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Look Straight Ahead


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Look Straight Ahead back

Elaine M. Will

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17.98

Page 45 Review by Jonathan

When this first appeared four years ago, it was one of the best and most sensitive explorations of teenage psychosis and mental illness I had read in some considerable time. It still is, and this new edition comes fully endorsed by the Canadian Mental Health Association.

Jeremy is an introverted 17-year-old high school kid with very few friends whose primary passion is illustration. He's possibly genetically predisposed to seeing the world a little differently than everyone else to start with, and after an extended period of emotional bullying at school from the jocks and the mean girls, this develops into a full-blown psychotic breakdown episode, complete with auditory and visual hallucinations. Cue a period in a hospital for observation and the future of a lifetime on medication. Obviously, this isn't something that seems particularly appealing to Jeremy, and so begins a period of internal and external struggle, as he begins to come to terms with his condition.

Elaine writes and illustrates in a manner which perfectly captures many elements of the conundrum faced by those in Jeremy's position. Often, they feel at their best during the pre-break periods of mania where the delusions are almost intoxicating, rapturous even, before the paranoia well and truly kicks in. Afterwards, they can long to experience those states again, believing that the chemical suppression of their medication, which in reality is helping to balance their brain chemistry, is limiting their state of consciousness and preventing them experiencing reality as it truly is. Jeremy is in just such a position, but fortunately for him he has a supportive, understanding parent who is able to prevent him going too far off the rails and possibly hurting himself or someone else in the meanwhile.

All of which sounds rather intense, and it is in a way, I suppose, but it's presented with such sensitivity and understanding, illustrating the inner turmoil people in Jeremy's position face, that first and foremost it just comes across as an excellent piece of contemporary fiction, irrespective of the subject matter.

Elaine's art style certainly helps in that regard too, and I can see elements of Terry Moore in her work, which should give you a good idea of what to expect should you decide to give this a try.

For more on this and similar issues, dealt with in different ways, please see Page 45's Online Mental Health Section.

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