Friday, April 13, 2012

Girl, Interrupted

I should have mentioned this sooner, but it slipped my mind. Oops. 

Here on Bluestocking Revolution I review all sorts of books. I do not discriminate. Or maybe I do, but the point is: I read whatever catches my interest, be it adult fiction, YA, non-fiction, or anything else. Sadly, "smorgasbord" wasn't an option when entering the Independent Book Blogger Awards, so I went with adult fiction. And there you have it. My decision-making process. Ta da!

Girl, Interrupted is a memoir, thus the disclaimer. Moving right along...

This was a quick and easy read for me, but I found it incredibly interesting. Kaysen tells her story admirably and it really does resonate. Susanna Kaysen, at 18 and after spending only 15 minutes with a psychiatrist she's never met, is sent to McLean Hospital where she stays for nearly two years. 

Perhaps the most interesting part of this book for me is the blurring of the lines between sanity and insanity. Kaysen writes of the thoughts going through her head during her confinement in the hospital, many of which do not fit into our general impression of "crazy." With her annotation of the entry to the 3rd edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders for Borderline Personality Disorder (her diagnosis) Kaysen wonders if this disorder will one day make its way out of the DSM (the way homosexuality did) as societal views of acceptable behavior change.  Kaysen also suggests that with those guidelines, many "normal" teenagers could receive those teenagers. After all, "an essential feature of this disorder is a pervasive pattern of instability of self-image, interpersonal relationships, and mood, beginning in early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts." (p. 147) That pretty much sounds exactly like adolescence. 

I think part of what makes Girl, Interrupted so fascinating is that it doesn't answer the questions that we're all secretly trying not to ask — am I crazy? Will I end up in a loony bin? Kaysen seems to have ended up in the hospital by chance, and much of the time she and her friends don't fit the mold of the stereotypical crazy person. The lines tangle and blur. Who's sane and who's crazy? Sometimes it's difficult to tell.

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