ve been an accident, right? The majority of the book focuses on Hannah being stuck in the institute and finding a way to get out (but not as in breaking out but proving to the doctor that she’s sane). The reader receives hints and flashbacks and those are compelling enough to make one want to know what exactly happened the night that Agnes fell. Was Hannah to blame or has she been placed in the institute by mistake?

Some of the twists in the book I suspected, while others completely took me by surprise. It was one intense wild ride. If you’re into books about mental illness, asylums, deception, and unreliable narrators, then this book is right up your alley.

*Thank you so much to NetGalley and Sourcebooks Fire for the digital ARC of this novel in exchange for an honest review!
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I did not see this book coming at all! Had me hook, line and sinker. Really enjoyed reading an unsympathetic, nuanced heroine. I wish there'd been more time after the big revelations to explore what had happened to her, as it felt a little rushed and wrapped up too neatly, but perhaps structurally it wouldn't have worked as well.
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I feel like I’ve read this book a hundred times. Unsurprising plot twists that I figured out almost as soon as the characters were introduced.
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