Member Reviews

Thank you to the publishers for letting me read this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

It had a very slow beginning and was hard to grasp what was truly going on, dnf.

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A delinquent young man is saved from jail and instead brought to a school? A psych ward? with more delinquent yet gifted young adults. Reading this face paced and interesting novel will answer your questions about who people are and what the place is, but it all will not become clear until close to the end what the end goal of as a "school".

I read this book in three reading sessions because I simply couldn't put it down. I found this book to be a dystopian look at the state of corporate profits, pharmaceutical industry and what may or may not be ethical ways of dealing with mental illnesses.

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I was really intrigued by the concept and description of this book, but when it came to it I found it hard to get into. The narrator is quite guarded, which fits in well with his character, but makes it tricky to find your way into the story. At times I wanted more information about what was going on as it was quite confusing. Then, about halfway through, something clicked into place for me and I felt able to connect with it. Maybe it just took a while to get going, but I also think the author makes you work hard at first because so much of the book is about the frustration of not fully knowing what is going on.

From a plot point of view I'd have liked to find out a lot more about what happened towards the end of the book, but the setting and sense of place is very strong and it's certainly though-provoking.

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I received an advance copy of this book through

I can't say that I precisely *enjoyed* this book, but I'm glad I read it. It was intriguing and compelling, but a disturbing story with a strange approach to doling out the story. There was an incomplete, but mostly satisfying, resolution. All in all, strange, but I'm ready to move on to something lighter.

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Meh. This one sounded interesting but it failed to fully keep my attention. And if I'm honest, I hated the main character. I always find it frustrating when an author writes from the perspective of a teenager and can't seem to keep from sounding like an adult. That took away from the story for me.

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Thank you to Netgalley for providing me with a digital ARC. The views herein may not belong to the publisher, author, or distributor and are entirely my own.

People over-diagnose. Period.

Hopkins reaches out through the fog and offers a take on alternative treatment that for some, it would absolutely work. Daniel and Rachel are fictional, yes, but they are examples of real-life kids who need a loving hand and a redirect. Some hope. Some encouragement. Not medications. Sometimes people are angry that life has been so unfair, and the *last* thing they need is a diagnosis.

And some people, like Alex, need both.

The Subjects has no linear plot that it follows. It calls back to Daniel’s time at the School and the present, where he’s reading the files from court proceedings and transcripts and files from the School’s records. Hopkins presents to us a portrait of flesh-and-blood, achingly real characters who lash out, mess up, draw close, embrace. I wanted to be friends with Daniel, and realized that in my life, I’ve met people just like him. And they’ve been great friends to me.

As far as the writing goes, I loved the straightforward style of prose Hopkins uses. I never got lost and wondered what she was trying to say. Her prose never turned purple on me. The only big issue I found was some funky pacing in the first thirty or so pages, but it smoothed out around page fifty.

I’m on the fence in a weird sort of position. One the one hand, my disease is neurological. My brain makes too much dopamine, and that eats serotonin, which plunges me into a depressive state and panic attacks.

On the other hand, I *do* have those psychiatric conditions, and yes, they were diagnosed professionally. Tourette’s rides that thin line between neurological and psychological with its complex interactions and the brain being shaped a little differently than a typical human brain. Through my 27 years of life, I’ve discovered that I have high sensitivities to many drugs that shouldn’t affect people like they affect me. Consequently I’ve sought out different ways to cope with my issues: grounding, weighted blankets, breathing techniques, tactile deflection, straight up old fashioned therapy. What I’ve found is that my anxiety needs only moderation as needed, and my depression needs moderation at all times.

So, from my personal perspective, I appreciate Hopkins not pushing pills and over-diagnosis. That really is a big problem nowadays, especially kids being diagnosed with ADHD. Most times, kids are just kids. ADHD doesn’t disrupt other people’s lives until it disrupts the life of the one who has it. Believe me, I know. That is a massive difference between kids being themselves and kids suffering from a hyperactivity disorder.

