CW: OCD, intrusive thoughts, panic attacks, post-traumatic stress
Get ready everybody, because I am about to write a freaking dissertation about how much I loved this book.
Sometimes you read a book and it is so beautiful and so perfect it feels like it was written for you. Like the author has gone up to your younger self, shaken her hand, and asked her what book she needed, and then wrote it. That’s what The Edge Of Anything by Nora Shalaway Carpenter was for me.
I discovered The Edge Of Anything completely on accident and it blew me away. I have never been diagnosed with OCD, but the author struggles with it herself, and the representation of it in this book felt very authentic to me. What I can personally speak to is the anxiety and PTS rep in this book, specifically with Len’s character. I had so many “I thought it was just me” moments while reading this.
People who don’t struggle with it themselves oftentimes don’t understand how crippling anxiety and trauma can be, how both of those things can take over your life and steal your childhood right out from underneath you. How, as a teenager, many of the adults in your life expect you to just take whatever comes to you while not allowing you to have a voice. How intrusive thoughts are so irrational but that doesn’t make them less believable and real to you. There were so many times I had to put this book down and take a breath because I got so enraged, but it was for all of the right reasons. I cared so much about Sage and Len, and I hated how both of their parents refused to really see both of them, despite oftentimes having the best of intentions. I hated all of the positive thinking bullshit that Len’s dad preached, how he was saying that you are responsible for all of your own thoughts and any negative thing that happens to you or that you go through is completely your fault even if it’s totally out of your control just because you didn’t “choose” to be happy. I hated this so much because this is a real thing that mentally ill people get told all of the time, and all it does is make us feel like everything is our fault and we are a burden. But guess what, you can’t use your willpower to cure your cancer, so why would it cure your anxiety or depression or OCD? It’s literally a chemical imbalance in the brain. And now I’m ranting.
I grew up in a somewhat rural and pretty conservative area. I grew up knowing people that were so kind and loving and generous, yet were somehow incredibly ignorant and bigoted, often because of this ignorance. These two opposing realities can exist at the same time, inside of the same person, and oftentimes they do. I loved how this author really captured that.
What Sage’s character goes through reminds me of something that Angela Chase said in the pilot episode of “My So-Called Life”—-“It’s like sometimes you agree to be this person that everybody wants you to be, even when it’s not really you.” Sometimes you change and sometimes that identity is ripped out from underneath you. This struggle that Sage must overcome within the story is so so real, in all of it’s painful process.
I want to end this review with something really important this author does, something that I have not seen in another young adult novel in a really long time: it is entirely focused on the power and beauty of female friendship. There is no romance in sight. Do you know how long I have waited for this book? When I was in high school, romance wasn’t really a part of my life, but my friends were so important to me. I had these deep and complex and wonderful friendships. We were there for each other when no one else was, and understood one another even when the two of us seemed so different. Sage and Len’s relationship was exactly that, and I want to see more publishers put out female friendship focused books.
This book is about so many things. It’s about grief, mental health, trauma, unlikely friendships, and the power of those friendships. But what I got from it is this: There are people around that want to help you. But you have to be the one to choose to accept it.