I tend to stick to reviewing books that I have enjoyed, and shy away from talking about the ones I haven’t so much. But a friend asked me a while ago, “Do you genuinely love every book you’ve read?”, and the short answer is – no. I hesitate talking about the ones I haven’t because I don’t want to cloud over other people’s views or experiences, but lately that conversation has been stuck in my head, so, for fear of looking like I do just lie when I’m enthusiastic about books, I’m going to write about one I didn’t.
Lost meets The Hunger Games in the thrilling new young adult novel from C.L. Taylor, the Sunday Times and million-copy bestselling author.
Welcome to The Island.
Where your worst fears are about to come true…
It was supposed to be the perfect holiday: a week-long trip for six teenage friends on a remote tropical island.
But when their guide dies of a stroke leaving them stranded, the trip of a lifetime quickly turns into a nightmare.
Because someone on the island knows each of the group’s worst fears. And one by one, they’re coming true.
Seven days in paradise. A deadly secret.
Who will make it off the island alive?
This was a book I was keen to read, loving my YA thrillers as I do, and for the most part I enjoyed it. The idea that something is going wrong, that things are escalating as they try their best to survive the week with issues meeting them at every turn, made it an easy read, and a page turner.
However, my big issue with this book is that the stunning conclusion was that none of these things were actually happening… It was just someone with undiagnosed PTSD imagining it.
Now, this really – to be blunt – pissed me off.
I have C-PTSD, Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. The difference between C-PTSD and PTSD is that with C-PTSD there are multiple traumas to address, whereas with PTSD it’s usually one situation or experience. This doesn’t make one more serious than the other; the only real difference is the approach that comes with therapy, because you can’t just attack one memory if there’s a dozen causing symptoms. I’ve lived with PTSD nearly all my life, so I feel I have enough experience and knowledge to talk about it.
What was abundantly clear in this book was that the author hadn’t contacted anyone with PTSD. They had taken a stereotype and run with it. The idea that people with PTSD are unaware of their symptoms and a danger to the public is a simple lie. People with PTSD are more likely to be used and abused further than they are to hurt other people. In the middle of a flashback, people are vulnerable. They may not make the best choices for themselves.
With so few representations of PTSD in literature and film, when it is represented and is a harmful, misguided image, that’s worse than no display at all. Add into that that at the end of the book a few weeks of therapy has simple cleared the mind of this sufferer just made me want to throw my own mind into the ring. I’ve been in therapy since I turned twelve. I’m nearly thirty. I’m not cured. I’ll never be cured. I’m not a damn ham.
In this book, the supposed sufferer has manipulated the memory of his mother dying and forgotten about it. Suppressed memories are common with PTSD, but that’s not how they work. To cope with his fear of his girlfriend being killed, he locks her up in a cave, handcuffed and gagged, and then threatens to slit the throat of another girl because he thinks she’s the cause of it. It’s one of the other kids on the island, who had a brother die by suicide, who puts all the lovely pieces together, and says he’s been imagining all the dangers.
To put these dangerous damaging, inaccurate representation in a book is bad enough. To do it in a young adult novel, which may be being read by people still adapting to the diagnosis, is even worse. Had I read this ten years ago, I would have fallen to pieces, because I would have looked at it and wondered “is this what I’m worth?”. PTSD already tells you that you are worthless and don’t deserve to be here. If a book I had been enjoying reinforced that, the results could have been damaging.
People with PTSD are not threats. We are often scared and lonely, because fighting our own minds all day every day is exhausting and terrifying and too heavy a load to carry. This is why accurate demonstrations about PTSD are important. If you need help, say. If you want input, ask. People will be happy to help. If you’re reading this, and thinking of using a person with PTSD as the lynch pin to your story, please stop and think. Email me if you want, I’ll help you myself! But don’t make out lives harder. Don’t make us out as kidnappers and murderers when you have no idea what some of us have been through to get that diagnosis.
I know this less review and more honest mental health talk, but I couldn’t shy away from talking about this book any longer. It’s been nagging at my brain for weeks. C. L. Taylor has done us all a disservice, and it needed to be addressed.
If you are concerned that you or someone you know may need help with PTSD, you can find the information from Mind here.