A Danger to Herself and Others

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 08 Feb 2019

Member Reviews

Tl;dr: A Danger to Herself and Others is a first rate and gorgeously written contemporary young adult novel

The description of A Danger to Herself and Others makes it seem like your typical girl in institution (aka unreliable narrator) deals with her issues and her roommate.

Go into it like that. 

Because it is so so much better than that!

Hannah is a brilliant, egocentric, soon to be high school senior staying in California for an intensive summer study program who finds herself in a mental hospital after her roommate, Agnes, falls out of their doom window and is severely injured.

Hannah is annoyed by the whole situation--she and Agnes were friends, best friends even, and locking her up for no reason other than to satisfy Agnes's parents is totally unfair. But her parents' attorney, who has no experience in anything except maybe wills, seems to think it's okay and her parents are off to Europe so she decides to get through it and get home to school.

The doctor "treating" her, Dr. Lightfoot, is an idiot who doesn't even use proper grammar and is forever dragging an orderly in during her visits because Hannah has been deemed a danger to herself and others because of what happened with Agnes and it's so stupid because she liked Agnes a lot. Except that she also really likes Josh, who she met first but who ended up with Agnes even as he and Hannah kept hooking up. Still, it's not like she didn't know that Josh really liked her too. (Yes, Hannah is an obviously unreliable narrator. Stick it out.) 

Dr. Lightfoot won't talk about when she can leave, and Hannah knows the first day of school is coming and she can't afford to miss it. She likes school, she has plans for college, and her parents are so proud of how smart and mature she is--plus, she's used to being independent and not being stuck in a grimy room wearing paper clothes.

So, when she's finally assigned a roommate, Lucy, Hannah decides she'll make friends with her, showing Dr. Lightfoot she's fine and not a danger to herself or anyone and then she can go home and back to school.

And A Danger to Herself and Others is exactly this story but also more. And because of spoilers I won't say anything else except two things:

1. I had to take a short break from reading this about halfway through because I felt as restless as Hannah did because the writing is that good and then because I felt like I'd been dropped on my head (and in the best way, the "Oh--wait?! $#×=/!" kind of way).

2. The last chapter is so amazing. It's beautiful and horrible and perfect. I'm still thinking about it. I will be thinking about it for quite a while.

I did receive an ARC of this, but preordered it at the halfway mark because yes, it is that damn good and kudos to Ms. Sheinmel for writing this gorgeous and unflinching book. It releases in February 2019, and is already on my best of the year list. Very highly recommended.
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"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?" Alyssa Sheinmel, A Danger to Herself and Others.

At first, I wasn't really into this book. Mostly because the narrator Hannah, was kind of self-centered, spoiled, and untrustworthy. Hannah was sent to a mental hospital, because of what she deems a misunderstanding. Her roommate, Agnes, fell from a two-story window and is now in a coma. And for some reason, people seem to think that it wasn't an accident and that Hannah had something to do with it. Hannah is completely convinced that there is some kind of mistake and what happened was just an accident. But until the doctors and a judge decide whether or not she is a danger to herself and others, she's stuck in the institution.

Hannah is incredibly smart and also vaguely creepy (at first). She overanalyzes everything and everyone's motives. She also has very peculiar social interactions. Her narrative was slightly irksome at times but also strangely addicting. Even though she wasn't a very likable character I found my heart breaking for her.

A Danger to Herself and Others is an accurate and insightful portrayal of mental illness and explores the lengths someone will go to, to convince themselves they aren't sick. Being inside Hannah's mind is truly frightening in the sense that you can feel the fear and uncertainty of not knowing what is real.