With the rise of distrust in pharmaceutical distributors, I plead people to consider that some medications are necessary. Alex’s story hit me so hard. Without meds, I would be him. I would be on the verge of killing myself over the depth of human suffering. I understand the decision to not take medication, but it still breaks my heart.

There needs to be balance. I understand that. People should neither overly credit or completely discredit the freedom that can come from an accurate, professional diagnosis.

Overall, The Subjects was a fantastic book. The message got a little heavy handed at the end, but other than that, I thoroughly enjoyed it.

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Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for sending me a copy of this in exchange for an honest review.

Unfortunately, this was a DNF for me. It’s very rare that I don’t finish a novel, but I ultimately couldn’t get into this. I tried to read it on multiple occasions and could never make it more than a couple pages before I felt like I had better things to do. Im disappointed. This type of novel is usually right up my ally. I found this a little confusing at times and difficult to keep up with. I have a DNP and I feel as though those with little medical knowledge will have a hard time keeping up with some parts of this novel.

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I was excited to read this book, but in the end found the narrative unengaging - rambling and bit too pleased with itself. I got about 75% of the way through and then decided life was too short to persist. The opening is interesting - exciting even, but once we meet the main actors there's a little bit of "so what?". I found I really didn't care what happened to any of them - and very little did.

There's some tricksy ideas in this - but in the end that's what they are: tricksy.

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I was unable to finish this book as it did not work for me personally at all, despite being excited for some new Australian sci-fi.

The main character was insufferably dull and his narrative voice vacillated between what I think the author thought a sixteen year old boy should sound like (lots of thinking about sex and generally being an asshole) and a pretentious adult. None of the side characters really stood out either - at the point I abandoned this book, the love interest still didn't even have a personality.

Also, apart from a few Aussie turns of phrase, this book could have been set in any generic outback anywhere in the world. A shame, because I think there is a lot that this novel could have said about drug use in regional Australia, and particularly its impact on indigenous Australians, but there was nothing to indicate where this was really set (not even a kangaroo or a brown snake on their first trip outdoors, instead of a goat).

I will be interested to see if international readers look upon this more favourably without the expectation of a relatable Australian read, but this wasn't the book for me unfortunately.

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The synopsis of this sounded so exciting - I've studied psychology for several years now so I love when my reading habits intersect with my academic interests. I will also admit that the idea behind the book reminded me of one of my favourite Alex Rider books from my teenage years, so that was also a major pull! But unfortunately, this one was not the creepy, exciting thriller I was expecting, but instead a very academic and at times dull (sorry!) exploration of the circumstances the boys find themselves in. If I'm honest, not much happens, and while the constant observation is creepy, its unfortunately not enough to keep your interest.

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3.5 out of 5 stars

Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for sending me a copy of this in exchange for an honest review.

This story follows a 16 year old drug dealer called Daniel. During a courtroom intervention it’s decided instead of jail he’s being sent off to a facility of other ‘gifted delinquents’. What’s going on there? What is this place?

This was such an interesting concept. I enjoyed to deeper look into the mental illness side of things especially in younger people. The topic of this when it goes into it seemed very complex and well researched.

I really enjoyed the sense of humour in the teens. Some of their conversations felt like real teen conversations. However I will say at times Daniel didn’t see very ‘teen like’. I do understand that it’s told from the person of Daniel when he’s older so I imagine that’s why that is.

To me I felt some things went over my head but that’s down to me and not a fault of the book. This felt very character driven which isn’t really my thing but I do think it’s worth the read.

Trigger warning on domestic abuse and talks of rape.

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Sixteen-year-old Daniel is on the verge of being sentenced to time in juvie when fate intervenes. He is detoured to a new place... a place with no bars, a place he's told he is "lucky to attend", In spite of the fact that he's unsure of where he's headed, he agrees to the compromise.

The majority of this novel is set in the institute that Daniel is sent to. It's an intriguing place. Apart from an initial physical run-in with one of the interns ... it seems as though it's not such a bad place. Daniel meets with Dr. J who seems to run the institute. They don't have what Daniel would consider therapy sessions, at first they only meet to work out a contract encompassing what they both want.

