Little and Lion by Brandy Colbert

Processed with VSCO with f1 preset

Imagine you’re in high school.

Now imagine you’re in high school coming to terms with your sexual preference, your decisions for school, your religious identity.

Now imagine that you have a brother who is bipolar and you love him to death and you want to make sure he’s okay.

LITTLE AND LION by Brandy Colbert is a novel about mental health, understanding your sexual identity, being in love, feeling responsibilities of being an adult, being a teenager, and being yourself. It’s jam packed with excitement all within 250 pages.

Suzette (aka Little) is your narrator for the story and from her point of view alone you get a myriad of different questions and thoughts that I don’t even know I was thinking when I was sixteen.

The story begins with her returning from school in New England. She was sent there out of concern that her brother’s behavior will affect her. First, she’s struggling with her sexual identity. Is she gay? Is she straight? Is she bi-sexual? She can’t know for sure. Then, she’s struggling with her friendships with her friends prior to leaving for school. Finally, she’s struggling with protecting her brother who seems to have it together, but she believes she needs to be closer to him and help him out.

Lionel (aka Lion) seems like your average sort of guy, except last summer he was having a hyper manic moment leading to his diagnosis of bipolar disorder and testing out different medications before deciding that he was going to quit them cold turkey.

This was at the same time Suzette came back from school to finally spend a summer with her brother. They were very close for step-siblings, but Suzette’s concerns for Lionel pulled them apart eventually changing their relationship forever.

I’ve known some very bi-polar people in my life including my cousin who went from partying all night long to waking up and asking Jesus for forgiveness for the sins she committed during the evening (she just danced. I was there, God). I’ve dated people struggling with their anti-depressant medication and how the medication made them feel listless. They didn’t have any more interest in what they were doing. They hated the person they were without them.

The world for people struggling with mental illness is tough. I should know; I struggle with it myself. But in order for us to feel normal, we need to be treated normally. We need to feel that our diagnosis isn’t us; that we aren’t the mental illness people tell us we have. We need to feel that our medications don’t define us either; that anti-depressants are there to help us normalize not make us feel like monsters.

However, these are two areas that a lot of people who don’t struggle with mental illness don’t understand. This is where Suzette’s perspective comes in. I believe this story is great for a lot of reasons, but I think the most important reason is that it gives light to the perspective of those who have loved ones with mental illness. Suzette’s reactions to Lionel’s behavior feels on par with someone who hasn’t adjusted yet to knowing or being around someone with mental illness.

I think something valuable that you get out of this story is that you learn that people with mental illness are trying their best to put on a smiling face everyday and feel like the person they were before they were diagnosed. Our jobs as loving friends and family members are to always make sure they feel included; don’t approach us with kid gloves. We may be struggling, but we’re not fragile porcelain dolls.

It’s just so funny how Brandy Colbert approaches the topic. While yes, a part of the story is about Lionel, but a lot of the story is also about Suzette. I think in her own way, Brandy Colbert is trying to tell us that you should continue to live your own lives. Don’t get caught up in making sure your loved ones feel comfortable, fall in love and go out and have a great life. We’re trying to do the same thing too.

So if you’re new to knowing someone with mental illness or if you want to better understand why some people act the way they do towards people with mental illness, then I would recommend reading this book. It’s good to show you how people approach different challenges in their life and the most important lesson you can take away is that mental illness is an extremely personal struggle.

Buy it on Amazon: Little & Lion

Book Review – Finding Audrey by Sophia Kinsella

finding2baudrey2bcover2bjpeg

Ahhh young love. Nothing cures the deepening hole of depression like knowing that someone’s got a crush on you.

Synopsis (from Goodreads.com) – An anxiety disorder disrupts fourteen-year-old Audrey’s daily life. She has been making slow but steady progress with Dr. Sarah, but when Audrey meets Linus, her brother’s gaming teammate, she is energized. She connects with him. Audrey can talk through her fears with Linus in a way she’s never been able to do with anyone before. As their friendship deepens and her recovery gains momentum, a sweet romantic connection develops, one that helps not just Audrey but also her entire family.

Rating – 3/5 stars

My thoughts – I don’t have a degree in psychology, but my day job requires me to understand the workings of the human brain. The “lizard brain” as Audrey mentions in the book is a little walnut shaped thing that sits somewhere around your neck. This tiny guy is what other people call your “flight or fight” response. They call it the “lizard brain” because it’s a part of the brain that’s existed since we were cavemen hunting and gathering our food. It’s what tells us to run from the dinosaur that’s coming to attack you.

Not only does it give you the survival skills to stay alive, but it also perceives fear. Perceived fear is so different than actual fear. It’s what your brain is telling you is dangerous even though most people don’t know that to be dangerous.

And fear is more than seeing a rabid dog or falling out of a plane. It can be as small as someone yelling at you for doing a bad job or if you work in customer service like I do, it could be someone not happy with a response you sent them. For someone like Audrey, doing a bad job could mean that the end of the world is coming.

“The trouble is, depression doesn’t come with handy symptoms like spots and a temperature, so you don’t realize it at first. You keep saying “I’m fine” to people when you’re not fine. You think you SHOULD be fine. You keep saying to yourself: “Why aren’t I fine?”

While I didn’t rate this book as high as I hoped I would, I liked it nonetheless. I think the faults for me were around the writing choice and the plot. While the story is about a young woman living with a newly diagnosed mental illness, there’s a lot of preoccupation on her brother and video games. I feel like it almost takes away from the actually finding of Audrey and focuses on how to make six million dollars playing video games. Perhaps it’s because it shows the pre-occupation of a mother who wants to know that her kids are doing well. But it comes off as manic and clingy and not really attractive to me in terms of stories.

The writing itself is written in the point of view of Audrey. While it seems like Sophia Kinsella took the time to write in what would be the vernacular of a 15-year-old teenager, it just comes off fake. I read The Shopaholic series a couple of years ago and I don’t remember the writing coming off this way. It’s possible that I wasn’t paying attention. When you’re in college, you’ll do anything to get a break from the academic reading.

What I appreciated the most from this book is the ability to talk about mental illness. Having mental illness is definitely hard to detect and when it is detected, hard to admit to yourself that it’s real and that you should seek help. There’s so many great stories coming out highlighting that mental illness is a real thing. It’s like a cancer. You think it goes away, but then it creeps its ugly head up on you. You think you’re done with it, but then you relapse into the darkness that your brain is so apt to walk towards.

While flawed in some other ways, I think Finding Audrey does a good job showing people who may not already suffer from mental illness some idea of what it’s like. It takes patience and understanding. It’s knowing that sometimes you won’t get to hang out with your friend and not making a big deal out of it.

 

“But, Audrey, that’s what life is. We’re all on a jagged graph. I know I am. Up a bit, down a bit. That’s life.”

With a little bit of elbow grease, you’ll see your friends and family members come back to life from the brink of mental illness, but know that there isn’t a cure for it all. Just always be aware. It’s always going to be around and the best you can do is give that person a hug.