Imagine being sixteen and having to drink just to escape your everyday reality. And then your best friend dies and you feel in your heart you killed her.
Amy is faced with this trauma. At the start of the book she is just leaving Pinewood, a rehab center for teens. She came to deal with her alcoholism after a horrible accident. In which her best friend, Julia, was killed. Though she was the one driving, and on drugs, Amy feels totally responsible. She can’t get Julie’s mother’s voice calling her a murderer out of her mind, and the feeling that this is all she is a killer.
Coming back to her old life after pinewood isn’t easy. The educational psychologist put together an imposible sounding schedule for her. She is faced with a group of kids who have been known to her for years, she and Julia often navigated the ever changing territory of popularity and the social scene. Without Julia she just doesn’t have the energy to cope.
Amy has always felt like her parents were in this completely loving relationship where they seemed to block her out because they were so much in love with one another, like all they wanted was to be just themselves. She was not planned, and though her parents would never admit it and try to prove to her many times in the book that she is loved very much. Amy can still sense the undercurrents of how their lives used to be. Her parents not really seeming to notice her drinking until it became too late. And wrapped up in one another to the point that she felt like someone just attached on to the perfect couple. Weird family dynamic. But all families are different!
Amy Does have a therapist Laurie from Pinewood. Unfortunately Laurie is a poor fit for Amy. She seems to justask a bunch of questions without actually caring that Amy does not like her or being there. When Amy does reach out to saysomething vulnerable or emotionally charged, or give an insight Laurie seems to not respond very much. They seem on different pages. The weekly sessions become something Amy dreads rather than a help to her and she’s constantly frustrated by Laurie especially her pen clicking. I had a pen clicking caseworker when I first came to Albany so I can totally empathize.
Much of her healing comes from writing in her journal, and writing letters to Julia. Letters she knows Julia will never reply to but they get her feelings out. At first she talks about life now, how Julia would like or not like certain things, wishing Julia were there for certain things. At some point the letters go into the situation of the accident, and Amy’s feelings become more complex around feeling angry for Julia’s part in how her life spiraled out of control.
In the meantime a relationship between she and a shy troubled boy, and one of the girls from the popular crowd who is trying so hard to fit in, provide Amy with new relationships. It’s so hard for her to see herself as something other than a killer. It will probably always be hard for her. By the end of the book she is able to at least stand being in relationships opening herself up, and just being present. But the flood of emotions really never stops.
This is a realistic book about trauma, greif, alcoholism, and relationships in the ten years becoming ten times more complicated when these other things are thrown into the mix.
I feel Julia and Amy are good characters. Her parents appear genuine in wanting to be there for Amy in the moment but their past of being so not present is a lot to get over. I wish that Amy had a therapist she felt more connected to. At one point she did ask to see someone else but her parents said no. Unfortunately that’s life. You need mental healthcare but circumstances are such that you can only be stuck with one therapist and unable to change. It left Amy to do a lot of introspection and work on her own. Her peers became stronger allies than the therapist or parents. And again that’s how things go. Healing comes in all forms. Amy is insightful, connects well with others, is emotionally intelligent and vulnerable. You end the book knowing she still has a long road ahead of her but that she’s managed to get herself from a very very dark place to a point where she can have a little different perspective on the events and with new friends by her side.
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