The story unfolds from Daniel's perspective when he is in the institute and from snippets of an inquiry that is happening a decade later. It's clear that something has happened during Daniel's tenure that resulted in an investigation but the reader is along for the ride with Daniel. Throughout the novel, he tries to piece together his memories, the transcripts and some new information to build the story of what happened.

All the young people who are at the institute are meeting privately with Dr. J. All of them have different items in their contracts. They work on subjects that interest them, they learn about themselves, and it seems as though they are setting their own pace as they struggle with their individual challenges. Daniel's past is littered with abusive men who were brought into his life by his mother. He explores her weakness and his frustration as he reluctantly divulges bits and pieces of his personal history the way he remembers it.

All of the characters in this novel are interesting. They are full-bodied, revealing deep secrets and strange little nuances about themselves. The characters all interact with one another differently, and the longer they spend together the more they seem to learn about getting along with one another.

Ultimately, I feel like this book is about weighing the value of different types of treatment for people living with mental illness. I was touched by the twist at the end of the book (I'm not going to reveal it here). The story has left so many questions in my mind: is medication the answer for mental illness? Do we all just need to be listened to? Are some people so affected by the negative aspects of the world that they are unable to exist peacefully? What if mental illness isn't abnormal and is simply a variation of normal?

This tale is firmly planted in the contemporary world. It felt to me as though there was a component of science fiction in it, perhaps just because some of the "therapy" and "lessons" were a bit above my ability to understand. I've been curious about some of the things the author described and have found myself researching them.

"I was not playing God; I was trying to block out the noise so I could hear him." - Dr. J.

If you love interesting characters and an intriguing plot...that isn't handed to you on a platter... yes, you have to think about this one (and I love that) then you will enjoy this book.

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Thank you Sarah Hopkins, Text Publishing and NetGalley for the ARC.

The premise of this book is that the main character Daniel is a juvenile who had been selling drugs to peers, to save him from a detention centre a mysterious Dr suggests instead he goes to a 'School'. Whilst at the School Daniel meets other characters and forms bonds with the other students.

I found the cover art and the blurb very intriguing. I found the concept of the book provocative and enjoyed learning some of the scientific concepts that were introduced to Daniel during his lessons.

Overall, however, I struggled with this book as the opportunity to explore real issues such as the questionable morals of pharmaceutical companies and over prescribing medication for children with mental health needs could have been covered in a much more interesting debate. However the story is headed by a rather unlikely character that strongly reminded me of Holden Caulfield from the Catcher in the Rye. The issues are not thoroughly explored and nothing of much seems to happen in main bulk of the book. The ending is guessable and the language used throughout the book does not reflect that of a 16 year old boy making it difficult to be believable.

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As someone with an MSc in Psychology I was really excited to read this novel - the premise sounded fantastic and the opening really set the scene for a riveting read. However, around a quarter of the way in I found myself drifting and feeling like I was back in University listening to lectures. I really enjoyed the setting, the characters and the premise, however, for me the writing was a bit of a let down due to the 'heavy' focus on, what I would term, psychological ideas. I'd be intrigued to read a further novel by Sarah Hopkins so give this a try - you might like it!

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After finishing this book I have more questions than answers. It was fairly difficult to keep up with at some points as it bounced between past and present and the change wasn't always clear. I think it's an interesting concept but needs more explanation & an expanded story line to really make sense of it.

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A fascinating concept, but one which left me with far more questions than it answered and which was - ultimately - rather frustrating.
Our story focuses on teenage Daniel. He manages to avoid jail for selling drugs by agreeing to enter a facility. Like Daniel, we learn about the facility and those inside as he experiences it. Ultimately, however, the intriguing idea of exploring social engineering and the behaviour of pharmaceutical companies didn’t fully pay off.
I’m grateful to NetGalley for granting me access to this and it was a fascinating idea. Unfortunately, we never really get the answers we want and the children themselves feel as if information is being withheld. Knowing that Daniel was an adult looking back on this incident meant we had a suspicion how things might go.

