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A Danger to Herself and Others

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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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A Danger to Herself and Others

Author: Alyssa Sheinmel 

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Publishers Author Page

Publication Date: February 5, 2019

Genre: Young Adult > Coming of Age > Literature & Fiction > Social & Family Issues > Depression & Mental Illness 

Page Count: 320 Pages

ISBN-10: 1492667242

ISBN-13: 978-1492667247

SNEAK PEAK & DISCUSSION GUIDE

Now Available for Pre-order from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, IndieBound, Books-A-Million, !ndigo, Waterstones    

My Rating: 5 Stars

About the Author (From Author’s Website):

Alyssa Sheinmel is the bestselling author of young adult novels including A Danger to Herself and Others, Faceless, Second Star, The Beautiful Between, The Lucky Kind, and The Stone Girl. She is also the co-author of the New York bestselling novel The Haunting of Sunshine Girl and its sequel, The Awakening of Sunshine Girl. Alyssa grew up in Northern California and New York and attended Barnard College. She now lives and writes in New York City. For more bio information on Alyssa visit the BIO Page of her website. 

 Social Media Sites: Instagram, Twitter, Alyssa Sheinmel’s Website  

About A Danger to Herself and Others (From Publisher’s Author Page):

Girl, Interrupted meets We Were Liars in this gripping new novel from New York Times bestselling author Alyssa Sheinmel.

Four walls. One window. No way to escape. 

Hannah knows there’s been a mistake, She doesn’t need to be institutionalized. What happened to her roommate at that summer program was an accident. As soon as the doctor and judge figure out that she isn’t a danger to herself or others, she can go home to start her senior year. Those college applications aren’t going to write themselves. Until then, she’s determined to win over the staff and earn some privileges, so she doesn’t lose her mind to boredom. Then Lucy arrives. 

Lucy has her own baggage, and she’s the perfect project to keep Hannah’s focus off all she is missing at home. But Lucy may be the one person who can get Hannah to confront the secrets she’s avoiding-and the dangerous games that landed her in confinement in the first place.

For all other books by Alyssa Sheinmel, please refer to the Books Page on her website:

Contact Alyssa Sheinmel

Media Inquiries: Brooke Shearouse – Scholastic Inc. – 557 Broadway New York, NY 10011 – BShearouse@Scholastic.com

Rights Inquiries: Jessica Regel –  33 West 17th Street – New York, NY 10012 –  (212) 929-5064 – jregel@foundrymedia.com 

Agent Inquiries: Molly Glick – Creative Artists Agency – 405 Lexington Avenue – New York, NY 10174 – 
(212) 277-9000 –mollie.glick@caa.com  

My Review:

In Alyssa Sheinmel’s compelling fictitious novel A Danger to Herself and Others, she takes on mental health by writing about the psychotic episodes of a coming of age teenager. Hannah is the only child, comes from a well to do family, is conspicuously more intelligent than those of her age, is quick-witted and appears to know exactly where her path in life is taking her.

Sheinmel included an Author’s Note at the end of her novel in which she writes, “This book is a work of fiction, and is not meant to educate readers about mental illness or institutionalization. No doubt I granted myself some creative liberty to tell the story I wanted to tell: no good doctor would keep Hannah confined to her room the way she is for much of the story, and Hannah might not be sent home quite so quickly following her diagnosis.” The key words here are “good doctor” and “sent home so quickly following her diagnosis.”

The truth is we are experiencing a mental health epidemic in the United States today, and the mental health disorders do not discriminate whether by age, sex, religion or any other orientation. Mental health disorders come in all shapes and sizes, are overt and covert, and those with a mental health disorder can go undiagnosed for years, or life. These are the facts. Look at how many young people have gone into schools, malls, movie theaters, churches, etc., and taken the lives of so many innocent children and adults. These individuals had mental disorders that were not acted on even though family members, friends, and neighbors all spoke up after the fact, too late to intercede and prevent the killings. As I read A Danger to Herself and Others I could not stop thinking that every one of us must report another’s unusual behavior and actions, whether brother, sister, son or daughter, friend, neighbor, teacher, etc..

Sheinmel may have written a fictitious novel, but it is a novel that must not be dismissed as “not possible” or “unbelievable,” or whatever dismissive means that have been used in reading and reviewing this novel. The truth is we all know, regardless of age, race, economic class, etc. that what we read in A Danger to Herself and Others is possible, believable and happens every day. If you are shrouded from seeing the effects of mental disorders, you need to wake up to real life because although this particular novel is fiction, it is real life.

