Monday, March 10, 2014

All The Things We Didn't Say

Expected Publication:  April 10th, 2014
The Museum of Intangible Things
By: Wendy Wunder
ISBN-13:  9781595145147

Loyalty.  Envy.  Obligation.  Dreams.  Disappointment.  Fear.  Negligence.  Coping.  Elation.  Lust.  Nature.  Freedom.  Heartbreak.  Insousiance.  Audacity.  Gluttony.  Belief.  God.  Karma.  Knowing what you want (there is probably a French word for it).  Saying Yes.  Destiny.  Truth.  Devotion.  Forgiveness.  Life.  Happiness (ever after).

Hannah and Zoe haven't had much in their lives, but they've always had each other.  So when Zoey tells Hannah she needs to get out of their down-and-out New Jersey town, they pile into Hannah's beat up old Le Mans and head west, putting everything - their deadbeat parents, their disappointing love lives, their inevitable enrollment at community college - behind them.

As they chase storms and make new friends, Zoe tells Hannah she wants more for her.  She wants her to live bigger, dream grander, aim higher.  And so Zoe begins teaching Hannah all about life's intangible things, concepts sadly missing from her existence - things like audacity, insousiance, karma, and even happiness.


     Hannah has a thing about stability and sticking to the status quo.  She just wants to take care of everyone in her life and make sure things stay on track, the way they are supposed to be for everyone.  Hannah keeps her alcoholic Dad on the wagon and goes to his AA meetings, does everything at home for her Mother who has pretty much given up on life, keeps her hotdog cart business running to make money for community college, and keeps her best friend Zoe in check.  Zoe is the best thing in Hannah's life and it's up to her to keep Zoe from losing herself in a disease she refuses to acknowledge - bipolar disorder.  But then everything comes crashing down around Hannah.  She and Zoe are caught listening in on classes at the local private school, so their days of extra lessons are over.  Hannah's Dad falls off the wagon, goes on a bender and steals all of her college money from her savings.  Zoe doesn't get into the artsy University she wants to go to and heads into a downward spirl of grand delusions, hallucinations and manic days.  When Zoe throws herself into a bizzare road trip, she drags Hannah along for the ride.  Learning important life lessons while trying to keep  Zoe off the ledge she's teetering on, Hannah is becoming someone who's not afraid of life.  But can she save Zoe from herself before it's too late?
     I have a confession to make.  I was reading this book expecting a fun, crazy road trip book centered around two best friends from a dead end town.  I got that, but I also got a disturbingly realistic, and yet touching look at mental illness and the way it affects everyone in its path.  As I started reading this, my family had just committed my mother to the hospital for bipolar disorder, when she ran out her medication (with no possible way to get more) of 15 years and went into a severely psychotic manic state.  So I was reading this book, having just experienced a scarier version of what is portrayed in this book.  In this book Zoe thinks she's on top of the world, that she can do whatever she wants and there won't be consequences, because she's almost superhuman.  She doesn't need to eat, sleep or slow down because the aliens have been preparing her to come be with them.  
      Hannah is Zoe's anchor.  They have a system to bring Zoe back from the brink, that has been in place since they were children.  But it isn't working anymore, and when Zoe goes off the rails, Hannah feels like she has no choice but to follow her.  She still thinks that she can save Zoe from herself, the malfunction of her own body chemistry.  Hannah has spent her life trying to fix everyone and everything around her.  She allows herself to be the "other" woman for the boy she likes because she can't speak up, allows her parents to treat her like dirt and steal from her, and lets Zoe have all the adventures for her.  This is a story about two best friends, who are all each other has in the world, but it still isn't enough.  Hannah and Zoe love one another, but nothing Hannah does can shut out the voices, because Zoe has given up.  She is locked in her own mind and her despair with her shitty life, and can't make herself come out of it - she doesn't want to.  I won't tell you how it ends, suffice it to say that it's very bittersweet and not the traditional happily ever after.  I had problems with the ending, because it didn't flow with the rest of the book and felt somewhat contrived.  It had a bit of the "look, these are the dangers of mental illness."  There is some humor in this book and I love the sarcastic repartee between the girls throughout the book.  But Zoe's actions, funny to her but soon enough not to Hannah, become more uneasy to watch as the book moves on - less and less humor to be found.  All in all, and great portrait of best friends, the sacrifices we make for love (not necessarily the romantic kind) and the harsh realities of mental illness.  But all of it is done with that quirky, slightly ethereal Wendy Wunder edge.  I highly recommend it.

VERDICT:  4/5  Stars

**I received this book as part of Around the World ARC Tours, run by the lovely Princess Bookie.  No favors or money were exchanged for this review.  This book's expected publication date is April 10th, 2014.*

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