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Get Well Soon by Julie Halpern

I came across Julie Halpern's first novel while browsing the offerings over at Feiwel & Friends. I was so grateful they were publishing Long May She Reign that I grabbed Carpe Diem and Get Well Soon as well because if they're publishing Ellen Emerson White books they not only have superb taste, they deserve my undying loyalty. Plus, both books just looked good. Get Well Soon tells the story of Anna Bloom, a depressed teenager whose parents commit her to a mental institution when her panic attacks get in the way of her going to school. Alone, overweight, and braless, Anna starts writing a series of letters to her best friend Tracy as a way of staying sane despite being surrounded by drug dealers, Satanists, pregnant cheerleaders, oh my! Anna's voice is at times bitter, amused, desperate, and uncertain. But it is always matter-of-fact. And it is this quality that is most appealing. I never got the feeling she was sugar-coating the way things were or trying to put something over on her reader. She writes all of these letters describing her experience in minute detail yet she doesn't send a single one. They stay in her room with her, her roommate Sandy, and Sandy's plastic baby Morgan. They seem to be a way of processing the unimaginable thing that has happened to her. By keeping them she can continue to review and add on to the narrative so that when it is time to go home there will be a record of how she survived. In an ironic twist of fate, life in the mental hospital turns out to be more interesting and "healthy" for Anna than it was outside. She makes friends who understand her and who do not send her "Get Well Soon" cards as though she had chicken pox or mono. Despite the absurd hospital workers and a few admittedly crazy fellow patients Anna is able to be herself. Paradoxically, the confining walls give her the space she needs to figure out not only what happened to her, but what she will do with this new-found self knowledge. I laughed repeatedly while reading about Anna and Sandy, Justin and Matt O. I felt about like Anna did when the time came to leave the hospital. I wasn't ready. A little more time in the loony bin, please. The real world can wait. But Anna had to go back home and the book had to end and I'm happy I got to spend this time with her.

Links:
The Ya Ya Yas Review
The Ya Ya Yas Interview
Bildungsroman Interview
How I Met My Husband: A Zine Love Story
Luv and Fish Eyes

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