Hannah may have been confined to her room for the majority of her stay at the mental health facility, but in actuality, Hannah was only in the faculty for one and a half months, maybe two. It's easy enough to calculate because we know Hannah’s parents sent her to California to attend summer school and Hannah had already been in summer school for two months before the incident happened that had her ordered to the mental health facility for observation and being a potential danger to herself and others.

And because Hannah was considered a danger to herself and others, she would have, in reality, been kept away from the other patients until she was correctly diagnosed, after which she would start a medication regiment. Here’s another fact, there is no one size fits all when it comes to medications and diagnoses. We know that when Hannah returned to New York with her parents’ school had been in session for a month before her return. So, again, do the math. Also, remember that Hannah was a juvenile so it would be natural to turn her over to her parents to be taken home for additional monitoring and treatment. There are roughly three-thousand miles between New York City and San Francisco.

Alyssa Sheinmel also wrote in her Author’s Notes, “Additionally, I read that antipsychotics may take effect after a few days, but following acute episodes, they can take as long as four to six weeks…” This is also not fiction; it is a fact. As I said, there is no one size fits all. What works for one may not work for many others.

Sheinmel’s novel is skillfully written, and although she makes it clear that her novel is a work of fiction, she wrote a novel befitting a non-fiction novel. It was clear to me that Sheinmel had not just put pen to paper and began to write, just as it was manifested in her writing that she had spent more than enough adequate time researching the topic of mental health disorders and medications used to treat disorders. In this case a psychotic disorder. Sheinmel was very much on point when writing A Danger to Herself and Others.

I have to admit that I was dismayed by the 1-3 Star reviews that Alyssa Sheinmel’s novel A Danger to herself and Others received. I was also put off by the dismissiveness of what is and is not believable or capable, as I have already addressed. I would suggest to the readers and reviewers who have doubts about psychosis and psychotic episodes that they get themselves a Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Health Disorders, 5th Edition: DSM-5 and familiarize themselves with mental illness as Sheinmel clearly did. It is unfair to the novel and the author when someone reads a book and decides what is right or wrong about the book, or reads a book that may be in your genre, but the subject matter is not in your genre. You are not required to read a book that is not in your genre, simply notify NetGalley that you are not going to write a review because the book was outside of your genre. Don’t bash a novel or the author that put hundreds of hours into writing the novel you are criticizing. The negative reviews are as wrong as the 1-3 star reviews that A Danger to Herself and Others received from reviews on NetGalley. I have to say that I would like to see how things go for Hannah now that she is back in New York with her family, or is she? I hope there will be a sequel to A Danger to Herself and Others.

Thank you to Sourcebooks Fire, Alyssa Sheinmel and NetGalley for the opportunity to read and review A Danger to Herself and Others. And a special note of thanks to Alyssa Sheinmel for taking on a subject too many turn their backs on.
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Compelling writing,  grabbed me and didn't let go until the last page... I found the ending slightly unsatisfying,  but in keeping with the story.  It had to end that way,  to have taken it any further would have undermined the general plotting.  Hannah,  in particular,  was so well-written,  very believable. 
Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for the opportunity to read and give my unbiased opinion
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I haven't read many books that are set in mental hospitals and yet they seem pretty popular in the YA community which is why I decided to give this one a try. The characters were really interesting and the writing was very personal.
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A Danger to Herself and Others was a book that grabbed hold of me from the first chapters and held on through the end. While many novels set in mental institutions feel similar or monotonous and sketch the routines of daily clinical life and the trappings of mental illness, this book centers around Hannah, who is an intelligent character who struggles with her circumstances. And its no wonder, because the book forces us to question them too.  What really happened to her roommate? Can she truly trust her doctor? Why is she still in the mental hospital? This book made my heart pound and my head spin and all in a good way.
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https://iwriteinbooks.wordpress.com/2019/01/11/a-danger-to-herself-and-others-alyssa-sheinmel/


(I received an ARC of this book from Netgalley and Sourcebooks Fire but all opinions are my own.)

When Hanna Gold is placed under observation in a California psychiatric ward, she knows it's just a matter of time before her name is cleared. She has no reason to be under observation and her stay there is all part of a huge misunderstanding. 