Overall, I really did enjoy this one, even though it didn't really start to pick up until about halfway through. And about that ending... I wish there would have been more. I feel like this story wasn't quite finished. Even though this is a standalone I got the feeling that maybe there should be a sequel, but sadly I don't think that's going to happen.
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I was so interested in this book because I read Alyssa's other book Second Star a few years ago. This book has some of the same vibes I got while reading that book and was really fasted pace. As someone who has taken a couple psychology classes I really enjoyed the way mental health was brought up in this story. I also really liked the character development and how you go on this journey closely with Hannah the main character.
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We find Hannah, our main character, a girl who finds herself in a mental institution against her will, labelled "a danger to herself and others" as a result of a game played with a friend which has ended with that friend in a comma. The book was great I like that its good for teens and adults alike. It was a page turner.
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Stuck between reality and her disease Hannah becomes lost in the real world. It isnt until an accident with her roommate that Hannah is forced to realize the truth. This is one twisted mind bending novel, but inspiring and thoughtful. The authors approach to mental illness and the stigmas associated with them was factual and graceful!! I loved and couldnt put it down!!
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Hello, I will be publishing this review on my Instagram, blog, and Goodreads on January 22nd, 2019 two weeks before publication date. I will also post the review on Amazon and Barnes and Noble on the book's publication date. I will add links to the reviews when they go public, thank you.

I really enjoyed this young adult book and didn't know what to expect going in. I gave it 4 of 5 stars and I will tell you why. I will add a courtesy warning that this book does involve mental illness and a small scene of someone hurting them self. 

A Danger to Herself and Others by Alyssa Sheinmel follows a high school senior named Hannah through her stay at a mental health facility due to an accident that occurred with her roommate at  a summer school program. Hannah doesn't understand why she has been placed here and hopes that her new roommate, Lucy, at the facility can help uncover the truth. 

I do not have a mental illness so I cannot speak for those who do and have been in such a situation but I really liked how this book shows Hannah's stay, her treatment, and the way she tries to cope with everything that is going on. I also liked how the author portrays her mental illness in the book because you almost feel like you are right there with the main character figuring out what is true and what is false. Nothing was obvious and I was surprised and intrigued all the way through. 

One thing I didn't like was the ending. It was left off without closure. Her parents struggle with their daughter's diagnosis and they were never really close but it would have been nice to see if they ever managed to cope with it and if Hannah ever found some form of closure or acceptance with it as well. 

Overall, this was a great book and I would recommend it to anyone who likes contemporary thrillers. A Danger to Herself and Others is expected to be published February 5th, 2019. 

Thank you NetGalley and Sourcebooks Fire for this digital copy.
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I started A Danger to Herself and Others thinking it would be a five-star read. In fact, the entire first half is easily worth that much. The writing is great and Hannah Gold is a deeply flawed protagonist. I was convinced I was reading a dark story about a psychopath. After all, that’s what the summary seemed to suggest.

Unfortunately, this book is another victim of a misleading summary. Well, sort of. The summary isn’t exactly a lie, it’s just not the full truth either. Hannah is not at the center of her own thriller nor is she the cause of it. This is a story about mental health.

Obviously, that’s not a bad thing. It’s always good to have more books talk so openly about mental illness and give those who struggle with it representation. Since the entire book is told in first person from Hannah’s perspective, we get to see firsthand how her mental illness alters her thinking and perception. Her doctor, whom Hannah refers to as Lightfoot, emphasizes more than once that Hannah is not crazy nor dangerous. Her brain just works differently and she needs treatment. So, despite the title, Hannah is ultimately not demonized for her mental illness.

However, the representation is not perfect. Sheinmel takes great pains to show the ups and downs of Hannah’s emotions and symptoms. The narrative treats Hannah with respect. The problem is we never find out what her diagnosis is. Her mental illness is only ever referred to as her “diagnosis” or “disease.” We know what she’s experiencing, but her symptoms could fit multiple disorders. Sheinmel seems bizarrely adamant on not revealing Hannah’s diagnosis. It feels slightly disingenuous, as though Sheinmel wanted to represent multiple disorders for diversity points. Instead, it’s too vague to concretely call it representation for any one mental illness.

