Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Alec and Sabrina are crazy in love. Problem is: Sabrina's really crazy.
Sabrina, an artist, is diagnosed with schizophrenia, and her parents check her into the Wellness Center. There she meets Alec, who is convinced it's the world that's crazy, not the two of them. They are meant to be together; they are special. But when Alec starts to convince Sabrina that her treatment will wipe out everything that makes her creative, she worries that she'll lose hold of her dreams and herself. Should she listen to her doctor? Her decision may have fatal consequences.
A big thanks to Macmillan Children's Books on netGalley for accepting my request in reading this book early!
LIFE IS BUT A DREAM is an incredibly intense and emotional story, told in one of the most refreshing teenager voices that I've heard in a long, long time. Really. Truly. It was that good. No wait - it was FANTASTIC! Since it's a 2012 book and since I got to read this book early, I think - and I hope - that it becomes one of the favourites for next year because it was for me! With the book's setting mostly set in a psychiatric facility - one of my favourite settings for a book - Brian James pays great attention to detail in this new world that is painted in the character's heads and I've fallen deeply in love with his writing. At least for this particular book.
Sabrina, the main character of this wonderful story, has been recently diagnosed with schizophrenia and in light of this, she is checked into the Wellness Center by her parents, in hopes of recovery and in hopes of overcoming her serious symptoms of seeing things differently to other people around her. Despite what her parents think of her illness, Sabrina still firmly believes that this center will change her as a person and she'll lose her whole identity because of it - her dreams - and it's something that she fears the most. While she's aware of her circumstances and how people can't see what she sees, but all she really wants is someone to try and understand her - to believe in her - and while staying at the hospital, there she meets Alec. Unlike the reasons Sabrina is there at the center, Alec is just some troubled kid with problems and a rich family who think sending him there will rid of these problems. In other terms, he's not sick at all - not like Sabrina is. But once these two meet, immediate attraction arises and for once in her life, Sabrina has found someone who is trying to understand her. But then as Alec convinces her she's not crazy and even encourages her to go off her meds, everything Sabrina has been working for . . . spirals out of control.
The major standout for this novel is Sabrina and Alec. For a young adult book with a contemporary feel to it, I've never in my life loved characters like how I've loved these two and I cared about them a great deal. Sabrina's struggles with schizophrenia were so heart-aching and you wanted her to get better for her own sake. But one of the things that really struck me was how she wanted a little piece of her back - the part where she saw the beauty of her illness and the things she saw along with it. The way she described these 'things' was so beautiful but it was also sad because no one could understand what she saw and you always sympathized with her character because of it.
Alec on the other hand . . . he was far from being ill. He's more . . . misunderstood. When we first meet him in the book you see him as a really, really troubled kid and some of the things he talks about with Sabrina were a little uncomfortable at times. But he's troubled. That's what you get. While I didn't necessarily believe he'd helped Sabrina at first - especially when it came to him being oblivious to the fact that Sabrina was actually sick and encouraging her to no longer take her medication - but as his character grows and as he continues to support Sabrina in ways no one would, and as he falls deeply in love with her, it's no wonder why I ended up loving him too. Sure, he made some mistakes when it came to Sabrina's wellbeing and all of the readers will be aware of these mistakes when they eventually read this book. But ultimately he was the only person who'd truly helped her in the end. He made her understand and made her see for herself that something was wrong with her. Their relationship alone was the strongest thing I've read in a contemporary novel like this one and it was one of the best yet.
With emotionally-charged writing and realistic-and-forever-loveable characters, this book will have you feeling a wide variety of emotions through the beginning til the very end. You'll cry . . . you'll laugh . . . you'll smile . . . you'll cry all over again and you'll be questioning the book's tagline of, "Is the world crazy -- or are they?" Overall I thought this book was absolutely outstanding and I was taken back by how amazing it was! After flying through the pages, it only goes to show that the world can be crazy, be beautiful and be special all at the same time. And no one can ever make you feel otherwise.