A Danger to Herself and Others

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 08 Feb 2019

Member Reviews

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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A Danger to Herself and Others by Alyssa B. Sheinmel is an intriguing young adult novel.

  Seventeen year old Hannah Gold is certain she has been placed in a mental institution by mistake.  She had nothing to do with her roommate and friend Agnes Smith’s accidental fall out of a window. But Agnes’ parents are convinced she is guilty of harming their daughter, so a judge orders Hannah into an institution for further evaluation. At first, Hannah refuses to discuss anything of value with her therapist, Dr. Lightfoot. However, the arrival of her roommate Lucy Quintana is a turning point for Hannah as she finally realizes that in order to earn “privileges”, she has to be honest with Dr. Lightfoot.  With Hannah divulging the events that occurred in the weeks preceding Agnes’s accident,  Dr. Lightfoot makes a shocking diagnosis that completely upends Hannah’s view of herself.  And with the hearing into her role in what happened to Agnes and Hannah’s reunion with her parents fast approaching, is she prepared for how everyone will react to her unexpected diagnosis?

  Hannah is an extremely intelligent, high achieving only child. Her parents have always treated her as an adult, so she is quite mature and very composed. Hannah is very fixated on not falling behind in school but Dr. Lightfoot wants her to concentrate on her therapy. Initially, Hannah is positive that she did not harm Agnes, but after she is placed under observation, self-doubts begin to creep in.  But  why would she have wanted to harm her best friend?

  Lucy’s arrival provides Hannah with a distraction from her own problems. The two girls hit it off fairly quickly and they are soon swapping stories and finding ways to pass the time. Once Hannah realizes Lucy has earned privileges that provide her with a modicum of freedom, she becomes more open with Dr. Lightfoot. But will her gradual self-awareness prepare Hannah for the doctor’s diagnosis?

  A Danger to Herself and Others is a thought-provoking  young adult novel with a somewhat unreliable narrator. The majority of the story takes place mainly in Hannah’s room at the institution so it is easy for readers to empathize with her as she tries to come to terms with her current situation. Despite a bit of repetition, the storyline is interesting and the characters are relatively well-developed. Hannah comes across as a typical teenager, so Dr. Lightfoot’s diagnosis will catch readers off guard.  Alyssa B. Sheinmel deftly handles the subject of mental illness with sensitivity and provides insight into a misunderstood disease. An engaging young adult novel that I recommend to older teen and adult readers.
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A Danger to Herself and Others is a good book. It's brilliantly written, with an decent story line. It's fairly intriguing from start to finish, offering an interesting narrator. But I failed to connect to what I was reading. I loved the writing style, I had an open mind and understanding for the main character, and I enjoyed some moments. But it overall did not wow me. And the ending frustrated me a little.
Maybe I wasn't reading it at the best moment in time, or maybe this book just isn't for me. Kudos on the great writing though, it's what kept me reading all the way through.
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A Danger to Herself and Others by Alyssa Sheinmel was an absolute whirlwind of a book. Featuring great representation of mental illnesses, this book kept me guessing the whole way through!

In A Danger to Herself and Others, Hannah finds herself in an institution after her school roommate falls out of a window. Hannah knows it's a mistake though--she didn't mean Agnes any harm! So Hannah bides her time in a small little room, waiting for the truth to come to light. While waiting, she's given a new roommate at the institution. Lucy! Through Lucy, Hannah starts down a slippery slope of self-discovery.

I adored A Danger to Herself and Others! This book exceeded my expectations in nearly every way. Fast-paced and interesting, I could have easily read this book in a single sitting.

A Danger to Herself and Others was told from a unique and interesting perspective. I had no idea what to make of Hannah when I first started reading the book. She seemed so smart and level-headed. As the book went on and Lightfoot, Hannah's therapist, was introduced, I started to question what I was reading and what I was seeing through Hannah's eyes. I loved that the book played with my perceptions and forced me to question Hannah's reality. The events had my mind spinning with so many questions!

The ending was sad. I don't think it was meant to be sad, but I found it sad because I didn't care for Hannah's parents. They didn't seem like they really wanted a child. They wanted a trophy, something worth of bragging about. Hannah's childhood, though painted through the lens of a pamper and spoiled life, felt very austere and cold. Nothing about Hannah's parents seemed warm and fuzzy, and to me, that's sad.

That said, the characters in the book were brilliantly written. Hannah was amazing. Lucy was fun. Lightfoot was intriguing. And Hannah's parents were nicely portrayed, even though they didn't have starring roles in the book. I fell in love with the cast of characters, especially Hannah. Hannah was a puzzle in the book, and I was keen to figure her out.

I enjoyed this book immensely, and hopefully you will too! Do yourself a favor and add this one to your TBR.

