january reads : brains for days

no, this is not a collection of my favourite zombie novels. I don't really have any of those. except for maybe Warm Bodies, and I didn't even finish the book (the movie is fantastic, though...) this post is about the brain itself--particularly about books about brains and how they work.

instead of trying to battle my habit of reading books and never reviewing them, I've decided to choose a theme/genre of books and read three of them each month, then review them in one post. most of these books I read in January, although I've had one so long that library is threatening: "return it or else you'll never see your fluffy child ever again." I'm hoping that this will make me enjoy the process of reviewing more; I really liked comparing these three different books with three very different stories and finding the common connection of brains.

also, they look super good next to each other. just saying.

The Movie Version

Amelia is a teen in the middle of figuring herself out. she adores her totally-cool-without-trying-too-hard older brother, and their bond is strong enough to endure anything, she thinks. but after coming home from a summer away at the beach, Amelia knows something  has changed about Toby--and their lives are never going to be normal again.
Amelia is obsessed with movies and lists. movies are her safe place, and the lists provide order to her somewhat chaotic life. the concept of a movie version of her life is another coping mechanism she uses, especially as things start falling apart. movies never show anything too ugly or glamorous--and even if they do, it's a movie, for crying out loud, so life in her imagination is still good, still whole, still perfect. Amelia's boyfriend is actually living in the movie version of life, while she is stuck in a brutal reality that she cannot escape.

I kind of expected a cute romantic comedy about a girl is totally focused how sucky her life is until a manic pixie dream boy waltzes in to show her how to see the good in life again (*gag*). I had no idea this book was about schizophrenia or mental illness when I picked it up. being clueless definitely made the effect of Toby's disintegration more brutal--his downward spiral and inevitable explosion was so hard to watch, especially through Amelia's eyes. usually novels about mental illness are voiced by the person directly dealing with said mental illness, but The Movie Version explores what siblings go through when something like this happens. that truly made this a tough read--it put me, in a way, in my sibling's shoes. that helplessness as you watch someone you love fall apart...I'd never really experienced what that feels like until now.

the theme of movies incorporated throughout the book was cute and interesting--I expected it to almost be a cutesy after-though, but movies meant everything to this story. movies were what held Amelia's life together, were a huge part of Toby's delusions, and the movie club was what finally brought Amelia back to life after everything else fell apart. I'm not a movie buff at all, but reading about a character who was was fantastic.

one slightly off-putting detail to The Movie Version was Amelia herself. it was nearly impossible to click with her as the main character for about 75% of the book--but after reading it entirely, I think that was totally on purpose. the reader feels a disconnect because Amelia doesn't relate to herself. she doesn't know who she is. in her life, Toby is the main character, and he always has been. as a result, there's no way for the reader to entirely connect with her. it's not until later that she realizes that she's a huge part of this story too--that she can make a difference if she stops focusing entirely on the horrible parts of her life and accepts them along with the good.

Everyone We've Been

Addison is in love with her music. music means everything to her; it says all the things she never thought she could say. her life is fairly normal, but after meeting a cute boy on a bus--only to suddenly lose track of him after the confusion of an accident--everything starts to change. Addison starts noticing things that no one else can see...and the boy might be one of them.
Addison of the past walks into a movie store and meets someone who will forever change her life. little does she know that the time spent with him would bring her more heartbreak than she could ever bear.

this was an interesting read. it has some really good things to say about grief and the role it plays in our development as humans, but a lot of what this book is built upon is extremely far-fetched and not explained well at all. I spent about half of it very confused and very skeptical. it wasn't horribly written, but more explanation would have helped. the format of the book--constantly bouncing back and forth from the present to the past--was frustrating as well; it was necessary for the plot, but overall it just made things more convoluted.

the imagery and writing style were so beautiful, though, especially when it came to music and memory. unfortunately, that couldn't save how awkward the end result of the book felt. I didn't hate it, but I didn't fall in love like I thought I would. when I closed the book, it almost felt like a waste of time, like I hadn't experienced enough from this book with great potential.

pathetic is harsh but seriously...this is basically this book in a nutshell...

The Weight of Zero

Catherine is bipolar. every night, she pulls out her collection of pills and counts them, a constant reassurance that her all time low, Zero, won't have the chance to wreck her completely. not again. she feels alone and horribly lost, the loser in the genetic lottery. her life is destined to be a constant mess of gray--it won't ever get better, because she's chronic. and chronic might as well mean terminal for her.

as Catherine counts down the days until Zero strikes again and her D-Day arrives, new experiences keep altering how she views her life. a school assignment brings her together with Michael, the shy, blood-fearing boy who won't let her fade out of his life, and through the assignment, Catherine discovers a face in history that reflects what she feels--one that is afraid and doesn't have a lot of hope. even as her life becomes brighter, Zero is slowly creeping up on her, and when secrets are uncovered, Catherine fears that she may be left all alone again--just her and that awful Zero.

I don't think I've read a book with a bipolar character before, which kind of surprised me, but The Weight of Zero was equally informative and heartbreaking. the feeling of Zero always pressing down on you is something I totally get--I just never gave it a name like Catherine did. every time I start to see signs of depression sneaking back in, or experience a flare of pain, it's terrifying. the life that you've slowly rebuilt over time is ripped away from you, and in Catherine's case, it's a constant cycle. the flip side to Zero, aka mania, is something completely foreign to me. when you think of being energetic and hopeful, you usually think of it positively, not a wrecking ball in its own right. reading about Catherine's swings between depression and mania taught me a lot about being bipolar, and it's definitely a topic I want to read more about.

I really felt as though this is a very light book about a heavy subject. I don't necessarily mean this in a literal sense--it's not cheesy or cliche--but it didn't drag me down emotionally to read this. all the colors in my head (thank you synesthesia) were very pale and light in tone, which compared to the darkness of Challenger Deep or Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock was very surprising. it wasn't what I expected, but I think it was what I needed. not all stories about mental illness need to be wrapped in darkness. some are about light and learning not to be blinded by it.

what are three books about brains that you love? or even better, what are books in genres that I should explore? I love recommendation from y'all! I have my books for next month already picked out, but feel free to recommend individual books/genres for me to check out!

hope y'all have a great week! tethered_file-03 will be up on Saturday!


  1. I love your new method of reviewing! I've realized that I don't like reviewing as much as I thought I did, or at least not enough to review ALL the time, so I've been trying to figure out a "method" for myself too. And I really like the different-topic-every-month thing. Makes me want to try it out ^^

    I don't think I've read any or at least not a lot of books about mental health/illness, and it's something I really need to do. Especially since it's such a good feeling to read books about social anxiety or anxiety in general for me.

    Also, I didn't even know what synesthesia was. I had to look it up hehe. But I'm pretty convinced you have a superpower. Just saying.


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