November 26, 2018

Hannah, Claudia, Sadie, and Jenny are teenage girls who have suffered tragedies and are working through them in the only way they known how. Whether it’s mental illness, fear and paranoia, or the loss of a friend or sister, they’re all struggling to make it through to the other side. Worst of all, each of these girls is ultimately alone on their arduous journey.


A Danger to Herself and Others starts off as a story of a conceited teenage girl who finds herself wrongly placed in a mental institution after being involved in a friend’s accident. Hannah is so mature, so sophisticated, and so intelligent. She certainly cannot belong in this crude and inhumane mental hospital under the watchful eye of countless orderlies and the condescending and unethical Dr. Lightfoot.

A Danger to Herself and Others immediately pulls you in and grips you tight as Hannah navigates her new surroundings and routine inside the institute while you slowly learn the truth of what happened to put here there in the first place. Hannah is eventually diagnosed with a mental illness and placed on medication. As her symptoms subside, she’s forced to reckon with her experiences of the past few months as well as what being mentally ill means for her future outside of the walls of the institution. If you’re looking for a novel that offers deep analysis of mental illness, this isn’t the book for you. Although it doesn’t really offer any profound ideas about mental illness, A Danger to Herself and Others is captivating and well written with a narrator who you can’t help but wish the best for as she starts a rocky new chapter in her life.


I’ve taken a while to write a review (and have still come up short) because I’m still not quite sure if Claudia’s memory loss as a coping mechanism for the death of her friend was just a super sneaky plot device and I was so enthralled with the search for Monday that I completely missed it or if it was a plot device that wasn’t forceful enough (lacking hints and adequate set up, etc) and that’s why I was so unprepared for the plot twist. Either way, Monday’s Not Coming is an absolutely gripping mystery that is told in a captivating sequence with raw and heartbreaking narration as Claudia struggles to figure out what happened to Monday but also to figure out how to carry on without her.

Monday’s Not Coming is told in a very interesting sequence as Claudia struggles to solve the mystery of her friend Monday’s whereabouts. In the chapters labeled The Before, Claudia’s narrative includes memories with her best friend; many of these memories are happy ones of them creating dance routines or giving manicures but for the most part, the memories focus on troubles the girls faced at school with boys and vicious rumors.


Books that are partly written in the form of a podcast are my new favorite thing (granted, I have only read two books that fit the bill, Sadie and Are You Sleeping by Kathleen Barber). If you’re not a fan of podcasts, the writing style may not be for you, but I love podcasts so, to have that format intertwined with normal narrative is refreshing. The podcast element allows you to see events unfold and watch pieces fall together through different perspectives but it is much different than books that simply alternate between multiple narrators.

Sadie has lived a rough life, to say the least, and now she’s on a mission to avenge her sister’s death. We venture through Colorado with Sadie in the present tense as she hunts the murderer. The chapters narrated by Sadie typically end abruptly, leaving you hanging and thirsty for more, as the book shifts to the podcast format. Then, we are taken on a separate adventure as journalist West McCray searches for Sadie in the past tense. The pace at which events unfold and secrets are uncovered is exceptional–nothing happens too late or too early–and that is largely because the writing is well balanced between the podcast by West McCray and Sadie’s own narration.


The best kind of book should do three things: entertain, provide an escape, and force you to share the emotions of its characters. Watch You Burn checks all of those boxes.

It’s clear from the beginning that the narrator, Jenny, has some pretty big secrets. But she’s not the only one with something to hide. Each character’s backstory is fully fleshed and complete with a sordid secret which makes them all viable suspects later on. It’s easy to completely lose yourself in paranoia that jumps off of the page.

The only area in which Watch You Burn falls short is the ending. It was abrupt and didn’t provide enough closure. I feel like there is more left to Jenny’s story and her struggle with pyromania. Perhaps this is just the set up for a sequel? If so, I would definitely read it.