Get Well Soon
by Julie Halpern
Anna Bloom is depressed; so depressed that her parents have committed her to a mental hospital with a bunch of other messed-up teens. Here she meets a roommate with a secret (and a plastic baby), a doctor who focuses way too much on her weight, and a cute, shy boy who just might like her.
But wait! Being trapped in a loony bin isn’t supposed to be about making friends, losing weight, and having a crush, is it? (goodreads.com)
This book was part of a box of goodies I got from a friend over the summer. Something triggered the need for me to read it this past Tuesday as I was on my way to bathvil (bath + advil for those nights after my intense fitness class at work). Yes, I have been down a lot lately and for some reason my brain though I might like to read a book called Get Well Soon and that perhaps it would soothe me. You know, I glanced at the cover flap when I got the book last year and I guess I didn’t fully register what it was about. I was convinced it was about someone in a hospital dying of a terminal disease. I don’t know why. I just did.
Imagine my (delighted) surprise when I started the book only to find that it was about a girl in a mental hospital. I love books about mental illness! (Is that a mental illness of it’s own?) The entire book is a bunch of letters from Anna to her best friend Tracy. There are no chapters, but the days are noted at the top of each page in the right hand corner. There are stops and starts each with their own title of what part of the day it was, before therapy, after, etc.
This book was hilarious and such a thrill to read. It’s the first book about mental illness I have read that is not depressing at all. It’s just… fun. The cast of characters in the hospital ward with Anna are interesting and although I had a little trouble keeping track of some of them (there were quite a few) those that were more pertinent to the story were very memorable and very well written.
The author’s note mentions that this book is “based on her own depressing experiences” and I have to wonder – the doctors in this place were just horrid. The rules were so strict and sometimes downright insensitive I couldn’t figure out how they thought this would help? No smiling. No talking. No touching (I can get that, but even for hugs?) Anna’s shrink kept telling her she was fat. Some of the conversations were a little harsh and I was totally taken aback because of it. Was this supposed to be “tough love”? No singing. No music. (that would KILL me) No nothing that could offer comfort or stress relief in any way. Was it so that these kids learned to cope without help? I don’t know. I just thought it was a little brutal and strange.
Anna’s parents put her there because she was depressed and they didn’t know what to do with her. Why not have her doctor look into medication? Why not talk to her? Why just hand her off to an institution for a month and have them deal with her? I don’t don’t the whole story behind why Anna was there (it’s never really explained) but I don’t think her parents tried very hard before shipping her off (at least from the way it was described). Was Anna supposed to have an eating disorder? Was that why everyone was all “you’re fat” and “Oh, you’ve lost weight, good?” Did her parents send her there because she was unhappy AND fat? Was it supposed to help that? I don’t know. There are all these little questions as to WHY she was there that are left for the reader to think about I guess. I’m not complaining about that at all, but I am nosy my nature and I want to know! 😉
As awful as the place sounded to me, it did help Anna with her confidence and everything else, so I guess in the long run it worked. I feel like I should have wept at so many points in the story but it was told with such humour and wit that I couldn’t. You have no idea how uplifting a book about depression this actually is. Sort of a relief to be honest.
This book was published in 2007 so it’s not going to be all fancy displayed in the store but I urge you all to take a second, or even a first, look at it when you’re next in a store because it is full of awesome.