This will be a short review, because I don’t want to give anything away, and this is a slowly-unfolding mystery that is best experienced through reading it. I don’t want to spoil anything! So… I requested to join this blog tour because (1) I’d read Second Star by Alyssa a few years ago and really enjoyed it, and (2) I love mysteries and boarding school stories, and since this one had both I figured I couldn’t go wrong. I hadn’t expected the book to be so heavily focused on mental health issues, but I’m so glad I was able to have this reading experience. Although I say it is “heavily focused” on mental illness, I don’t mean to imply that it’s a heavy or super sad book, because amazingly enough it’s not. It’s a very well done portrait of mental illness in several forms, while also giving us a mystery you’re eager to see solved, a struggling-at-boarding-school experience, and even budding romance!
For several reasons, I really connected with the characters in this book, both Ellie and Eliza. I am claustrophobic myself, though I’ve never had such a severe form as Ellie does. I have, however, had a few panic attacks in small spaces, especially times when I’ve had to have MRIs (ugh I hate those). So I understood what Ellie was going through, even though my issue is not as severe as hers. I have also had experience with someone very similar to Eliza’s father (my brother-in-law), and I can say without a doubt that Alyssa’s portrayal of him and the effect on those around him was spot on. I was writing in the margins of my ARC very early on when he was on the page as to what I thought the issue was, and I turned out to be right. I know that’s very vague, but I really don’t want to give anything away.
Overall, I just want to get across that Alyssa’s portrayal of people struggling with, surviving with, and living fully with mental health issues is carefully drawn, sympathetic, and never maudlin. I’d recommend reading the author’s note at the end, in which Alyssa explains her thinking behind the book and some of the work she did to ensure accurate portrayals of various mental health issues. She also does a wonderful job showing how mental illness affects not only the person afflicted but also those around them, be they family or friends, co-workers or classmates. I highly recommend reading this book, even if you’re not one who normally enjoys “issue books.” It’s really not maudlin or overly heavy, nor is it preachy when dealing with a tough subject. The balancing act Alyssa strikes in this book with Eliza’s story is darn near perfect; I truly don’t think I’ve seen such a straightforward, unflinching, and sympathetic look at this issue in any book I’ve read before.
Again, I know this is rather vague, but I don’t want to give anything away and ruin the reading experience. I would just encourage you to check it out for yourself. It’s a relatively short, easy read, and I think you’ll find yourself quickly turning the pages just as I did. If you read R.I.P. Eliza Hart, I’d love to know what you think of it!
Rating: 4 stars!
Thank you to Scholastic Press for the ARC copy of this book for purposes of review. This is my honest and voluntary rating and review. Thanks also to Rockstar Book Tours for including me on the blog tour!