In exploring Hannah’s mental health, we also get to know her as a person. She has excellent character development. It’s a beautiful experience to watch her thinking change as she continues her recovery. It’s interesting learning how much of her personality is influenced by her disorder and how much is really her. The way she ends her arc is especially heart-wrenching. I can’t imagine how difficult it must be to readjust to life outside treatment after all she’s gone through. Even though I wanted a story about a dark protagonist, I was still incredibly moved by her story.

The other characters aren’t nearly as well developed. In fact, they don’t really develop at all. But I don’t think that comes as a detriment to the novel. Who everyone is is entirely dependent on Hannah’s state of mind and that worked really well for the story being told.

The relationships in this story are also very interesting, especially as we see them change based on Hannah’s recovery. Hannah’s parents have always treated her as a mini-adult, acting more as friends than guardians. Even so, their relationship is positive until Hannah is institutionalized. Dr. Charan, known throughout the novel as Lightfoot, has a bit of give and take with Hannah. Her character is the most influenced by Hannah’s changing perception. Lucy is Hannah’s roommate, a ballerina dancer struggling with bulimia. She’s a romantic, always waxing poetic about her boyfriend Joaquin.

Agnes and Jonah are characters we get to know entirely in flashbacks, but are still incredibly important to the story. Agnes is Hannah’s roommate and best friend at her summer school she’s attending for college credit. She’s incredibly sweet, always there to help others. Jonah is another student in the summer program and Agnes’ boyfriend. However, he’s also Hannah’s. Hannah and Jonah had been sneaking around behind Agnes’ back before the accident that sent Hannah to treatment. He’s kind and good with banter. He’s also a cheater. But that doesn’t mean he means any less to Hannah.

The plot is really well done. It’s character-driven, which is my favorite type of plot. There are a couple twists, one I saw coming and one I didn’t. Either way, I still regard them as good twists that are well-foreshadowed. My only problem with the plot is the abrupt ending. I usually like open endings, but they still need some closure. This book provided none and gave no sign it was about to end.

Hannah doesn’t end the book in a good or even hopeful place. If Sheinmel had added even one gesture or sign that Hannah can truly pick herself up and mend her relationships (though not all the broken relationships are her doing), this ending would’ve been perfect. Instead, the book just ends and the reader isn’t sure if Hannah will ever really be okay again. Perhaps that was the intent, but if so, that’s another strike against the mental illness representation.

As I said, the writing is really well done. Sheinmel is highly adept at changing the tone and mood of a story. It begins dark and clipped, but slowly becomes lighter and more open. Her word choice is impeccable. My only complaint about the writer is how much the phrase “a danger to herself and others” is repeated. The phrase first appears on Hannah’s case file and is reiterated again and again throughout the novel. It’s okay to repeat phrases, especially to make a point. But there’s a limit and Sheinmel goes far past it. It tells the reader you don’t think they’re smart enough to grasp the point you’re trying to make or the moral of your story. We understand both perfectly without it being hammered into us ad nauseum. Don’t insult your readers— have more faith in us.

I also have a couple nitpick-y complaints, but they affect the overall believability of the story. You might not think world-building is a real aspect of contemporary novels, but it is. My first issue is that, from the time Hannah was a small child, her parents have always gotten her her own separate hotel room on vacation. Sometimes it was adjoined, other times it wasn’t. Either way, literally no hotel would every allow this. Minors are not allowed to stay in a hotel room unaccompanied. Maybe the staff didn’t know, but I find it hard to believe the staff of every single hotel never noticed a child staying in a hotel room by herself (especially given Hannah’s father’s propensity for complaining to the staff of everywhere if every little thing doesn’t meet his ridiculously high standards). Believe me, they would notice and something would be done.

My other worldbuilding complaint is also hotel-related. Hannah makes a comment about her father complaining to the concierge because they wouldn’t upgrade them from a deluxe sweet to a super-deluxe. That’s not what a concierge does. They are responsible for amenities and helping you plan activities in the area. A front desk agent is who has the power to upgrade you. If they can’t, it’s a manager. But the concierge has nothing to do with room placement. Sheinmel clearly researched mental illness, but she did not double-check her facts on hotels.

