'Etched on Me' is a gritty and raw look at the obstacles and internal struggles that people with mental illness must deal with throughout their lives. It tells the story of Lesley Holloway - a teenage girl who finally finds the courage to flee her abusive home, which begins a series of mental illness issues, psychiatric facilities, and finally the fight for her child. Lesley is a very realistic main character for the novel. She's tough, witty, strong, smart, and determined. She also has some real problems - overcoming incest and abuse, mental illness problems, and taking charge of her own life when people want to rip it away from her. The book follows Lesley over the years - chronicling her ups and downs, triumphs and failures, and her struggle for control over her own life. She's a wonderfully written main character who is obviously flawed, but still manages to get the reader on her side cheering her on throughout the book.
I knew before reading this novel that it was loosely based on some of the author's personal experiences with mental illness, and I have to give her serious props for writing about these topics in such a raw and realistic fashion. Not many people have the courage to speak out about mental illness in everyday life - let alone write a novel about it. I've reviewed books before that deal with mental illness and I'm always an advocate for them. I believe that mental illness is still a taboo topic in our society and is filled with stigma. Anyone who stands up and speaks out about it is brave - especially those who have a large impact on people, such as writers like Jenn. I myself suffer from mental illness, including depression and self-harm issues, so reading Lesley's story was very hard for me, as well as really rewarding in the end. The author doesn't sugar coat anything in the book - it's all right out there in the open for all to see. There were parts of the book that were painful for me to read and my heart broke for Lesley, but her stubborn nature and determination were an inspiration.
The story was very well written with exceptional attention to detail along with heartwrenching situations and realistic characters. I was immediately drawn into the book and felt as if I was right alongside Lesley the entire time. The pace was just right - not too fast to blow over the hard stuff, but not too slow that it wallowed either. It definitely deals with difficult topics such as abuse, incest, self harm, and mental illness, but it also shows that one must fight for what they believe in and never give up, no matter the odds against you. Some readers will find the topics in the novel disturbing and possibly too difficult to read about, but those who give it a shot will be rewarded with a profound story of one woman's journey through mental illness. I agree with the statement in the press release that said, "ETCHED ON ME is an ultimately life-affirming story that will deepen readers’ understanding and compassion, and perhaps make them reevaluate preconceptions they might have about women who suffer from mental illness and mothers who, for whatever reason, must fight for custody of their children." Mental illness is a serious topic in our society that often gets shoved under the rug and this novel brings it into the spotlight for everyone to see - in all it's ugly, gritty, and heartbreaking reality. Highly recommended for people who enjoy contemporary fiction and those who are looking for an inspiring story with impeccable writing.
Disclosure: I received a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.