This is a well written, well-researched novel about the factors that can lead an average girl to contemplate -and then attempt – suicide. Aimed at young adult readers, “Nothing, Everything, Nothing” is a heart-wrenching tale with a very clear message: Know your true friends, ignore those who only pretend to be.
BOOK TRIGGERS: Suicide, bulimia, abusive relationships
HOW I FOUND THIS BOOK:
OK… this is a book from another member of the NaNoWriMo Participants (SOOOO many great indie authors there!), but Casia Schreyer is the first author who contacted me to ask me for a review once word got out that I review books. I agreed and was given an ARC of Nothing, Everything, Nothing, a book I was already considering buying.
Nothing, Everything, Nothing is a Young Adult contemporary fiction book. I read YA frequently, but mostly fantasy or sci-fi, so this is a book in pretty much the ONE genre that I normally wouldn’t read. In fact, I haven’t read anything like this since I picked up a few Judy Blooms in middle school. I’m going to pretend I’m “high-school me” as the reader since I am no longer the target audience, but high-school me was also a smart-ass. You have been warned.
MY AMAZON REVIEW:
AS A READER:
Schreyer is a wonderful writer, and I was compelled to keep reading to find out what would happen next to the main character, Molly. At just over 200 pages, this is a book that is easy to fit around other tasks like homework, and I read the last half in one sitting. I finished reading at 11pm last night, and was still thinking about parts of the book as I woke up 😛
For teen readers I really think this book is going to hit a lot of chords. The main character is just figuring out who she is, transitioning into being a full teenager and striving to be an adult. So through much of the book she seems to be two people, the one who wants to be liked, and the one who wants to be independent. This is not bad characterization – on the contrary, it is perfect, and a struggle most teens will probably identify with.
At the beginning of the book, Molly finally got in with popular girls and her life seems complete. When she crushes on a new boy at the school and amazingly enough he’s interested in her too, life gets even better. What follows is can be used as a how-to guide for spotting signals that the people you think are your friends are using your trust for their own ends.
As a reader, the one problem I had was that I didn’t entirely LIKE Molly. I was rooting for her the whole time; I hurt for her and what she experienced, and wanted her to be able to move past the pain and the trauma. I just didn’t really CONNECT with her. The character seemed purposefully vague – the author mentioned several times that she was listening to music that she didn’t like because other people were listening to it, but never what exactly she did like. Molly seems to have no hobbies, no interests, did nothing outside of school beyond hanging out on social media. She plays video games with one friend because that’s what they do together, not because she likes them. She drinks and makes out with her boyfriend because that’s what he wants to do.
The one thing that stood out about her was her hairstyle – shaved on one side with the long hair on the other side dyed blue – but this was a streak of independence isolated from any others. She had no further interest in fashion (late in the book she says she was too fat for popular clothes – she’s not – and her therapist asks her if she’s considered try any other styles. Apparently she hasn’t.) And her hair style and her goal of being popular contradicts something she says several times during the book: she hates being stared at. (Of course being outrageous and then b*tching about the attention it gets them is typical teen logic, so that’s not too weird :P)
Molly’s character could have been left as a blank slate to help teens fill her in with their own details, but for me it was much easier to identify with her childhood friend Brandon or with her mom or even her little sister. But this story couldn’t have been any of theirs – Molly’s lack of identity and the extreme vulnerability that gives her is what makes her the perfect focus for a tale like this one.
AS A WRITER:
Schreyer stepped outside of her own usual genre (fantasy), and tackled an EXTREMELY difficult topic for a noble purpose – she had a young relative attempt suicide and she wanted to write a book her relative could relate to. I couldn’t have done half as well at this. If you are on the fence about recommending this to a teenager you know, go read Casia’s blog post on the launch of the book about the changes it underwent and the massive amount of research she did to expand the story from a short meant just for her relative, to a novel meant to apply to a much broader audience.
The book isn’t just about Molly, and isn’t just presented from her view point. We get into the heads of many of the characters – not deeply, but just enough to give some meaning to actions that – from the “mean girls” would otherwise just be cruel, or from her parents that could be seen as just being autocratic. It was a good choice that means this book can be helpful to more than just a teen in Molly’s shoes – it can also help bring awareness to kids who might be engaging in bullying activity without awareness of the consequences, and to the friends and family of suicidal teens.
Because I read a proofreader’s copy there were a few typos, but nothing major. As I said in the Overall – Schreyer’s writing is very good and very engaging.
Much of the social media interaction focuses on Facebook, and so it could get outdated fairly quickly as teens are abandoning that for other sites that their parents don’t belong to yet 😛 But the exact form of online interaction being used isn’t important –cyber bullying isn’t a problem with Facebook, it’s a problem with a culture that pushes conformity but mocks people for “trying too hard”, and promotes judging self-worth by likes and abbreviated, superficial interactions.
[spoiler] One thing I didn’t really care for were the issues the other “mean” girls dealt with and how those were resolved. It might be seen as a satisfying comeuppance to some to have Kristin throwing up non-stop after trying to pressure Molly to purge with her, or to have Julie get knocked up after starting to date Lance even though she KNEW what he was…. but as a mom I just saw two more kids like Molly in even worse trouble than she ended up in. She had avoided both those fates and was still a nervous wreck. She knew that Lance and Julie were in a relationship, and instead of even thinking of letting the police or an adult know that a known serial molester was taking advantage of yet ANOTHER minor, Molly dwelt on her own trauma and tried to commit suicide again. I would have liked for her to found some of her strength by attempting to help others like she had been… but I guess that’s not realistic. This still nags at me, so I wanted to share it.[/spoiler]
I very much recommend this book to Y.A. readers, and look forward to reading other books by Schreyer in the future!
You can get “Nothing, Everything, Nothing” from Amazon in kindle or paperback. You can find other books by Casia Schreyer there as well, or follow her on twitter (@CasiaSchreyer) or her blog.
Next up is Ronnie Virdi’s “Grave Beginnings”. I’m skipping Christmas Thursday (12/25) and will be posting 1/2 instead. The following week will be “Agatha H. and the Voice of the Castle” by Phil and Kaja Foglio, and then “Misfortune Cookies” by Linda P. Kozar.
…. Sometime in the next week I’m going to get up my review criteria – how to submit books to me to be reviewed, what I’m looking for and what I like to read (which, if you can’t tell, is a little bit of everything.) I have a HUGE backlog of books right now, but I will happily accept recommendations for indie or small-publisher books to review for people willing to be patient. And let me know how the new website is working for you (is the font readable, can you find a good option to let you follow it, etc.)
See you next time!