“Are We All Lemmings and Snowflakes ?” by Holly Bourne – a novel about mental illness

Holly Bourne’s novel Are we All Lemmings and Snowflakes ? is a Young Adult novel but please don’t let that stop you reading it. It is a tho”Are ughtful and entertaining look at a teenager with mental health problems – and don’t let that put you off either

Olive is suffering with her mental health and this includes what looks like an attempted suicide attempt. She needs help and she knows that she does so when an opportunity comes for her to attend a special camp for people like herself she takes it in the hope and expectation that she can be “fixed”. Of course, it’s not that easy.

The author is careful to hint rather than to go into details about what exactly Olive does and the problems of the other young people who are also in the camp but we learn enough to see how they struggle and the affect that it has on their lives and the lives of those around them.

Olive becomes convinced that the problem is not her but actually the whole of society which makes the conditions in which poor mental health thrives. She gets together with some of the other young people to try and make people see that they can each make a difference. This is not a fairy tale so Olive doesn’t get instantly cured but she begins to understand herself and the nature of mental illness. The book is ultimately uplifting whilst still being very honest about what mental health does to people and society.

I enjoyed this book and especially Olive’s narration which is illuminating. You really begin to understand what it must be like to be at the mercy of your unsettled mind and intrusive thoughts. The author writes sensitively and you begin to identify with the young people and their mission. The saddest thing about this book, however, is the knowledge that this sort of targeted intervention is not available for many young people and that so many have to struggle on alone without the care and help they need.

I found this book amusing, enlightening and occasionally very sad. It reminded me a lot of Rachel’s Holiday by Marian Keyes which is about addition but has many of the same themes (although it is definitely not a Young Adult book). I reviewed it here.