Book Review #42: It’s All Absolutely Fine by Ruby Elliot

IT’S ALL ABSOLUTELY FINE is a darkly comic, honest and unapologetic illustrated account of the daily struggles with mental health. Ruby Elliot, aka Rubyetc, is the talent behind the hit tumblr account, ‘Rubyetc’, which has over 210k followers and growing. Taking readers on a journey through the ups and downs of life, the book will encompass everything from anxiety, bipolar disorder and body image to depression and identity, shining a light on very real problems – all framed with Ruby’s trademark humour and originality.

Ruby balances mental health with humour, making serious issues accessible – and very funny. With the superb talent to capture the essence of human emotion (and to make you laugh out loud), this book is as important and necessary as it is entertaining. IT’S ALL ABSOLUTELY FINE will include mostly never-before-seen material, both written and illustrated, and will be an empowering book that will make you laugh, make you think, and make things ok.

Being a former Tumblr addict, I had to admit I hadn’t followed Ruby Elliot during my many years scrolling through the site. But, first seeing this book in a bookstore drew up some hint of familiarity, like I had seen the drawing style before.

It first reminded me of Allie Brosh’s non-fiction cartoonish account of parts her life and her struggle with depression, Hyperbole and a Half. While Brosh’s debut was only in part describing her experience with mental illness, It’s All Absolutely Fine is completely dedicated to describing the struggles of the author’s mental health.

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At times dark and simply poignant, and other times hilarious, Elliot relatably recounts her struggle with mental illness through written pieces and short cartoons. Though only a part of her life, Elliot manages to share how it sometimes takes over, feeling like there is nothing else.

 

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from It’s All Absolutely Fine by Ruby Elliot, 2016

 

Elliot’s drawing style is very simple, yet signifies the often erratic side of mental health. The book is separated into parts, sharing specific experiences, although not chronological. This was less a complete autobiographical account and more of a sharing of experiences that are all too common. Some cartoons, unexpectedly give hope that things will get better.

 

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from It’s All Absolutely Fine by Ruby Elliot, 2016

 

While there are no graphic depictions of these, It’s All Absolutely Fine does mention self-harm, depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts. Keep that in mind if you are still experiencing these or are in recovery.

Ruby Elliot’s sharing of her personal life through art shows others, even people who haven’t experienced mental illness, how difficult it can be and it is an invaluable piece of media that everyone should read.

 

★★★★
Four stars!

 

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Book Review #40: Little & Lion by Brandy Colbert

When Suzette comes home to Los Angeles from her boarding school in New England, she isn’t sure if she’ll ever want to go back. L.A. is where her friends and family are (along with her crush, Emil). And her stepbrother, Lionel, who has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, needs her emotional support.

But as she settles into her old life, Suzette finds herself falling for someone new…the same girl her brother is in love with. When Lionel’s disorder spirals out of control, Suzette is forced to confront her past mistakes and find a way to help her brother before he hurts himself–or worse.

Let me first start off by saying that the second paragraph of the blurb is very misleading. It made me think that this book was going to be centred around this love triangle between Suzette, Rafeala, and Lionel. However, that was not the case. I found myself sucked into this narrative for very different reasons, the love triangle part being a small part of it.

The story was interspersed with flashbacks explaining the beginnings of Suzette’s and Lionel’s relationship as step-brother and step-sister, the beginnings and signs of Lionel’s bipolar disorder, and Suzette’s relationship with a girl in her past, Iris. I thought the writing was good, but what really held up the story was its characters.

Suzette and Lionel flawed sibling relationship marks some reality with most sibling relationships, especially if one of the people in the relationship has a mental illness. I could relate a lot of Suz and Lion’s actions to my own relationship with my sister. I could also relate a lot to both Lionel and Suzette; Suzette’s questioning of her sexuality and Lionel’s mental health and book obsession.

Spoilers In This Next Paragraph…

When Lionel decided to go off his medication, I empathized with him. I know the feeling of being frustrated with symptoms of medications and finding the right ones and doses to take. I also understood Suzette’s very protective nature towards her step-brother during this time.


 

Little & Lion was not what I expected (ie. the blurb) which is why I took off a star, along with the writing not being very memorable. I also took off the star because it teetered on the very edge of having a bisexual cheating stereotype. But, Little & Lion was very diverse in terms of race, illness, and sexuality. I feel like a lot of people can connect to this novel like I have.

 

★★★★
Four Stars!

 

Book Review #38: 27 Hours by Tristina Wright

*I received a Net Galley copy of this book from Entangled Publishing in exchange for an honest review*

Rumor Mora fears two things: hellhounds too strong for him to kill, and failure. Jude Welton has two dreams: for humans to stop killing monsters, and for his strange abilities to vanish.