Despite its flaws, I still found the book pretty good. I really began to feel for Hannah as the story went on. She’s a great character. I just feel like the story as a whole is so-so and it makes some pretty big errors along the way. I hope these will be fixed in the final edition of the book. Because, if not, then this book is a danger to mental health perception and truth.
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A good thriller that uses mental illness to portray a realistic story.  I thought it had some good thrills and chills and very well written character development.  It moved at a fast pace and kept enough twists and turns about what was really going on to keep readers engaged.  A solid 4 star read.  
Will let Chapter Chatter Pub know about its release.
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"Especially when what happened was so obviously an accident. Or anyway, they can't prove that it wasn't an accident, and isn't that the important part?"

I loved this book. I CANNOT wait until it was out so that I can recommend it to students. It was described as Girl, Interrupted meets We Were Liars, and I have to say that it lived up to and exceeded those expectations.

A brief summary: Hannah Gold comes from a wealthy family in New York to spend the summer in a student program in California, and while there, meets her roommate, Agnes. They have a quick, fast friendship... or do they? When Agnes is severely injured in an "accident" with Hannah, people wonder whether Hannah had something to do with it, or if it truly was just an accident. Hannah is sent to a mental institution for observation while they try to piece together what actually happened. Did Hannah push her roommate out the window, or was it truly an accident? Is Hannah a danger to herself and others, or is this all just a big misunderstanding?

Things I Loved:
- The unreliable narrator -- "Which, I have to tell you, is absurd. Not because I wouldn't try anything (I can't make any promises- who knows what being trapped in a room could drive a person to do?)" - I loved that I got to constantly question the narrative point of view and wonder if she did or didn't do it. The first person point of view allowed me to wonder how many times she was lying to me and how many times she was telling the truth. Hannah also had moments like the one above, where she would directly address the reader, that made her character jump off the page. 
- The character development -- Most of the characters felt well developed and believable. I liked Hannah, Lucy, and Lightfoot a lot and found them to be round, believable people.
- The unique storytelling devices with flashbacks -- Sheinmel doesn't tell you exactly what happened but instead gives the readers the opportunity to fill in the pieces with what happened the night of Agnes' incident.
- The plotline in general -- It felt very well developed and didn't rush to its conclusion. The pacing felt appropriate without feeling slow.

Things I Didn't Like:
- The ending -- Without spoiling it, because the twists in this book are actually really good, I do wish the ending was a little different. Hannah's mom intervenes with Hannah's initial decision, and I wish Hannah hadn't listened to her mother. I know this is very vague, but I suppose I would've liked a more bleak ending. Sheinmel was building to it with most of part three, but at the last second pulled away from it. (***Again, I'm trying to keep this spoiler free, so apologies for the vagueness ***)

Overall: This book was AWESOME, and I will definitely be adding it to my classroom library. The unreliable narrator is believable, complex, and even relatable at times. I will also say that I did in fact like this more than We Were Liars! 

I received a complimentary copy of this book from SourcebooksFire through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own. The book will be published on February 5, 2019.
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This arc was provided to me for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

3 stars

Hannah has been institutionalized due to an accident with her roommate. We follow Hannah as the doctors begin to diagnose her and to prove she doesn’t belong there. Hannah then meets Lucy, a girl who begins to help Hannah deal with her own issues and how she never saw them coming.

A Danger to Herself and Others has a solid concept but unfortunately, I didn’t enjoy the whole book. It got incredibly predicable right at the start but it was still able to maintain a little mystery. And the ending left me so incredibly disappointed, but not in the way, you would think. I am disappointed at how real that ending was. It feels more real to leave it the way the author did and I am glad she ended it on a note like that.

