|LIFE IS BUT A DREAM
Feiwel & Friends
This is a difficult book to talk about. I'm not sure I've read a book specifically about schizophrenia before and this story, told in first-person from Sabrina's POV, takes an almost dreamlike approach to it. The way Sabrina sees the world is described so wonderfully, so beautifully even, that at first it's hard to see what's wrong with her view of the world. If she thinks the sky changes color and stones glow until they grant her wishes, so what? Sabrina's confusion and her distance from everything and everyone else is written so well; inside her mind, we see and feel what she sees and feels, and things aren't quite what they seem.
As the story progresses, it becomes more and more obvious that Sabrina's visions aren't always so pretty, nor are they harmless. The "static" she sees coming to devour the world is terrifying and even worse is her resistance to those who attempt to help her. Scared that she'll lose what makes her special and artistic if her schizophrenia is treated, she latches onto the volatile, troublemaking Alec -- the only one in the Wellness Center who believes she isn't crazy. With him by her side, she knows she can conquer anything.
Alec is an interesting character on quite a few levels. Unlike Sabrina and the other patients, his problems seem to be more like delinquent behavior than any real mental issues and his inability (or refusal) to see how sick Sabrina was infuriated me. In fact, throughout much of the book I absolutely hated this anger-driven, seemingly manipulative character who cared more about his own agenda than Sabrina's well-being. However, Alec himself is not quite as he at first appears to be and by the end of the novel my opinion of him had dramatically changed. The fact that the author was able to pull off this sort of character arc was amazing to me.
Aside from the obvious issues of Sabrina's mental health and her relationship and feelings for Alec, there are a host of other things going on in this story: the way her parents' deal with her and the bullying she endures at school being the biggest things. And while I often felt like much of the bullying was out of place in the scope of the story, in many ways it served an important purpose of highlighting just how messed-up Sabrina's situation really was. Like I said at the outset, this is a difficult book to talk about and the fact that it's in first-person makes it confusing. There's a lot packed into this slim book, but even with so many subplots fighting for attention the story still paints a heartbreaking, confusing, and ultimately healing portrait of a girl struggling with one of the most complex and dangerous mental illnesses. The quality of the story, characters, and writing surprised me; Life Is But A Dream is an issue-driven contemporary YA book that I'd easily recommend to others, especially if anything about the subject matter appeals to you.