Thank you to NetGalley for providing the Kindle version of this book in exchange for an honest review.
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Thank you to Netgalley for a copy of this title in exchange for an honest review.

I was taken in by the gorgeous cover on this book when browsing titles to request, and when reading the synopsis I got really excited for the book.

To be quite honest though, this book was not for me. The book is about a girl who accidentally hurts her best friend, and is put into a mental institution as she is a “danger to herself and others” because of this. It is an interesting concept, but the execution didn’t feel sharply done. 

This book needed to be a bit more heavily edited before it went to press. There a few things that could have been improved on to make it more enjoyable. 

The amount of things in parentheses was overdone. Within the first few pages, there was more information being given in parentheses than there was being written. Though parentheses can be helpful occasionally to help bring more information to light, the author did not do this in a way that was beneficial to the story. It was more distracting than it was enlightening.

The sarcastic narrative was not enjoyable to read. A sarcastic narrative is a heavily used one in YA literature, so I feel like the book could have been more impactful had the character been more relatable and enjoyable to read about. Throughout the book she felt very inconsistent, so solidifying Hannah’s personality could have helped the story as well.

Overall, the descriptions made institutions and mental health professionals very stereotyped and awful. Mental health is something that many people today, especially teens, struggle with. By making the main doctor in this book completely incompetent, this sends a very bad message to those dealing with mental health issues who are looking for help. 

I am always excited to see a book with a mental health rep so that people can feel understood and it can bring awareness to the community, but I don’t recommend A Danger to Herself and Others as this rep. 

Please also remember that this review is based on my personal opinion, so you may love the book! It personally just fell really flat for me and did not enjoy it. There was some mystery in the writing and some interesting twists, but I personally did not enjoy it.
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Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for a digital ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Hannah Gold starts as a typical unreliable narrator. She is institutionalized for reasons that are revealed in time, but one thing is clear from the beginning -- Hannah is considered "a danger to herself and others." She is kept isolated, not even leaving her room to use the bathroom. And then Hannah is assigned a roommate, Lucy, and she is determined to form a friendship that will prove to the doctors that she isn't mentally ill. Hannah believes that whatever event lead her to the institution was an accident and a misunderstanding, and she should be released.

I wanted to love this book, but it just didn't do it for me. I felt like pieces of Hannah's psychosis were revealed in the writing, but it was done in a way that made me think, "was that intentional or is the writing just repetitive?" I felt that the book didn't reach it's potential as an unreliable narrator story, nor did it take a deep enough look at a patient and her family coming to terms with her diagnosis. That said, this book will certainly have readers that love it, and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it to students.
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Truly Breathtaking. The author is able to make you feel for Hannah and the terrible horrible events that lead up to an ending that will have you shaking with excitement. This is a one sitting book and if you plan on reading make sure to clear your schedule
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This is another author I once upon a time one-starred (see The Stone Girl) so I wasn't exactly excited to dive into this. I'm happy to report I'm not giving this one the same rating since I thought this book was incredibly brave and creative—something I've noticed the author seems to often go for (from looking at her previous works after The Stone Girl. So much of mental health is touched, and I felt there was utter respect in the treatment of the story. There were also several twists I wouldn't say I saw coming, so that was enjoyable for me. Recommended for those looking for a suspenseful read, and those looking for unreliable narrators.
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I don't know what I was expecting when I requested this book, but a first-person unreliable narrative was not it. I had no idea what had really happened to get Hannah remanded to the institute, but the back and forth with herself gave me a few insights early on.

This book will pull you in and have you almost believe that you are experiencing things right along with Hannah. I was so sure that Lucy was real and that having a roommate was a great thing for Hannah.

The ending seemed a little rushed, I would have liked Hannah to spend more time in treatment with her original doctor, but I understand wanting to get a child (even though she is now a senior in high school) home and back to a "normal" routine.
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This novel starts readers off in a mental hospital with the main character, Hannah, after a terrible accident that put her summer program roommate into a coma. It’s immediately obvious that the parent’s of Agnes (the now comatose roommate) believe that Hannah is at fault for what happened. Now, Hannah finds herself locked in a room with a small window, no way out, and nothing to do but wait until the doctors and judge realize that “she’s not crazy“.

