I picked the ARC of this book up at NYA Lit Fest in Preston. That was in March and I’ve been wanting to read it for a while now. I started reading it over a month ago I think but was super busy with my job at the time and had no spare time to read. I honestly really thought this book was great and I love that it covers such a taboo area in mental illness – psychosis.
This book follows 15 year old Neena. Her older brother has been missing for months and she’s trying to find him whilst also dealing with GCSEs, her parents strict rules and her declining mental health.
I’m always interested in mental health representation in books. It’s something which I wouldn’t necessarily say is underrepresented however it often isn’t well represented. Neena’s mental health is arguably the most important part of this story. It (quite realistically) affects every single aspect of her life, including relationships with family, friends and her boyfriend.
Something which I was really interested in was the portrayal of psychosis. I don’t think I’ve ever read something that deals with this – if I have, it doesn’t draw attention to it as a mental health issue but probably used as a plot device. Psychosis is frightening and something not often spoken about in general. It’s an ‘ugly’ side of mental health. People on the whole find it easier to discuss the more commonly socially accepted mental health problems, such as depression and anxiety. As someone who has struggled a lot with mental health issues in the past and currently, I too find it easier to talk to people about the symptoms which are less scary both for myself and others.
The Million Pieces of Neena Gill is refreshing as Emma doesn’t shy away from these difficult conversations. She unapologetically writes about the experience of psychosis and it’s aimed at a teenage/young adult audience. The fact it is aimed at younger people is another thing which I think is amazing about it. You are more likely to suffer from a psychotic episode when you are in your teenage years/early twenties. To explore these topics in fiction is fantastic as it gives an experience that young people can relate to without reading a non-fiction self-help book (not many of which are always helpful/friendly to teenagers).
The story in general is also great. The characters have great personalities, particularly her parents. I think they are very multi-faceted even if Neena doesn’t see this initially. I think it’s fairly clear to the reader that her parents do really care for her and are also completely broken about her brother, Akash, still. Her main friends are Fi and Raheela, both of whom are very different people who Neena struggles to connect with, more so when her mental health declines further and further.
At first, I didn’t think her boyfriend, Josh, had much more to him other than being a pretty nice guy but then as the book progressed I felt like he had much more to offer. He was super sweet and did just want to help her however we also had snippets of him struggling with Neena’s behaviour, mainly because of lack of understanding. This relationship was kept a secret from her parents because of their traditional cultural and religious views. This also affected her mental health as her parents initially believed that going to church and praying would help more than medication/therapy (which they didn’t consider to be of much help).
In the conclusion, we do have a twist however it doesn’t come at the expense of the story developed. It makes complete sense and there have been little clues to it throughout the book so it is far from cheap shock value. It’s a smart twist.
There is SO MUCH I could say about this book. I didn’t expect to write this much in the review but when I sat down to write it, I realised how much is woven into the story and how much I really did connect with it.
I feel in some ways this is written in a style aimed more at younger teens rather than 18+. However, this didn’t take away from my enjoyment of it and it’s not something I would rate a book down for anyway as that’s a super unfair reason.
The Million Pieces of Neena Gill by Emma Smith-Barton is released tomorrow in the UK! I highly recommend it but just be aware that if you have struggled with mental health issues, particularly symptoms such as hallucinations, delusions and psychosis, that it could be triggering for you. This isn’t because it’s written insensitively (it really is not) but just because it can be hard to read about if you have first-hand experience.