Friday, 21 April 2017

Whisper to Me // unique, vivid, and incredibly beautiful

I'd heard nothing about this book before I picked it up, and truthfully I didn't expect much of it. But I love to be surprised by a book, and Whisper to Me did just that, by being unique, vivid, and incredibly beautiful.



The story is about Cassie, who is writing to apologise to the boy whose heart she broke. She wants to explain her actions from her own perspective, and to reveal the things she kept things from him. Like how she hears a voice in her head.

I put off reading this book for the longest time. There are so many examples of where mental illness is portrayed problematically in fiction, especially when romance is a major theme. But Whisper to Me dealt with it very well. Never did the focal romance feel as though it were something that could 'fix' Cassie. Instead, her love life and the voice were things she had to deal with side by side.

Although the whole premise makes the romance sound very focal, there was a lot else going on in the story that I feel were more prominent driving forces of the story. There's the loss of Cassie's mother and the emotional impact that had on her by shutting it out, the murders in town and how Cassie feels responsible for things out of her control, the relationship with her father who was a navy SEAL suffering from PTSD, and her friendship with Paris - a strange but intelligent girl with bipolar who she meets in hospital. Plus there's Cassie's responses to the two different doctors she sees in the story and their differing but equally useful techniques in helping her cope with the voice.

I know incredibly little about what it is like to hear voices, and so I cannot comment on the accuracy. But Cassie's responses felt very genuine and human, and I think the author's note at the end of the book shows that Nick Lake did actual research into Cassie's condition.

What I really loved was that although Cassie made reckless decisions, she ultimately recognises that they were reckless. So often I see dangerous decisions in YA romanticised, but not once did I find that here. Through the email she writes reflecting on the events of her summer, I think she grows and realises that the people in her life are trying to help her, even if they have different methods of showing it.

The writing itself was wonderfully vibrant. Although I admit that a 530 page email is unrealistic, Nick Lake creates a distinct voice for his protagonist and writes passages of stunning descriptions, which gives a sort of silver lining to much of the darkness contained within the book.

Whisper to Me is a heavy book dealing with very weighty issues. It really grasps the complexity of mental illness and how so often people behave differently because of the stigma behind it. It is so much more than a romance, and carries an important and very real message wrapped in truly beautiful words.


Diversity note: protagonist who hears a voice in her head

Warnings: blood, dismemberment, murder, death, self-harm, suicidal thoughts, hospitals, depression, medication, child abuse, rape, traumatic experiences, gore

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