She's primarily worried about the wellbeing of her summer camp roommate, Agnes, who took a horrible fall from their dorm room window, just before Hanna was shipped away. Her secondary worry is getting released from observation before the school year starts with college applications on the horizon. 

She does her best to do ask she's asked, but still maintains that she doesn't belong on the ward, so her resistance feels genuine.

That is, until things start to unravel. The life and stories Hanna has relied on start to fray at the edges, little by little, rapidly descending into internal chaos. 

Sheinmel has created a beautifully dark portrayal of reconciling who we are with or without our mental health. In a world where we are just now accepting the tip of the iceberg of mental health (like high functioning depression and anxiety) she tackles the heavier aspects of stigma and institutionalization surrounding much deeper issues (bulimia and psychosis). 

We have a long way to go with mental health awareness and care (says the clinical therapy grad student...) but as more raw and honest portrayals make their way into literature, we can start to chip away at the hurdles in front of us.
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"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."

I received a free e-ARC through NetGalley from the publishers at Sourcebooks Fire. Trigger warnings: mental illness, severe injury, eating disorders, anorexia, bulimia.

When Hannah's best friend and roommate falls out a window during a game of Truth or Dare and suffers life-threatening injuries, Hannah is surprised to find that Agnes's parents blame her. She doesn't argue when a judge sends her to an institution for a mental evaluation. Hannah knows this has all been a big mistake, and as long as she proves that she's not dangerous to herself or anyone else, she'll be out in time to begin her senior year at school. Her new roommate, Lucy, is a dancer, and Hannah decides to befriend her to help prove her innocence. But Lucy has her own demons, and Hannah's memory of that night may not be as reliable as she thinks.

It took me a while to adjust to Sheinmel's writing style. Not being familiar with her other books, I'm not sure whether it's her usual style or Hannah's narrative voice, but it's rambling and repetitive. (Far too many repetitions of the phrases "Light as a feather, stiff as a board" and "a danger to herself and others". I started skipping over them at some point.) There isn't a lot of substance to it, and it's full of pointless details and Hannah's meaningless speculation on aspects of the hospital, staff, and patients. Nothing much happens in the first half of the book; there aren't a lot of other characters, so it's just Hannah's inner monologue going full speed without really getting anywhere.

Hannah isn't a very likable character. She arrogantly believes she's always the smartest person in the room, and she doesn't see a problem with using her intellect to manipulate people. In fact, the descriptions of her numerous best friends seem to imply that she chooses girls with low popularity or self-esteem and shapes them into more appropriate friend material. She calls it helping, but it sounds a lot like self-aggrandizing manipulation. Her relationship with her parents is complicated and borderline neglectful, but all we really know about them for most of the novel is what Hannah tells us. Her relationship with Lucy isn't as fleshed out as I was hoping for, and most of the other characters are shadows in Hannah's personal drama. She's also a textbook unreliable narrator, since she openly lies about some of those pointless details and misremembers others that aren't as pointless.

I have mixed feelings about this book, but I think my doubts are more about the psychological thriller genre as a whole than this book in particular. I'm wondering whether books that rely on a character's mental health for "thrills" are inherently ableist and perpetuating stereotypes that people with mental illnesses are dangerous. In that respect, A Danger to Herself and Others may have a few problems. Hannah's mental health is used as a major plot twist, so much that it edges into shock value territory, and the possibility that she may have pushed Agnes out the window somewhat feeds into that stereotype of danger. Much as the author's note claims that this is not meant to be an accurate picture of mental illness or institutionalization, the representation still matters. I'm not the best person to decide whether it's offensive; just know that there may be some issues going into it.

However, it isn't all bad. From my limited perspective, it isn't even mostly bad. Hannah receives treatment for her illness, which is already an important step. She has talk therapy sessions and takes medication. Her struggle with accepting her diagnosis is well-developed and far from complete by the time the novel is over. The book makes it very clear that her illness is lifelong, and she will have to continue to manage it--but also that it can be managed without sacrificing the rest of her life. There's some effort toward the end to convince readers that patients with Hannah's diagnosis are far more likely to hurt themselves than other people (and, in the author's note, that they're even more likely to be hurt by other people). I found the second half of the book more engaging, since it deals openly and in depth with these issues. The biggest problem for me is that the two halves of the novel seem to be at odds with each other. It can’t seem to decide whether it’s a thriller or a story about mental illness, and it doesn’t really do justice to either side.

