I was really excited about this book. I love reading the gritty and emotional books about teens with mental health problems. The first chapter for each character, basically the ones introducing them were my favorite parts. I like how they described themselves and seeing their thought processes. There were a lot of sentiments that I underlined and thought they sounded pretty authentic. Little did I know that it was all downhill from there.

This is basically your summer camp for mentally troubled teens and their camp counselors are real therapists. Clarissa has OCD and wants to have a normal experience to live up to her mom’s expectations (those expectations that never existed in the first place). Andrew has anorexia and wants to get better but also wants to stay a successful band member and doesn’t think he can have both. Ben has some kind of dissociative disorder and bipolar or both together and thinks he’s in a movie (although he really knows his isn’t so this isn’t an accurate portrayal). Mason is just a narcissist (read asshole), and I really have no idea if his disorder is portrayed accurately. Stella has depression and has survived a suicide attempt (although the book acts like she doesn’t really have a problem). All of your characters are pretty static. Nothing really changes other than Clarissa does do some normal things and stops counting trees. I would say she still has a long way to go and I don’t think it was any of the therapists that helped her improve at all. It just magically happened (which is unrealistic).

Overall, therapy camp did nothing for any of them and messed one up even more. I feel like the main point of the book was that you just had to accept yourself because you weren’t really going to change, which actually isn’t true for the most part. The characters suddenly have deep connections to each other despite fighting almost the entire book unceremoniously and without plot or character development. I had no idea why they liked each other that much. That is not realistic either, especially given how their interactions were written. Other than therapy camp being ineffective, so was the plot. There was no real problem or solution for any of them in the plot. The big problem was that they all had “problems.” But none of that was solved or developed and there were no subplots to move it along or show progress. Clarissa having a crush on Ben was supposed to be a subplot, I think, but it also missed a story arc.

But the biggest problem was the misappropriation of the different disorders. It surely has already upset a bunch of reviewers on Goodreads. But we would also give the general public the wrong idea about what each of these disorders is and how to treat them. First, Andrew would not be the nicest one, he would probably be the meanest. When you have anorexia, even if you’re trying to get better, there is still a lot of denial and lashing out at people trying to help. There is a lot more self-absorption. Many of these disorders are so self-involved that the person with them barely has time to pay attention to others and their drama. This is definitely true for bipolar and anorexia and depression for the most part. I think the author could have rounded out Mason to be a more full, authentic and interesting character. Mayo Clinic says that part of Narcissistic personality disorder is “you have trouble handling anything that may be perceived as criticism. You may have secret feelings of insecurity, shame, vulnerability, and humiliation. To feel better, you may react with rage or contempt and try to belittle the other person to make yourself appear superior. Or you may feel depressed and moody because you fall short of perfection.” It would be interesting to see more into his character and have him process some of that insecurity or some event he was remembering being ashamed of or some vulnerability. But there was nothing, so he might as well have not existed as a main character.

This is what Ben was supposed to have, I believe, on top of the author saying he was bipolar too: “Depersonalization-derealization disorder. This involves an ongoing or episodic sense of detachment or being outside yourself — observing your actions, feelings, thoughts and self from a distance as though watching a movie (depersonalization). Other people and things around you may feel detached and foggy or dreamlike, time may be slowed down or sped up, and the world may seem unreal (derealization). You may experience depersonalization, derealization or both. Symptoms, which can be profoundly distressing, may last only a few moments or come and go over many years.” Ben was not bothered by his detachment. And he was still in movie-mode by the end of the book, so nothing happened with him. And in the book, he said he was ok with visualizing his life as a movie, but then he also lived things in the present tense with no reflection of depersonalizing, which according to the symptoms, should have bothered him a lot. And the only mood swings I could find in Ben was the difference between everything being “amazing” and “beautiful” to ignoring Clarissa. This is not bipolar. It’s basically an insult to bipolar people by minimalizing their issues.

So, I would be really surprised if the author had any of these problems or did anything more than just Google what she thought these disorders were. I was able to read the book well enough, but I kept waiting for a realization or plot or more of the introspection from the first few pages and never found it. The author did do a good job of alternating voice and writing style between each chapter. Each chapter was narrated by a different character. Overall, though, this book was unsatisfying and kind of disturbing that the author thinks this is an authentic book. I hope teens don’t buy into this false representation.