I enjoyed Hannah and Lucy as characters and I enjoyed going back and seeing how Hannah evolved. Hannah is portrayed as rich and smart, but as time goes on you begin to see how manipulative and cruel she is. You get to explore some of her past friendships and you find that her friendship with her roommate was not what you thought it was. I figured the friendship wasn't as described but I wasn't prepared for the reality.

I appreciate the take on mental illness as it's not often you find it wrote like this. I think the author did an incredible job portraying a very sick girl who did not know what was happening to her. I look forward to reading more by this author and if you enjoy a little predictability with some mystery this might intrigue you.
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Awesome book about mental illness and a bit of a thriller finding out what the reality was. Loved it.
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This could have been a compelling look at schizophrenia, but it still felt very much that the illness and those who have it were demonized. However, the prose was gripping, and I didn't want to stop reading until the end.
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I read a lot of escapist books. I am definitely after that thousand lives they say readers get to live. More if at all possible. But there are characters who I am glad to not be. And Hannah Gold is one of them. I appreciate that she exists in a kind of abstract way but dang - is there anyway to keep her purely theoretical?



Hannah is the center of our story universe in A Danger to Herself and Others. She is our narrator and our point of view. So we learn, bit by bit, what has come before, what brought her to her small institutional cell, almost as she seems to learn it herself. Which means, that for the course of the book, we readers are living the life of a confused, disturbed, enigmatic teenage girl who is confined in an institution for some unknown but unjust reason. We are surrounded by odd personalities that flit in and out of the story, clearly marred by our character goggles.


The link between this novel and the books I usually pick up to read is the puzzle, the unknowing. I don't often read thrillers or high drama or romance. I have a sense that I know how the story in these will resolve. I like speculative fiction, magical realism, YA, fantasy and sci-fi because the resolution is not just unknown but not guaranteed. Seriously. Who else had to stop reading after Ned Stark bit it? I had to pause because I was so shocked an author would do such a thing. And then I dived in, ravenous.
That is what ended up happening here. 

What brought me to this story was the complete uncertainty of what had already happened. Our narrator, who should be our omniscient leader in this, is anything but. Being brought into her world is unsettling and disquieting. This is not exactly the escapism I generally crave. But if YOU do, this is a worthwhile read. The story is well written with believable characters. Even a bit too believable for my taste. While I am usually avoid this genre because of my own bias of perceived predictable endings, I realized as I started to read that with such an unreliable and unfocused and un-remembering narrator, I had no idea where we would end up. But I went along for the dangerous ride because I just had to find out. #netgalley @AlyssaSheinmel #ADangertoHerselfandOthers
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I'm not really sure how to feel about this one. Mental health representation is super important to me as someone with Schizophrenia, and I don't know that this was a book I would recommend to people who are sensitive to the way that all things mental health are handled.
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I really enjoy books with unreliable narrators. Hannah is definitely one of these. 

In the beginning it took me a while to warm up to Hannah, but I feel like this is intentional on the authors part. We don't know going in if Hannah purposely did what she did or not. 

This book is certainly a roller coaster, some things I saw coming, some I did not. 

I try to stay clear of books set in mental hospitals. I have been in one myself and it seems like books never get it right. I can't say for sure if this one did or not because I've never been hospitalized for the same thing Hannah is, but it feels more natural than a lot of books I've read in the past. 

My favorite part was definitely the end. I loved seeing Hannah growing as a person and coming to terms with her psychosis. 

I've only read a handful of books about psychosis, but this one has felt the most realistic. 

I can't say much more because I don't want to spoil the book for anyone, but I definitely think it's a book worth reading.
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The protagonist is the worst. I found her incredibly annoying and self proclaiming, stating the obvious all the time.
That being said there is great flow within the scenes but on the whole there was something missing for me.
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Hannah's story is engaging. The book is well written. I don't feel I've wasted my time reading it, but I likely won't really remember it. It's not the kind of book that sticks with you. I was able to put it down and immediately go looking for my next read. 

