Wednesday, March 8, 2017

"The Edge of Brilliance" by Susan Traugh

The Edge of Brilliance
by Susan Traugh

The Edge of Brilliance by Susan Traugh is currently on tour with YA Bound Book Tours. The tour stops here today for my review, an excerpt, and a giveaway. Please be sure to visit the other tour stops as well.

Volatile and unstable, Amy stands at the precipice. Will she fall into the chaos and despair of insanity or ascend into brilliance and redemption?
Amy Miles is fifteen and crazy. Or, at least that’s her greatest fear. Her severe bipolar disorder, with its roller coaster manic and depressive episodes, is ruining her life. Yet in Amy’s mind it is accepting the pills and therapy - not the disease - that will brand her as "crazy".
When Amy lands in a residential psychiatric program, she befriends take-charge Mallory and the two create family and try to salvage the shards of their broken minds. There, Amy discovers that her illicit drug use has robbed her of her ability to dance and she is forced to weigh how hard she is willing to work to reclaim her lost talent and potential. But, despite a promising beginning, when Amy falls back into denial, the tragic consequences cannot be undone.
Amy is left to decide whether to give up altogether or accept her diagnosis and the tools she needs to battle her disease, to learn to dance again and forge a new and improved version of herself. Will she step up to the edge of her brilliance and shine?
Reader Advisory: This book contains strong language and also includes scenes involving drug use, rape, violence. This book also includes a frank exploration of mental illness and loss of autonomy.

Book Video

She walked Amy through the beautiful oak doors behind the receptionist. It was only when those doors slammed shut with an echo-y clang and automatically locked behind her that the chill of realization gripped Amy’s spine and made her jump. Oak veneers hid the fact that those doors were solid steel inside with locks that snapped shut via a remote button at the warden’s desk. And despite the thick taupe carpeting and rich wood veneers everywhere, the clank of that lock bounced off the walls and echoed around the room like a sonic boom. This was prison. Prison. Dress it up all you like, the sound of that lock was final.
Tears leaped up to the backs of Amy’s eyes, but she gritted her teeth and breathed out slowly in response. She was not about to cry because a stupid door slammed. Never.
The blonde woman guided Amy into a small room to the left of the doors. Another, taller, older woman with gray hair that looked like curly steel wool was already seated on a stool in the room.
“Stand up, feet apart. Face me,” said the older woman in a quick, no-nonsense manner. “Lift your arms out straight and stay that way until I tell you to move.”
Amy had to concentrate as hard as she could to make her arms obey.
The younger woman patted Amy down, running her hands through Amy’s hair before moving to shoulders, arms, chest, waist, hips, thighs, legs and feet. As first one place then another on her body was touched, Amy closed her eyes. She needed to block her vision, not speak and stay still. Too much information was pounding into her brain.
“Take off your shoes,” the older woman instructed in that same quiet, authoritative tone. Amy complied.
“Your jacket.”
“Your shirt.”
“Your pants.”
“Unhook your bra.”
Amy tried to follow the instructions, but her hands shook too violently to manage the hooks. She tried again, but again failed.
“May I?” The younger woman’s eyes offered a softness as her hands hovered close to Amy, awaiting permission.
Amy could not speak, but offered the slightest nod before the young woman unhooked her bra then gently held Amy’s wrists and brought Amy’s hands up to her chest. “Here,” she instructed. “Cover your breasts like this while I take your bra.”
“Now turn your back to me and hold your hands out straight.” Amy didn’t know if she could remain standing much longer—dark flashes were beginning to dance before her eyes and the women’s voices seemed to be backing down a long tunnel.
“Amy? Are you listening?” The voice that broke through was not unkind but seemed to be coming from very far away. “With your back still to me, drop your panties to your ankles and squat down,” commanded the older woman.
“Amy? Amy?”
The younger woman stepped up again. She remained behind Amy but touched her shoulder. “Drop your panties, honey,” she guided. Then, as Amy complied, she gently but firmly pushed Amy down to the floor.
Amy’s mind circled back to the hundreds of pliés she’d done in dance. Her muscle memory responded with a graceful grand plié until the older woman’s voice jerked her from her dream. “Cough three times.”
“What?” Amy’s daze was so deep that the words were no more comprehensible than if they’d been in Swahili.
“Stay in that position and cough three times.”
There, squatted, her hands covering her breasts, her panties down around her ankles, Amy searched her brain for what the woman wanted from her, what was being asked of her. She desperately wanted to comply with whatever request these people were making, but the meaning was garbled and bouncing around her brain with no place to land.
“Amy, look at me. You need to cough. Like this...” The younger woman was still behind Amy with one hand on her shoulder, but her gentle touch guiding Amy’s chin up to her and sharp coughing sound helped Amy connect the dots and provide the physical response that was being requested.
“Pull your panties up and put these on. You can step behind that curtain.” The younger woman handed Amy a pair of blue scrubs and pointed to a rough green curtain hanging from a rod in the corner of the room. Once dressed, she handed Amy a cup. “There’s the bathroom. Go pee for me and bring it back out here. Oh, and leave the bathroom door ajar, please.”
Amy had to hold the doorjamb to steady herself as she walked into the bathroom. The older woman had left, but the young woman was waiting outside the door when Amy emerged.
“Let me walk you to your room, Amy.”
[Want more? Click below to read a longer excerpt.]