I review regularly at brightbeautifulthings.tumblr.com.
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It's so hard to write this review when I know that even the smallest of details can ruin the plot, but I'll try to keep this extremely vague. I'll start with the obvious things about this novel; it's a YA contemporary thriller/mystery set in a mental institution (and I loved it a lot).

The title of this book is what intrigued me the most because it's a brilliant at catching your interest before you've even started it. I was gripped from the very first page, and couldn't wait to learn more about the main character, Hannah, and why she was in the mental institution in the first place. It's definitely a book that keeps you guessing the whole way through and it's an incredibly fast read!

I loved Hannah as the main character and seeing how she reacted to everything around her. She's quite an arrogant character, which some readers may struggle with, but I loved it. Hannah is put into the mental institution against her will, and she will do anything to get out - even if it means playing along with the rules.

Reading from Hannah's perspective was incredibly interesting and unique. She's labelled as a 'danger to herself and others' and for the first half of the book, I was constantly questioning why. It isn't until you really begin to read through the lines, and reach the midway point, that you realise Hannah is an unreliable narrator. I think that's partly why I enjoyed this book so much, because Hannah was such a well written character.

This book makes you question literally everything and I can't wait to see what everyone else thinks when it's released!
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There isn't a lot I feel like I can say in this review that wouldn't give things away to readers and I don't want to do that. I think this is one of those books that can easily go one way or another for a reader and I see review being pretty split on this one. 

I have to admit that even though I was intrigued by this book and its premise I was a bit bored throughout it. The redundancy of some things that I felt could be left out after the third or fourth time made this book drag for me.  I did enjoy how it was written and narrated by the main character Hannah. In the beginning we are convinced there is nothing wrong with her but as the story goes along we find she may just not be that reliable of a narrator. This gives us the perfect set up for how the story and how events have played out. 

The other issue I had was the ending on this. I think the author could have and gave us a bit more of Part Three and I probably would have given this more stars. I just don't feel like this story was complete with the build up that we were given.

I think this could have easily been a 5 star for me had some things been done a bit differently.
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Overall, A Danger to Herself and Others was page-turning, compulsive reading experience. Once I reached the twist around the middle, it was hard to put the book down. Ultimately I read it in less than 24 hours--always a good sign with a thriller! The writing was engaging, and I felt immersed in the world and characters. And, well, the characters, particularly the main & POV character Hannah... there were times I really didn't like her, but I think that was the point? I like that I didn't like her. :)

Content warning: those who are triggered by eating disorders and presentations/discussions of them (and the occasional joke) might have issues with some content in A Danger to Herself and Others. I am not an ED sufferer/survivor myself, but having friends in recovery, I was struck that it's possible some individuals might have difficulty with a few passages in the early part of the book. (a major side character suffers from an ED and is institutionalized for it; the MC observes and passes comment on other girls who suffer from EDs)

From here, I will give a spoiler warning, as I think it will be tricky to discuss/review the book properly without getting into some spoiler territory.

Ultimately, what rendered this a very solid 4-star read for me was the balance of my expectations and experience of Hannah's character vs. the reality of her as she's ultimately presented, and what I see as a potential blindspot in the narrative. Meaning, my reasons for knocking off a star are ENTIRELY subjective, but might speak to something other readers might experience with the book, as well.

So part of the issue here is going into a twisty book looking for the twist--a hazard of the genre. Whenever you start a book like this just based off back cover copy, the first part of the reading experience is about settling into the book's tone, style, and the characters as presented. As I read the first part of the book I became so thoroughly convinced that Hannah was a sociopath, and that that was the "twist," that I am unable to shake that expectation and that read on her character from my view of the book as a whole.

Because Hannah Gold is a sociopath. 100%. She has every hallmark of one, and until the twist in the middle, I was ready to commend the author for nailing her portrayal (save for a few quibbles I had, re: the childhood anecdotes, though those were partially rebutted later). And here's the thing: the author may not know it, but she nailed Hannah as a sociopath. She is one. So really I can still commend the author. It's one of the best portrayals of a sociopath I have read.

And so the reason I was just slightly disappointed is that ultimately the book doesn't seem to be self-aware of this, or at least never delivers it on the page, and so the latter half really lacked the complexity I was hoping for, re: addressing her sociopathy. Now, I think Hannah's diagnosis and the twist is legit. I am not a mental health professional, but it felt like a well-researched and considered portrayal. I absolutely felt sympathy for Hannah and what she was going through.

