Thursday, September 8, 2016

When Books Hurt; A Review and Why it's Okay to Stop Reading Damaging Books

What do you do when a book hurts you?  We all have those books, the ones we read that rub something raw in us. The ones that feel like an ice shard under our skin, that we know we should put down, but don't. Maybe we keep reading because someone recommended it to us, or gave it to us to review, or we feel the need to finish a book no matter what. Maybe it's just the stigma of DNFing a book that still lingers around the book blogging community. I don't know. What I do know is, I recently read one of those books. Fair warning: there will be spoilers in this review.

I first saw this book on Emma of Miss Print's ARC adoption page, and she very kindly sent it to me. When a person adopts an ARC from Emma, they commit to reviewing that ARC before the release date. I'm a little behind with this one because, honestly, I've been having trouble putting my thoughts into words. I feel like I should start off by saying that the writing was technically good. Kathleen Glasgow has a very polished writing style. I didn't like the formatting of the chapter (some were short, only a few sentences, and some were long), but that is personal preference.

I have no problem with reading about tough or dark subject matter. Indeed, I feel that, especially for young adult readers, subjects like depression, self harm, abuse, mental illness, etc. are important to address and represent in the books that we read. When then, did I have a problem with Girl in Pieces? My problem isn't with the subject matter, it is with how the subject matter was written about. This book was DARK and DAMAGING. There was no end to the suffering that the main character endured and the only bright point came in the very last chapter. She was abused, betrayed, and abandoned by everyone that she should have been able to trust.

I read another reviewer who called this book torture porn and I agree with that assessment. The explicitness and focus on destructive behaviors seemed more like the book was catering to a fetish. The lessons that it taught really boiled down to; everyone is out to screw you, you can't trust anyone (especially not your friends or doctor), and, even if you continue making mistakes, everything will magically work out for the best. I worry about the message it is sending to people who self harm or who have depression. Admittedly, there will be a list of resources for people who self harm in the finished copy, but after the negative way that these resources were portrayed in the book, who would contact them? I can't, in good conscience, recommend this book to anyone and ultimately gave this book 1 out of 5 stars.

My review begs the question; is it okay to not read damaging books? I think it is not only okay, but necessary, not to read damaging books (speaking both personally and as a consumer). I don't self harm, but I do have depression and anxiety. When I first started reading this book, I wasn't in a very good place mentally and this book only compounded my problem. The only reason I kept reading this book was because I had an obligation to review it, but, honestly, this did me more harm than good. When it comes to taking care of your mental well-being, it is better to stop reading a book, even if you have to review it. You can always apologize to the person who sent it to you and return it to them if they wish, but nothing is worth putting yourself through a book that is hurting you. As a consumer, it is important to send a message that books with harmful content (ex. fetishistic writing) are not okay and won't be tolerated. We need diversity in books, but not at the expense or harm of the represented parties.

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