Praise for the Book
"This is a must read book for everyone, teens and adults. I didn't know what to expect when I started it, but was soon captured by its thoughtful, often raw and gritty, and very realistic description of what it is like to have a mental illness. From the inside out. And I never understood how far-reaching its impact is on family and friends who are trying to cope with the situation. [...] If you want to learn more about mental illness plus get inspiration for your own road to achievement, you must read this book and pass it along to friends and family. It just might change someone's life." ~ Amazon Customer
"I liked the writing style that Traugh used, it was simple and easy to follow. She also didn’t let things drag on, the whole book was fast-paced, and to the point (it was also quite a short book). This book had joy and sadness, and there were some scenes that were confronting. But I think all in all, it was a good read and I enjoyed it." ~ Kim (_booksarelove)
"As a practitioner in the field of psychiatry, I found this book to be a very realistic account of what the life of a teenager suffering from Bipolar Disorder can look like. It also effectively conveys the impact that this disorder has on the family. The story is written from the perspective of Amy, a 15-year-old suffering from Bipolar Disorder, and I appreciate having this perspective. The author did a wonderful job of capturing the experience of a teenager going through this. It brought home the fact that mental illness is not something to be punished, yet there is a fine line between needing to be held accountable for the aftermath of their emotionally fueled behaviors. The final note that I took from this book is the need for acceptance of a disorder that isn't going away, and how to go about learning the tools necessary for survival." ~ michrk
"I really appreciate the author taking us into the lives and mind of person who suffers from Bipolar disorder. For the first time we are able to understand how their mind works, what emotions fuel their behavior and most importantly the aftermath they must face and try to make sense of." ~ T London
"You don't need to be in this family to share their highs and lows. The author opens her heart in this journey through bi polar world. Humour and truth resonate on every page. You will cheer this teens determination and her mothers warrior spirit. A must read for teens and their parents." ~ Lynne Lockwood

My Review

By Lynda Dickson
Fifteen-year-old Amy Miles has bipolar disorder. She's not happy about taking her meds and seeks other ways of making herself feel better, such as taking illegal drugs. Things spiral out of control and Amy ends up in a residential psychiatric facility. There, she learns how to cope with her illness through counseling, group therapy, and medication - but only after she figures out that she needs to want to change.
This book provides a realistic portrayal of a young girl struggling to cope with her mental illness. The author obviously has firsthand knowledge of the disorder, giving us a great insight into how the illness affects everyone around the sufferer. While the prose is excellent, the teen dialogue is a bit forced. Amy's diary entries and letters are an especially poignant touch, giving us a glimpse into her innermost feelings. As the story proceeds, it seems to go a bit off course. It becomes more about drug rehabilitation than mental illness. Dancing also takes a step back as Amy discovers a new passion. Nevertheless, this is an empowering and eye-opening book that should be read by anyone who knows someone suffering from a mental illness.
The author provides some interesting statistics on mental illness at the end of the book.
Warnings: coarse language, sex scenes, rape, drug use, mental illness.

Some of my Favorite Lines
"How could such a little bit of matter matter so much? How could so little substance create such havoc in her life - both when she took it and when she didn’t?"
"... they never let her get really down, but they never let her get really happy either."
"No, it wasn’t better living through chemistry - it was really no life at all."
"You never get to feel good. You never get to feel high or happy or ecstatic. True, you don’t feel suicidal or out of control or manic. But I’m not sure the price is worth it."
"Of course, no one in the room was normal. Not the students, not their parents, not the staff. Mental illness did that to people … and to all the people around them."

About the Author
Award-winning author Susan Traugh, has been writing for over thirty years. Her Daily Living Skills workbooks are used in classrooms all over the world and her stories have appeared in periodicals nationwide along with several stories in Chicken Soup for the Soul. With husband, Steven, Susan won Learning Magazine's Teachers Choice Award for Mother Goose Brain Boost.
Now, Susan is venturing into the world of young adult fiction. Her latest novel, The Edge of Brilliance, is an exploration into the heroes found within struggling young people. The manuscript was a finalist in the San Diego Book Awards. Today, Susan lives in San Diego, California, with her husband and daughters, a cat, dog, fish, and near her grown son who doesn't visit enough.

Enter the tour-wide giveaway for a chance to win a $50 Amazon gift card or one of five ebook copies of The Edge of Brilliance by Susan Traugh.