If you read my unboxing post a few weeks ago where I share my first impressions of The Book Case’s Self-Discovery crate, then you would’ve seen that Whisper to Me was the book that came with it. A book that seems light and fluffy judging by the cover (which you shouldn’t do!! SHAME!!). To be totally honest, I wasn’t expecting this book to be deep and meaningful because the cover just seemed so… happy.
Imagine the shock to my system when I realized it wasn’t at all light, fluffy OR happy! It genuinely was a book about self-discovery – well played, Natasha from The Book Case! Well played.
Cassie is writing a letter to the boy whose heart she broke. She’s trying to explain why. Why she pushed him away. Why her father got so angry when he saw them together. Why she disappears some nights. Why she won’t let herself remember what happened that long-ago night on the boardwalk. Why she fell apart so completely.
Desperate for his forgiveness, she’s telling the whole story of the summer she nearly lost herself. She’s hoping he’ll understand as well as she now does how love—love for your family, love for that person who makes your heart beat faster, and love for yourself—can save you after all.
Ok, so that synopsis is totally misleading and doesn’t do much to let readers know what to expect. It fits well with the cover, giving the impression that it is another fluffy young adult piece with no deeper meaning. So let me give you a better idea: Whisper to Me is a young adult contemporary book about a teenage girl who suffered a trauma, triggering psychotic dissociation. In other words, the disturbance manifests itself as a voice that comes from the outside.
In simple terms: she starts to hear a voice.
Let me just put it quite plainly: this book is probably one of THE best YA books about mental illness that I ever read. Nick Lake really got into the mind of someone battling with this kind of disorder, making it easier to understand what the person is going through without being too clinical. Obviously I don’t have much experience with this subject matter, but I’ve read A LOT of books on the topic of mental health awareness, and this is by far the best I’ve read.
In every book I ever read about anxiety, bipolar disorder or depression, the character explains what they are feeling; but it is never really put into perspective for the reader to process and understand. In this book Nick Lake does it exactly right. He shows us Cass before she started hearing the voices, giving us an idea of her personality and, more importantly, the image she has of herself. Then we get a glance of her during her battle with this voice she keeps hearing, and how this affects her entire world. But what I found most interesting was how the author managed to break it down for us (or rather, Cass) in terms of treatment. I don’t think I ever came across that before in one of these books. He really digs deep and gives us a real, raw view of what is happening with this character we are following in the book.
Speaking of Cass, I enjoyed her voice. She was a quiet girl who kept to herself, never went looking for trouble and followed the rules; but she was constantly analyzing and over thinking. She was so unexpected, yet totally relatable; and you just cannot help but be in her corner even when she annoys you at times. Even when you want to shake her and question her actions, you still go ahead with her because that’s just the type of character she is.
Here’s the thing though, this book could’ve easily fallen to pieces. There were a few issues I had with the plot and I felt like it could’ve been made into a shorter book; but the writing saved it. I adored Nick Lake’s writing style, it was beautiful when it simply didn’t need to be and I appreciated this, especially considering that the book deals with some pretty heavy issues.
Also, I found the structure of the book to be pretty interesting. It is written as one long-ass love letter; so it just goes on and on with no breaks. As soon as I realized there were no chapters I became skeptical, and thought that there’s no way it will work. But you know what? It just does. And it works well. I said that I feel this book could’ve been made shorter, but now I’m thinking that would mean that it wouldn’t be everything it is right now – vivid, real, raw and honest. Because it was written at such length I got to connect with Cass, I got to feel her pain and in the end I got to appreciate a really good story written about a topic that up until now, I never truly understood. All thanks to beautiful writing technique and proper research.
I mentioned before that I don’t like how books about mental illness are written as a romance. And I stand by that, unwavering. So now I need to address the elephant in the room: the fact that this book is a love-letter, which means it’s a romance… BUT to me it never came across as a romance. This is another reason I can give as to why it’s one of the best books in this genre I ever read. It’s such a difficult thing to explain, because the book is based on the concept of romance, yet it swayed more towards friendship. The romance was like instrumental music being played softly in the background; each time I hear that subtle note of a piano key, or the gentle strum of guitar chords, I sort of drift away with the sound. It wasn’t being blasted in my ears, and therefore it made so much more of an impact.
And finally, there was the ending, which was left wide open. I’m absolutely crazy about it! It’s frustrating and more than a little nerve-wrecking but it’s just perfect. Anything else would have spoiled the story, so as much as I imagine Nick Lake wanting to craft the perfect fairy-tale ending, I am so glad he left us with the one I read.
As you can see, I have lots to say about this book and I’ll admit I have so much more to add. But I will end it off here by saying that Whisper to Me is an unexpected good book. It will make you laugh, it will make you cry, and if you read it at night while alone at home then please let me know if you got as freaked out as I did! I highly recommend it!
I gave Whisper to Me 4.5/5 stars on Goodreads.