|Another Place by Matthew Crow|
|Reviewer: Em Richardson|
|Summary: An interesting read for teens, introducing the reader to some very adult themes, including mental illness, crime and the effects of poverty.|
|Buy? Maybe||Borrow? Maybe|
|Pages: 288||Date: August 2017|
Another Place tells the story of Claudette, a teenager with severe depression, who is released from a stint in a psychiatric ward to discover her friend has gone missing. She quickly becomes engrossed by the hunt for Sarah, and is convinced finding out what happened to her will give her closure on her own mental illness by giving her an aim to focus on. I loved this premise, as Crow was able to blend the main plot point of the search for Sarah with the subplot of Claudette's struggle with depression, showing how her mental illness affected her desire to discover the truth.
I'd actually like to start by discussing the themes of mental illness, and the fact Crow can be applauded for managing to portray Claudette's depression in a way that managed to be sensitive, but also realistic. The way he described both how her illness made her feel, and how it affected her view of the world around her, felt realistic without being over-exaggerated or attempting to manipulate the reader's emotions. Equally, Crow was able to showcase many of society's bigoted views on mental illness through the subtle comments people made to Claudette, including those who seem to think they are being helpful or supportive.
I also liked the fact that, for all mental illness plays a major role in the novel, it cannot be said to revolve solely around Claudette's depression, once the first 100 or so pages have passed. Said pages do pass by rather slowly, as they feature a combination of descriptions of day-to-day life in a bleak, rather boring town, and a newly released Claudette gradually learning how to cope with both being reintegrated into society, and everyone in her small town being aware of her mental health issues. Yet, once the hunt for Sarah becomes more intense, the novel shifts focus to address Claudette's mission to find out what happened to her. I thoroughly enjoyed this part of the novel, and it built to a thrilling and harmonious conclusion, even if the ending was predictable.
My only issues with the book definitely lie with the characters. Firstly, there was Claudette herself, and the mixed feelings I felt toward her. On the one hand, it was difficult not to sympathise with her situation, and I admired the way she was depicted as trying to set aside her own problems in order to find out the truth about a girl no one else seemed to care about. However, that didn't always detract from the fact, depression or no depression, Claudette is depicted as being a somewhat unpleasant character, even if her actions at the end of the novel do redeem past immoral behaviour to some extent. That being said, she was not as irritating as her best friend Donna. I simply felt her entire character, and dialogue, were more like an exaggerated, satirical version of a teenager than a realistic sixteen-year-old girl, and that her conversations with Claudette sounded far from authentic. Instead, they were almost like a parody of the subjects an older person might assume teenagers discuss. I actually felt the most warmth towards Donna when she was arguing with Claudette, as her frustration at her friend's alleged reluctance to recover seemed to show her at her most realistic, and showed how some might feel when trying to help a mentally ill loved one.
In the end, my favourite character in the book was definitely Sarah, even if she did only appear in flashbacks from before Claudette entered hospital. The very nature of her friendship with Claudette appealed to me, as I liked the idea of two lost souls meeting up late at night, setting the world to rights and venting their frustration. Even relying on flashbacks, Crow was able to create a strong character, and make readers sympathise strongly with Sarah, especially when few people seem to care about finding out what happened to her. Like Claudette, she has certainly done some immoral things, but given she lives in a care-home and has questionable connections to a local drug-dealer, she does them to survive. She is also shown, through her behaviour towards Claudette, to have a strong sense of justice and a big heart, even if this isn't always totally evident. Most of all, Sarah is to be pitied, as Crow uses her to showcase what life is really like for some of Britain's most deprived young people.
Overall, this is a book aimed at teens which manages to discuss some distinctly adult themes. If nothing else, it is an excellent read for any young people wishing to learn more about either what it is like to live with depression, or what it is like to live in extreme poverty.
I'd suggest anyone who enjoyed this book might also enjoy Looking For Alaska by John Green, another teen novel dealing with mental health issues and featuring a mystery that needs to be solved.
You can read more book reviews or buy Another Place by Matthew Crow at Amazon.co.uk.
You can read more book reviews or buy Another Place by Matthew Crow at Amazon.com.
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