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Magan: The Symptoms of My Insanity by Mindy Raf

book cover for The Symptoms of My Insanity by Mindy RafThe Symptoms of My Insanity by Mindy Raf (website | twitter)
Publication Date: April 18, 2013
Publisher: Dial Books for Young Readers
Pages: 384
Target audience: Young Adult
Keywords: sick parent, best friend trouble, boy drama, chaotic teenage life
Format read: ARC received via NetGalley (Thank you!)

Summary: Izzy has a lot going on in her life — family, friend, and romance-wise — so much that she doesn’t really know how to handle it. She’s also a hypochondriac who looks up all the symptoms she feels. The problem is, in real life, there’s no easy, curable way to put all the dramatic pieces of her life back together.

Izzy looks up every symptom she feels to determine whether or not she’s sick. She’s a hypochondriac.

But, really, beneath the surface of all the pretend illnesses Izzy could possibly maybe have, she’s got a whole lot going on in her life:

  • a mother who refuses to accept she’s sick and needs help
  • a potential new boyfriend who wants to sprint around the bases faster than Izzy feels comfortable with
  • three art pieces to start/finish for a chance to study in Italy
  • a best friend who is acting completely out of character
  • an ex-best friend who seems to want to be friends again

Friends, there was a lot to absorb in The Symptoms of My Insanity. Izzy was under so much pressure and her passiveness didn’t help to sort through any of the tasks that were building up in her life. As an outsider, I wanted to scream at Izzy to run in the other direction when her best friend, Jenna, throws her into the midst of set design for the drama club. After all I’ve listed above, don’t you agree Izzy has enough going on? Sure, Izzy is definitely a pushover and should have stood up for herself (countless times), but it was painful to see the tornado of disaster that was about to sweep through Izzy’s life. Especially when she was trying to balance so much she couldn’t see the destruction heading her way.

Ultimately, I walked away feeling glad that I had finished Mindy Raf’s book, but I still wish she hadn’t put Izzy through quite so much. Reflecting on the story, I wish Raf would have left out the entire Izzy-starts-dating-Blake storyline (in which he’s a jerk with zero backbone and does something pretty craptastic to Izzy). I wasn’t entirely happy with the resolution here and it seemed unnecessarily dramatic (especially when there was a kind, nerdy boy patiently waiting for Izzy to recognize him as more than a friend). The subtle side romance would have been so much sweeter without the hasty relationship with Blake thrown into the mix.

In real life it seems when one terrible thing happens, a ton of others seem to follow. True as that may be, Izzy probably would have had a nervous breakdown if her story were real. And though things did end well, after so much negative buildup I would have liked to have reveled in the ending a bit more to see how things played out long-term in Izzy’s life. (I felt like I closed the book with a heavy heart.)

Sure, I definitely enjoy drama in books, but I am a firm believer that enough is enough for there to be a sense of realism. Raf’s writing was meticulous, but a ‘less is more’ approach would have helped me relate to Izzy in a more meaningful way instead of feeling like I was approaching a train wreck.

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April 19, 2013 - 2:16 pm

Casey - Seems really like a really dramatic read. I’ll have to give it a go when I have a little less going on in my own life. Great review!

April 18, 2013 - 5:47 pm

Judith - You know, I had the exact same feeling when I finished. At one point, I really felt like the author was being cruel with everything she put Izzy through. No wonder the girl is a hypochondriac! I like the seperate parts of this story, and though I feel like there can always be less girl drama in books, I would have been okay with that if it had been the main focus point. But the thing with Blake… it just felt unnecessary (and forced) to me. Unfortunately.

April 18, 2013 - 4:18 pm

Tara - I’m always interested in books that deal with mental illness, but this one sounds like it has a bit too much other stuff going on for my taste. I still may give it a try and definitely appreciate candidness!

April 18, 2013 - 12:28 pm

Alexa Y. - The sheer amount of things that Izzy was going through is already overwhelming to me, and I’m only reading your review! I do agree with your thoughts that sometimes, it feels like all the bad things happen all at once. But this seems a bit too soap opera-ish for my liking. It sounded like a potentially cute book though (especially that nerdy love interest you hint at) 🙂

April 18, 2013 - 12:21 pm

Magan - Rebecca, I’m really glad you’re still anxious to give it a whirl. I am a big believer in everyone trying books out for their own because you just never know. I definitely don’t think that lighter + hopeful is what you’ll get when you read this one. Prepare yourself for a LOT of things to happen. Thanks for the comment!

April 18, 2013 - 12:19 pm

Magan - Christina — I’m really, really glad to hear that you felt the same way. I definitely wished some of the issues had been edited out. I completely, completely agree with you that it would have helped with character development and depth. The end just kind of … ended, too. Do we really even know what happens with the Italy situation?

April 18, 2013 - 12:18 pm

Magan - Elena — definitely a lot going on here More than I think was necessary for sure. And yeahhhh… I’m pretty sure you’d want to punch Blake for what he did. :-/

April 18, 2013 - 11:07 am

elena - oh geez, it DOES seem like a lot is going on. i think this book sounds too dramatic for me, i hate it when a character is put through a situation after a situation (after a situation!). it certainly seems like izzy was put through the ringer in this one. i shudder to think what blake did.

April 18, 2013 - 8:53 am

Christina (A Reader of Fictions) - I completely agree with your assessment. There were decent bones to this story, and the characters could have been really interesting. Had Raf chosen just a couple of those things for Izzy to deal with, she could have covered them fully and allowed plenty of time for character development. As it is, a lot of plot threads weren’t closed properly and I didn’t feel for the characters. Sad day.

April 18, 2013 - 5:40 am

Rebecca @ Reading Wishes - I was really looking forward to reading this and still am but after your review, will probably go in with my more mind open and prepare myself for LOTS OF craziness. It’s a shame that the ended on a ‘heavy heart’ end note because although I was expecting insanity, I was expecting something lighter and more on the hopeful side? Oh, well, I’ll take your advice and try and see if my library has a copy I can borrow. Awesome review!

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