Hanna Gold is a smart, outgoing overachiever who has  always been mature for her age. Living in an Upper East Side apartment, traveling the world, proud parents; Hannah  couldn't ask for a more perfect life. While attending a summer program, her roommate, and best friend, has a terrible accident. It was just an accident. Right?

A Danger to Herself and Others takes us through Hannah's experiences after her roommate has an accident that leads to Hannah being taken to a mental institution. We see everything through Hannah's perspective. The book reads almost as a journal. I liked the book. I read the whole thing in just a couple hours. Once I started, I didn't want to put it down. I needed to find out exactly how things would play out.

What was happening was pretty obvious. Hannah had a number of "intense" and "unusual" friendships in her life. She went through "best friends" like most people go through napkins. There had been previous accidents, but it wasn't ever anything big, and it was never her fault. Accidents happen, after all. It was easy to pick up the clues of what Hannah was actually dealing with, but the story was still interesting. 

The author (through her own admission) took some creative liberties with the mental health system and people dealing with mental health issues. It's not enough of a departure to feel like anything was significantly romanticized or diminished. Although what Hannah experiences may not be accurate, it is close enough that you empathize with her.

Hannah is frustrating sometimes. She doesn't really come off as likable, but rather a know it all who takes pride in manipulating her parents' friends to feel ashamed of their own children. They are shocked that Hannah, even at the age of 4, is so well behaved and willing to try new things when their own children won't even eat pasta. Hannah was mature enough at that age to be left alone in a hotel room while her parents partied in Monte Carlo. She was never a child; just a small adult.  

Lucy is another in a long line of best friends. Hannah befriends her with the soul purpose of convincing the doctors that she's a good friend and not at all someone that would hurt anyone. She needs them to see this has all been a misunderstanding. While I can understand her line of thinking (however skewed it may be), it doesn't make me like her. It bothers me that she sees a girl in a similar situation to her own as nothing more than a pawn to further her own redemption. 

Hannah does get more, well, not likable, but at least you can feel for her. As the story progresses and you start to piece things together you begin to realize she isn't a bad person and her perfect life isn't really that perfect.
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A bright but unreliable narrator tells the story of her summer program experience gone bad. Hannah finds herself in a psychiatric hospital after her roommate at a prestigious summer program falls from a window and remains in a coma. But it's all a misunderstanding, Hannah tells the readers, and proceeds to try to convince herself of that as well. The unreliable narrator trope is handled well, and brittle, overachieving Hannah reminds me all too well of someone I know who has similar problems telling reality from perception.
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This was CRAZY good. It was suspenseful, riveting, and I couldn't put this book down. Alyssa Sheinmel has done an incredible job at discussing mental health with depression and bipolar and I appreciate that more than you would know.
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"Time didn't magically slow down, giving me a few extra seconds to consider what to do next. It happened fast. it wasn't graceful. It didn't look pretty."

The title and cover drew me in perfectly and since its around Halloween time I just had to read this book. I gratefully received a free copy of this book from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for my review.

I absolutely loved Hannah! But who wouldn't, that's her thing.. making best friends. As an only child I can relate with Hannah about growing up faster than your friends and the need/want for children your age. As an only child, its easy to come across as more mature because a majority of your conversations are with adults so its something that comes easy to you. 

Sheinmel, played this story out perfectly. I was not not expecting any of the twists and turns that were thrown in. This book was impossible to put down. I loved every second of it. I have never experienced anyone close to me with this kind of mental illness or anything similar so this was a learning experience for me. Sheinmel really made me feel like I was sitting in the room with Hannah and Lucy.. I mean Hannah ;)

I was proud of Hannah and how she accepted her illness. It was sad and brought tears to my eyes when she finally started to understand what was happening. Her parents were very abnormal for parents dealing with a child who was sick but they were also kind of strange before she started her illness, who leaves a four year old in a hotel room by themselves. 

This book was perfectly done and I will definitely be telling everyone about this title!
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