As someone who has suffered from severe anxiety and panic disorders since I was young, I was really excited to pick up this book, because it features a main character who pretty much worries about everything all the time, and her anxiety pretty much takes over her life. Because of this, I really thought this was going to be a book that I would be able to relate to completely.
Boy, was I ever right about that.
Reading this book was like reading through a journal of my own thoughts over the past fifteen years – at some point, I’ve felt almost all of these emotions and panicked about so many of the same things – things as simple as meeting a new person or walking down the street by myself. I loved Maeve’s character, and I can’t remember the last time I was able to relate to a character on such a deep and personal level, but I had that ability with Maeve in 10 Things I Can See From Here. Sure, I didn’t exactly have a step-mother who opted for home births or two twin brothers to look after, but I have my own children so I definitely do my fair share of worrying. About everything. Everything.
While most books that deal with anxiety might touch on it and make a great story from it, this is probably the most raw, detailed case of it that I’ve read about in a YA book (and I’ve read a lot of them). It was actually painful to read in spots, because yes, this is real life for some people, and there was no sugarcoating anything here.
Maeve has been dealing with severe anxiety for years, and her parents have decided not to let her take medication for it, because her mother believes that her brain has not finished developing, and that maybe somewhere down the line she will be able to overcome it on her own. So she is forced to deal with constant worrying thoughts, from the time she wakes up in the morning until the time she goes to bed at night – thoughts that most people don’t spend agonizing moments thinking about – like how many people die in the country every year from car accidents, or all of the horrible things that can happen simply by getting on the ferry by herself.
Living with her mother most of the year, and only seeing her father and step-mother (and two adorable yet annoying twin brothers) on planned occasions, since they live across the border in Canada. So when Maeve’s mom announces that she is going to Haiti to work in a vaccination with her (old) boyfriend Raymond, Maeve isn’t too thrilled to be going to spend time with her dad and step-mother. Sure, it wouldn’t be so bad if it were only for a while – but this is for six months, and no one understands her quite like her mother. Her father makes jokes about her anxiety (when he’s clean and sober), and her step-mother Claire, while meaning well, doesn’t seem to get it at all. And then there’s the fact that Claire is expecting another baby, and after the home birth she had with the twins that Maeve was present for, she isn’t exactly looking forward to going through with it again.
Over the summer, Maeve is forced to deal with all kinds of things she would rather avoid by spending the summer in her cottage in the woods with her mother, but since her mother left her with her dad, it just gives Maeve more to worry about – such as plane crashes, Cholera, and her mother and Raymond getting serious about each other.
While Maeve is staying with her dad, things start to fall apart around her. Claire and her father are always fighting, her twin brothers are pretty much determined to do whatever they want, Maeve has to deal with the death of someone she was close to, and her father starts drinking again, causing tension with them all.
The only bright side of the entire time she is with her father in Canada is the fact that she has met a girl – a girl whom she develops feelings for quickly, after seeing her around so often and finally being able to speak to her. But even that ends up getting touched by Maeve’s anxiety – she runs away from her on their first date. How can Maeve deal with her anxiety long enough to let something good happen to her?
I read through this book in one night, and loved every single page. Maeve was such a real character – from the fake obituaries that she wrote in her head every time she saw something bad happening, to the feelings she had for Salix when the two of them started to talking, to the horrible pain she felt surrounding her father’s lapse in sobriety. So many parts of this book are things that teenagers have to face every day, coupled with crippling anxiety that makes daily life almost impossible to handle. This is in no way an easy book to read – some parts made me cringe, others made me cry, while yet others made me laugh, nodding along because I had felt so many of those same emotions, worried so many of the same worries. It was emotional. It was painful. It was honest. It was beautiful.
Maeve and Salix had such a connection from the very first time that Maeve saw her in the parking lot while waiting for her father to pick her up. I loved watching the progress of their relationship from the first time they met through the end of the book, seeing how things changed for the two of them. They’re relationship felt real, and not at all forced.
Watching Maeve’s father fall back into this life of drug and alcohol abuse was also difficult. It’s easy to see what an impact that it has on their family – and how it destroyed the relationship that he had with Maeve’s mother so many years ago. At the same time, I loved seeing that the two families were able to accept each other – Maeve’s mother didn’t have any hard feelings toward Claire, and the same went for Claire’s feelings toward Maeve’s mother. There’s so much family interaction in this book, and it made it so much more of a pleasure to read.
This is a deep novel full of things that can make or break a person, and what it feels like to deal with it all while suffering from anxiety.
About the Author
CARRIE MAC is an award-winning Canadian novelist making her US debut. She lives in East Vancouver, where this story takes place. Check out her website at Carriemac.com and follow her on Twitter at @CarrieMacWrites.
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