But in no reality should a boy raised to love monsters fall for a boy raised to kill them.

Nyx Llorca keeps two secrets: the moon speaks to her, and she’s in love with Dahlia, her best friend. Braeden Tennant wants two things: to get out from his mother’s shadow, and to unlearn Epsilon’s darkest secret.

They’ll both have to commit treason to find the truth.

During one twenty-seven-hour night, if they can’t stop the war between the colonies and the monsters from becoming a war of extinction, the things they wish for will never come true, and the things they fear will be all that’s left.


27 Hours is a sweeping, thrilling story featuring a stellar cast of queer teenagers battling to save their homes and possibly every human on Sahara as the clock ticks down to zero.


 

I first saw this book on Twitter a few times and saw it in people’s Book Expo Advanced Reader’s Copy hauls. I never thought I’d get to read this book considering my huge to be read pile and I was so excited about it because I heard about all the amazing representation that was included.

Then, one day a few months ago, I got a surprising email. It was from Heather at Entangled Publishing, and she wanted to give me an e-book copy of 27 Hours in exchange for an honest review! I was floored. I never thought, in a million years I would actually get contacted by a publisher who wanted my opinion on a book. I felt so great and agreed almost immediately.

Soon I got the copy and was so excited to dig in. I ended up reading finishing this book slower than I anticipated; I guess I was trying to savor every single moment. I always wanted to keep reading this book. I squeezed reading sessions of this book in between breaks at work; I ate it up in bits.

From the very start, I was invested in the story. There was almost no time to set up the world as the action began, which was what got me hooked. The first third of the book was a little heavy with description (of the world, the new technology, the characters), which I didn’t mind, but it seemed to shift from that as I went through the book and as the action progressed. I kind of wish the descriptions were more spread throughout, as it seemed crammed into the first section. I feel Wright was trying to sell the world a bit too hard, which was a little off-putting.

One of the things 27 Hours did well was making me care about the characters. The book followed a lot of different perspectives, and with their many personalities, I felt really attached to pretty much all of them. If I could pick a favourite it would probably be Rumor. He had so much growth throughout the novel, and I loved the romance/relationship that ensued with him. He felt the most fleshed out and well-rounded out of all of the characters.

Along with great characters, 27 Hours contained a lot of representation. It’s not really that common for most Young Adult novels to have this much representation. Here is a list of the representation that I noticed (there’s probably more):

  • Bisexual
  • Asexual
  • Trans
  • Lesbian
  • Gay
  • Deaf/Hard of Hearing
  • Anxiety and/or PTSD
  • Gender Fluid

Although I cannot speak for a majority of the representation in this novel (ie. whether or not it was accurate), I felt it was all done in a very believable way. I especially enjoyed the way the characters interacted with the world, in their own particular way. Nyx is deaf and I felt every aspect of how that was handled was respectful. She was not forgotten or hindered by that aspect of herself.

In terms of plot, I think that is where my final rating kind of lowers. I enjoyed the story, don’t get me wrong, however, there are definite issues that another review has raised in terms of the colonization being a huge factor of the plot. That was not the only reason why my rating is a bit lower, however.

There were some issues I had in terms of consistent pacing, either things were moving too slowly (like some of the introductory babble) or things were moving too fast (how attached the characters became, almost within hours of meeting). The romances were definitely adorable but since this novel is going to be part of a series, I feel it would be more believable if the romances were developed throughout the series.

Another issue I had with 27 Hours was that I didn’t feel any fear for the characters well-being. Of course they came out of near-death experiences with injuries. It also was questionable whether or not that impeded their progress, but I still had this feeling that they were all gonna be alive at the end of the day and have their happy endings. It does make sense in that you don’t want to kill off a character in the very first book, but I would have liked some more atmosphere expressing how dangerous their sotuation really is.

I also felt the ending where the defeat of the final antagonist, that was built up for chapters, was a bit too easy. It was built up for so long I thought it was going to be this intense confrontation, but I was disappointed how quickly everything was wrapped up. I wish there was more to this villian, in all honesty.

The last paragraph makes me want so much more. It leaves me wondering even long I finished the novel of what’s going to happen next. I enjoyed that aspect. If you really like a character oriented, diverse Sci-Fi, and are ready to be thrust into the world of Sahara, this is the book for you.

Overall, I was entertained by this novel and was excited to see so much representation. Some of the characters I wished were fleshed out a little more, but overall, Wright made me care about each one and their growth. I also did have some other issues that I listed above, which made me give it a lower rating. I am hoping to purchase this book as soon as I can, so I can have my own copy, and perhaps dig deeper into this new world.

Three stars!