This story was honestly surprising. I’ve come across many novels written about psychiatric holds, but never one quite like this. Readers are thankfully taking in everything from Hannah’s point of view, so we really get an in depth understanding of what has happened and is continuing to happen. Hannah isn’t an extremely likable narrator. In fact, before I pulled some of the layers back further into the story, I was really frustrated with her. The first couple of chapters felt very chaotic because Hannah’s thoughts jump around a lot. Plus, readers don’t have any background information yet about why she is being held in psychiatric care, so you kind of just have to push through the beginning to find your footing. At first, this kind of feels like a mean-girl story, but from the POV of the mean-girl (which, after racking my brain, I don’t think I’ve read before). Even after finishing, I’m still convinced that Hannah embodies the trope. She’s quite the manipulator, and I don’t think that the idea is supposed to be that these qualities are tied to her mental illness. Actually, I’m pretty positive that they aren’t.

The other characters weren’t given much development, but for most of them, this seems very purposeful and it certainly works for the story. This novel is about Hannah’s journey to discovering her diagnosis and coming to terms with it, so it’s much more important that we see development through her primarily. In a way, some of these characters help. Lucy, for instance, doesn’t have a huge presence throughout at least half of the book, but she is still vastly important to the story and to what Hannah is going through. I think that Sheinmel did a really great job molding all of the characters to make them fit into Hannah’s world.

Now, I’ve never experienced the disease that Hannah has (which I won’t talk about because it pretty much spoils the whole story), so I can’t really say whether or not the representation is accurate or not. However, I will say that this is one of the few times I’ve come across a book that tries to break down the demonized outlook on said disease, instead of trying to capitalize off of the stereotype surrounding it. Hannah is very descriptive of her experience, which really helps the readers take in her story. However, this can be a bit of a triggering read if you’ve struggled heavily with mental illness, or have ever been under a psychiatric hold yourself.

Overall, this is definitely a worthwhile read if you’re looking for some mental health representation with a little bit of thrill to it. Hannah’s thoughts can be a bit overwhelming at times, but the story is written really well. Her journey is an interesting one to ride along with, but I think that if you do, you’ll find yourself entangled in the mess and jumble of Hannah’s reality. And you might even love it.
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I like the author's intent with this story. I can't say too much because that would give away the story.  But I loved reading about Hannah and being inside her head. I found her to be super smart, intuitive and funny in her own unique way.  I would have liked to read more about what happens to her after she leaves the institution. There were also some big parts of her life that felt too vague. Overall, I gave this story a three star rating.
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This book was honestly so much better than the majority of the mental health related books I've ever picked it up. We're introduced to our main character Hannah who finds herself in a mental institution against her will with no understanding of how she ended up there and why she was designated "a danger to herself and others". That's the most you need to know going into this book because the rest is just twist after twist. 

The story is such a great look on Hannah's road through recovery with an exploration into her diagnosis, her symptoms, and the trial and error that comes with trying to manage the symptoms. But even aside from the whole mental health aspect that I felt was so well handled, Hannah was just such an interesting character in general to read about. She's been brought up by rich parents who introduced her to a life of luxury and pushed her to be academically great, without really taking care of her which led to her mindset on life and her diagnosis. You really get to see her perspective and feel along with her, which made this book so emotionally captivating.

The plot itself, even though it is more so focused on her journey in the institution, is still so gripping and honestly, just a wild ride. Hannah ends up in the institution after playing a game with her friend, Agnes, that led to Agnes falling out of a window, but other than that Hannah has very little understanding of how she got here. So we get to follow her along as she slowly discovers the truth, becoming a mental health book with a dark mystery twist, and I was here for every second of it. 

Definitely, whole-heartedly recommend it.
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I gave this book a 2 star review on Goodreads. I have an entire blog laying out my reading journey at the link below, the link can also be found on my Goodreads and Twitter web page. bookyreads.home.blog/2018/12/21/a-danger-to-herself-and-others-a-review/
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I received this book as an ARC courtesy of NetGalley. I have read many books that center around mental health, but never a book quite like this one. The main character is not at all likable, but oddly enough, that is part of why I liked this book. Hannah read like a real person with real flaws. While A DANGER TO HERSELF AND OTHERS is not the best book I have read that focused on mental health, I would definitely recommend it to anyone looking for a mental health novel outside the norm.
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This book was a new experience. I have read many books that portray mental illness but this was my first one that deals with psychosis. When I first started this book I didn't know what to expect, the main character found herself in an institution, but as pages flew by I found myself so deep in the book that I knew that this book was going to be epic. It's a very different contemporary story, dark and sympathetic perfect for us readers trying to explore more mental illness books.
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Instantly sucked right into the story! Smart, witty, intense story kept me anxiously turning pages to tag along on Hannah's journey to recovery.
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A DANGER TO HERSELF AND OTHERS was a compelling, twisted, and fast-paced book. Right from the get-go I knew something wasn't right about the situation. The fact that Hannah knew her doctor diagnosed her as a danger to herself and others was the key to unlocking a lot of questions in Hannah's (and my!) mind. This was a thoroughly engaging, and such a timely book.
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