Saturday, May 7, 2016

Magic and Mental Health: Some Kind of Happiness

Title: Some Kind of Happiness
Author: Claire Legrand
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Release Date: May 17th, 2016!
*eARC kindly provided by Simon and Schuster Children's Publishing via NetGalley*

From Goodreads...
Reality and fantasy collide in this heartfelt and mysterious novel for fans of Counting by 7s and Bridge to Terabithia, about a girl who must save a magical make-believe world in order to save herself.

Things Finley Hart doesn’t want to talk about:
-Her parents, who are having problems. (But they pretend like they’re not.)
-Being sent to her grandparents’ house for the summer.
-Never having met said grandparents.
-Her blue days—when life feels overwhelming, and it’s hard to keep her head up. (This happens a lot.)

Finley’s only retreat is the Everwood, a forest kingdom that exists in the pages of her notebook. Until she discovers the endless woods behind her grandparents’ house and realizes the Everwood is real—and holds more mysteries than she’d ever imagined, including a family of pirates that she isn’t allowed to talk to, trees covered in ash, and a strange old wizard living in a house made of bones.

With the help of her cousins, Finley sets out on a mission to save the dying Everwood and uncover its secrets. But as the mysteries pile up and the frightening sadness inside her grows, Finley realizes that if she wants to save the Everwood, she’ll first have to save herself.


My Review!
I’m not a fan of the middle grade genre. The few MG novels I’ve read in the last few years or so didn’t go that well. I mean, I liked the stories and all, but beyond that… nothing. I can’t even really explain why, but I do think the age is a big reason that they don’t work for me. I either find them completely unbelievable, or I can’t stand the voice, or I feel like I’m reading a children’s book (which I AM, technically). So I’m wary of reading any of them. But when I first heard of Some Kind of Happiness, and saw that cover, I knew I had to have it. I’d heard it dealt with mental health, and also had a bit of magical realism spread throughout, and it sounded super unique. And it WAS so unique, and wonderful, and good, and it made me want to give the MG genre a second chance.

I loved this story so much. And I loved the main character, Finley, for all her faults and preciousness. This is a girl after my own heart. She is brave, and she is quiet, and she is stubborn. She is also imaginative and uses her words and her writing as an escape from the world. Whenever she needs it, the Everwood is there. Present, mysterious, and even a little dangerous. But that doesn’t stop Finley from loving it, or going into it at her grandparents’ house. But the Everwood is also her crux, the thing that she uses so she doesn’t have to think or feel or be honest. During Finley’s time at her grandparents’ this summer, she learns so much about herself and her family. Some of it, good. Some of it, not so good. But through it all, she stayed resilient, even though all she wanted to do was escape to the Everwood. The way that the author wrote Finley’s depression and anxiety was so refreshing and honest. And so, so genuine. Though I’m clearly not a preteen anymore, I could relate so well to Finley and what she was going through. I could understand her hesitation, her fear in opening up, her desire to make this darkness inside of her something that she can handle on her own. But she couldn’t, and I appreciated that TALKING about it and therapy was represented here. Not as much as I wish, but that’s okay, because by the end of this book, Finley was ready to try. To fight the darkness, to take care of herself physically AND mentally. But she’s not alone in this battle. She’ll never be alone again.

This story brought back memories for me, of my grandparents, my cousins, the way we played together when we were all in one place. Finley’s relationships with her family members warmed my heart right up and gave me all the feels. The fights, the arguments, the secrets, the need to be in each other’s business all of the time. None of it felt unimportant or irrelevant. It felt super realistic, for me. Because this is what families do. They may not understand you completely, and they may fight with you, but they’ll be there for you no matter what. (If you’re lucky like Finley and I, that is). And that’s something that Finley has always had with her mom and dad, but not so keenly as it she had it when she stayed with her grandparents for the summer. While she’s never known them before this summer, it doesn’t mean that she doesn’t love them or they her. As if Finley had been a part of them from birth, they welcomed her in and made her feel at home. They accepted her as she was. And I just absolutely loved the scenes between Fin and her cousins. Their make-believe stories, their quests into the Everwood, their desire to be together for days. It brought me back, to summers when I was a child, and the only care in the world was what my cousins and I wanted to do that day. And her mini road trips with her grandfather completely reminded me of the walks my grandpa and I used to take to the woods and back. So many moments in this book were very nostalgic and poignant for me, and I LOVED that. And I loved this family, even when I wanted to shake them for their secrets and lies and half-truths.

There was a component to this story that revolved around the mystery of this old, broken down house in the Everwood (aka the woods behind her grandparents’ house). Though I wasn’t AS thrilled with it as I wanted to be, I could understand why it was there and needed. It seemed to sort of ground Finley when she felt like she was drifting and apart from the others, when she was stuck in her very blue days. Her desire to understand what had happened to the family inside of that house pulled me in, and I just wanted to know what everyone was hiding. I was also intrigued by the Bailey boys, the ruffians that Finley is told to stay away from, but whose infectious and adventurous spirits lead her to disobeying her grandparents. They were a mystery too, and one that I gladly wanted to unravel. Jack and his brothers befriended the Hart kids, and they became a close-knit group that dared to run wild in the heat of the summer. It was a carefree and innocent game that turned into so much more, for all of them. And for Finley, it was a summer of discovery, honesty, and acceptance. Of being able to ask for help and say, “I need you.” Of putting her needs above those of others, because her mental health was more important than staying quiet. Of finding in herself a strength that she didn’t know she had. Her growth throughout this book made it that much more incredible. She was a brave young girl who just wanted to save her Everwood, and herself. And by the end, my heart was full to bursting with love for her as a character, and for this story.

I’m like ridiculously excited for this book to be out in the world. I think it’s an important read, and one that I would recommend to everyone, even those who aren’t generally fans of the MG genre. The positive mental health rep in this, and the careful and serious way in which it was brought about made me so happy. It showed such an honest (though not universal because everyone deals with MI in different ways) depiction of depression and anxiety, and how the two can intertwine. But it also said that it’s okay to have those blue days. That it’s okay to want to keep it locked inside. That it’s okay to not feel brave or strong. But it wants you to understand how important your health is, and how asking for help is not a sign of weakness. I seriously can’t wait for this book to find its way into people’s hands, especially those who will be able to relate to the main character. I hope this book reaches those who don't know, those who do and don't know what to do, and those who just need help talking about their mental health. Some Kind of Happiness was just INCREDIBLE.


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