Book Review: A Revolution of the Mind
Reviewed by Audrey Davis
A provocative, emotional novel unafraid to bare its teeth
This unflinching literary novel explores views of mental illness that most would not think to entertain.
Ellen “Boo” Harvey is an intelligent girl with her whole life ahead of her. Grappling with severe depression and anxiety, she navigates college and the turbulent political landscape of present-day America. Feeling overlooked and dismissed by those around her, she does her best to handle these issues on her own.
Drowning in this lack of support, she meets Jude, an intense activist working toward the same social goals, and together, they advocate for the voiceless, beginning with actual representation of mental illness in political spaces.
The author does a wonderful job of describing how mental illness feels, not only to experience it in one’s mind, but in terms of physical illness as well, and how thoughts and actions affect those around them. The reader never has to wonder how the protagonist feels or what they’re thinking, and occasionally, the protagonist’s discomfort is palpable. The protagonist identifies many times the miserable feeling that comes from asking for help and being fundamentally misunderstood, shrugged off, and told to wait for something that won’t arrive.
The reader is afforded accuracy, honesty, and time to mull over concepts and the advocacy work Boo and Jude are conducting, lending the novel legitimacy and providing testimony to present-day advocates in this line of work.
This book not only discusses the need for mental illness advocacy, but advocacy for all marginalized groups. Boo, acknowledging her position coming from a wealthy white family on the north side of Chicago, articulates a number of times that she could not get to where she needs to be without the help of her parents’ money.
She realizes that “class distinctions matter a great deal when the Titanic is sailing normally, but in the era of the iceberg, they mean nothing at all.” The novel asserts that to even begin to see a change in how mental health is handled in political and social spaces, change needs to start at the ground level, with basic housing, healthcare, and income for all, basic kindness toward one another, and a departure from an individual-centric mindset to one focused on the greater good, even if it means a transfer of resources.
It is a call for—not just a general revolution against the oppressive powers that be—but a total “revolution of the [collective] mind.”
This book provides vivid insight to a world that many cannot fathom, yet it is a reality many Americans cope with daily; in this respect, one hesitates to call it fiction. The protagonist’s incendiary remarks about the world she confronts leave the reader with a hunger for more.
I would recommend this novel to a reader looking for something truthful, and at the same time harsh and unabashed in its depiction of society.
“The system is in the business of treating symptoms. What we need is a revolution.”
Genre: Literary fiction
Print Length: 496 pages
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