But also I felt no sympathy because HANNAH IS A SOCIOPATH. She just also has what I believe is meant to be schizophrenia, though it is never named in the text. Essentially, what I had hoped for was a killer finish and twist-twist where Hannah was also diagnosed as a sociopath, and both she and others would have to deal with the ramifications of both. You can't cure sociopathy.

BUT! Still thoroughly enjoyed the book, all the more for how ruthless Hannah is as a character. Recommend to fans of this sub-genre of thriller--the MC wrongfully (or rightfully?) committed and having to figure out what really happened.
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Hannah is the epitome of an unreliable narrator and keeps you on your toes throughout the entire book. And I love it. 


Synopsis

Hannah is admitted to a mental institution after her best friend Agnes suffers an injury that everyone thinks is her fault – wrongfully so. She's determined to get out and prove once and for all that she's perfectly normal and had nothing to do with her friend falling into a coma. She tries to reach her goal but only starts to really make progress when Lucy arrives. Lucy is her new roommate and quickly also becomes her new best friend. But along the way, Hannah discovers that not everything is as it seems and that she might not even be able to trust herself. 


Writing

I absolutely adored the writing. It flows really smoothly and makes you want to never put the book down. The story telling is gripping and really creepy at times because you, alongside Hannah, try to make sense of what happened and how the information fits together. Hannah's character development felt very natural and believable; she's a very different person at the end of the book than she is at the beginning and yet it feels like that's what's supposed to happen not like the author wanted it to happen so it did. The repetition of the title "A Danger to Herself and Others" throughout the book worked incredibly well. It added to the tense atmosphere and made you really feel like you were inside Hannah's head. The repeated thoughts and memories make you feel with her, they make you scared, they keep you interested, they make you restless, they make you want to find out what was real and what wasn't. Hannah feels real. She feels like a human being. 


Hannah

She starts the novel by being arrogant, cocky, self-confident and manipulative and ends it with the feeling of her very core being shattered. I want to include an excerpt from the author's note here:

"She starts this story certain that she's the heroine in a thrilling mystery about being wrongly accused, only to realize later that she's the subject not of a thriller, but of a story about coming to terms with a mental illness diagnosis."

Nothing I could possibly say could describe her journey better than the author herself. Over the course of the book we learn so many things but at the end, neither we nor Hannah is completely sure what happened and what she's gonna do now. This is something that hit me really hard because a lot of the time, characters have their life perfectly resolved and back in order at the end of a book. But not in this book. It feels real because most of us are also unsure about life and we don't figure it out completely all at once; it's a step by step effort that takes time. 

It was also really interesting to read about a mentally ill character who isn't depressed or anxious. Most of the mainstream Young Adult books about mental illness deal with these two and while that certainly is important as well, it can feel a bit overdone at times with every author pumping out a "mental illness book". I really enjoyed reading about a character with a psychotic mental illness because it shows that the stigma surrounding that type of mental illness is even bigger than that surrounding depression. 

The character work in this book is simply stunning. All of them felt so real. Lucy with her ballet dreams, Agnes with her small town roots and all of the other side characters who are fleshed out as carefully as if they were the main character. 


A Danger to Herself and Others is a unique, well-written Young Adult book that hooks you right from the very first chapter. It's a fantastic read that you can finish in a day. I'd definitely recommend it to anyone who likes careful character work, a suspenseful plot and restless atmosphere.
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This one was not my favorite. Although I am grateful for more books about mental health, it didn’t seem to engage me the way I had wished. I don’t think the book reached the potential it could have. Part 1 was amazing! The following was very weak compared to it.
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A big theme of the books I've been reading at the moment are one set in mental institutions, and I have to say this is one of the best I've read. 

I'd say for me, as well as this being a contemporary YA, it had a lot of elements of a thriller as well. It kept you guessing, you were shocked at the twists and eagerly waiting to know more. 

Hannah was such a whirlwind of a character, and I loved being along for her journey and finding out what is and isn't really for her, and watching all that she thought she knew about life unravel, The last 1/3 of the book for me blew me away, especially with her leaving the institution and basically questioning everything she thought she knew about the future and her relationship with her parents. 

Would definitely recommend!
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