Hunter Donovan’s life always seemed perfect, but there was something rotten beneath the shiny surface.
When the truth comes out and his dad is sent to prison, Hunter can only react with anger. His rage boils out of control, leading to a violent incident at school, and then to Hunter being sent to a mental health facility—Better Days.
Hunter doesn’t see how therapy can help him. If it can’t change the past, what good is it? It’s not like he can go back in time, see the horrible things going on right under his nose, and put a stop to them. No, he should have found that strength when he had the chance, and now it’s too late.
There is a ray of light at Better Days, though, in the friendships Hunter forges. Anxiety-ridden Casey, uninhibited Rosie, recovering bulimic Bethany, and Stray, a self-harmer who’s never had a home, lighten Hunter’s feelings of isolation.
Despite the connections he’s forming—and even the love blossoming between him and Stray—Hunter can’t escape his shame and remorse. If Hunter can’t open up and find a way to deal with what happened, he might end up another casualty of mental illness, just like one of the friends he’s grown to love.
★ Dreamspinner Press ★ Amazon US ★ Amazon UK ★ Amazon CA ★ Amazon AU
A powerful, vivid read that I won’t even try to categorize, but one that both saddened me, and made me smile – a little.
This is an incredibly vivid, sad for the most, tale that’s not solely about Hunter, but about the friends he makes when he goes into residential therapy. Though I read the author’s note about having had experiences via family of mental illness, it made me wonder if she had a specific aim in writing it or if the characters simply spoke to her. I didn’t get an answer either way and in the end it didn’t matter, as I found myself absorbed into the book. I hope it reaches its intended audience, as YA need to know how common mental illness is, and how important it is to speak up and get help, instead of hiding/feeling shame/hurting oneself. Perhaps this is a book that needs to make its way into school libraries…
Each character had a different problem, which I could believe and each took time to open up and some dealt with things better than others. I felt for them all, for differing reasons and could empathize with them, though I’m likely old enough to be at least ten years older than these guys’ parents/responsible adults.
I was very glad that Hunter found his way to Better Days, that he matured there, learned to open up, learned to understand that two wrongs don’t make a right, learned to listen and to make sense, despite the confused messages that his mind was giving him, and that he found the courage to open up and speak out when something bad happened, rather than following the unit’s residents’ unspoken Omerta-like rule. I think that he grew up in there, going from a not unreasonably – at his young age and given his experience – slightly Me, Me, Me type, to a guy who’d endured, who’d been hurt by someone he should have been able to trust without reservation, but who hadn’t been irretrievably broken; one who was able to find his worth and to make positive steps for his future life. That he found happiness with Stray/Jeremiah, was sweet, but not the focus of the tale.
Star rating: 4
Meet Nyrae Dawn
Hi! I’m a romantic at heart who can pretty much always be found with a book in my hand, or an open document on my computer. I live and breathe words. I feel so lucky to be able to do what I love. My heart is with contemporary books. I love exploring real life problems, for real people. I’m a fan of happily ever afters and books that touch my heart. Nyrae Dawn can almost always be found with a book in her hand or an open document on her laptop. She couldn’t live without books—reading or writing them. Oh, and chocolate. She’s slightly addicted. She feels a special pull to characters in their teens. There’s something so fresh and fun about the age that she adores exploring. Her husband says it’s because she doesn’t want to grow up. She doesn’t think that’s such a bad thing. Luckily for her, he doesn’t either. Nyrae gravitates toward character-driven stories. Whether reading or writing, she loves emotional journeys. It’s icing on the cake when she really feels something, but is able to laugh too. She’s a proud romantic, who has a soft spot for flawed characters. She loves people who aren’t perfect, who make mistakes, but also have big hearts. Nyrae is living her very own happily ever after in California with her gorgeous husband (who still makes her swoon) and her two incredibly awesome kids.
Where to find Nyrae Dawn