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I received this book from NetGalley in exchange of an honest review.

Daniel is a young drug dealer, he's 16 years old and to prevent him from going into a juvenile detention in the courtroom appears a Doctor Daniel never met before. He's Doctor J and he decides to bring Daniel to his School. There Daniel lives with other eleven kids, all of them delinquents, for months, taking peculiar classes, using headsets and tablets, playing video games, talking to the Doctor about his life with his mother Mary and her abusive partners.
The book, narrated from Daniel's POV swings from his time in the School, the inquiry about it and his life after, his carrier, his family and friends. Interesting are the characters in the School. Rachel is the quiet and peculiar young woman, sleepwalker, traumatized by something in her past and detached from all of them. Tod is the young man obsessed with his weight and diet, Daniel's first friend, talkative and extrovert. Imogen and Grace are the sisters, music talented.
The most interesting character is, for me, Alex, a clinical depressed young man, obsessed with his study on the suffering in the world. For his project he's interested in studying and collecting data about child slavery, prostitutions, analfabetism and so on, creating a map, statistics about the world's sufferings. He's an intense character, who feels and understand too much for his own good.
In this School, surrounded by people that become friends and crush (Rachel), Daniel has to understand why he's there, how to talk with the Doctor about his life with his mother, the abuses and so on.

I was interested in this book because the idea of a group of kids rescued from prison and put in a peculiar school, where the lessons are weird and, apparently, without much sense. But I'm a bit disappointed by the outcome. During most of the book nothing happens. Daniel goes to lesson, he takes tutorials with his mathematics professor, he learns about his brain waves, that the school is a project, that they are subjects of an experiment, but the experiment is explained only in the last few pages.
Basically they live there, making friends, studying, talking about their pasts and...nothing else. I was expecting something more complex, more interesting that simple observation and monitoring kids. The story fell flat for me. The whole idea of incarceration, they live in a rural place, away from everything, fall short too, because neither of them feel forced to be there. They are kinda "forced" to live there because they don't know where to go, don't want to come back into the social system, but, weirdly enough, Daniel feels free in this place. He doesn't want to go home, face his mother and his life before.

I was expecting more exciting experiments, but I was impressed reading about how they were observed. How the Doctor and the others refused drugs, for their own reason, to help Alex, leading him to kill himself. I guess , thinking about Alex, I could understand the cruelty of their treatment and the passivity of observing and monitoring.
Still I wished for something more complex and I honestly found the book slow and a bit boring (I appreciated Alex's and Rachel's story)..

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I do not like having to work this hand at understanding the premise of a novel, to connect with characters or to follow what exactly is happening.

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After finishing The Subjects, I'm still processing it. It is an intriguing, thought-provoking literary crime novel (it is difficult to decide the right category for it, but not sure mystery/thriller/psych thriller fit). In this story, the now-adult Daniel relates his experiences as a sixteen-year-old drug dealer facing jail time but instead sent to the School, an institution for gifted delinquents. Throughout the whole read, I kept thinking: "where is this going? how will this end?" There were times when the science and chronicle of day-to-day became heavy, and the pace flagged, but the need to know the answers to those two questions prevailed. And I enjoyed the conclusion, when the whole truth about the School and some of the players in the story was revealed to the adult Daniel, alongside me the reader. I'm quite in awe of how author Sarah Hopkins thinks and how she crafted this unique story. Curiously, The Subjects brings to my mind Aldous Huxley's Brave New World and Sulari Gentill's Crossing the Lines. 4 to 4.5 stars.

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Thank you Sarah Hopkins, Text Publishing and NetGalley for the ARC. I thoroughly enjoyed this book; it provided insight into the justice system and pharmaceutical industries and the potential of young people when given opportunity. The ending is excellent; it ties together the stories and alternative education of a group of teenage Australians who have endured challenging childhoods.

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