Book Review: Lana Grace Riva, The Existence of Amy

First of all, I would like to thank the author for sending me a free copy of the book in exchange of an honest review. It’s actually the first time I was sent a book to review, so I really appreciate it. Second of all, I would like to warn you that this review will mainly deal with mental health, which I know can be a triggering topic to some, but I’m not going into much details when mentioning anxiety/depression/OCD.

Amy is a young woman with a nice job and nice friends, but she struggles with mental illness which is slowly taking over her life. Amy doesn’t name the illnesses she suffers from, but we quickly understand that there is some form of OCD, anxiety and depression. As someone who has struggled with the last two for many years now, I found Amy’s story very moving and impactful.

 She is always tired because every little thing causes her to overthink all possibilities and dangers a situation could bring. For example, taking the bus is an actual ordeal because of the germs everywhere (we can all particularly understand this one at the moment, I guess) and people’s looks, the possibility that maybe one of them would sit next to her, etc. Or the panic that overtakes her when she needs to go somewhere new where she won’t be familiar with the people or facilities… it is exhausting to read her worries but it’s exactly how anxiety feels.

 I don’t know if Lana Grace Riva went through similar things in her life, or if she has got good knowledge of psychology but the way mental illness is represented in her book is extremely accurate. I think that this is an important book for everyone to read, even if you’ve never struggled with your mental health. This little novel can help you to understand what it feels like to have your whole life dictated by a nasty little voice in your head seeing the negative side of everything. And of course, if you suffer from some form of mental illness, I think this book can be beneficial in understanding that you are not alone and with some professional help, you will be fine. Amy refers to her mental illness as the ‘crazy’ but that’s because she’s not aware of anyone suffering from the same aches. It’s important to know that these do not make someone crazy.

One thing that is important to note is that the book is stripped bare of any references to a specific time or place (apart from a trip the characters take), and the characters also feel very ‘bare’. Now, I think this will be a problem to some readers who need to feel very invested in the characters’ lives but I also reckon it brings something special to the book. Because Amy doesn’t have anything really special about her, it’s very easy to put yourself – as a reader – in her shoes and imagine how it feels or relate to her behaviours if you’ve experienced similar struggles. So I really liked that everything in the book was very basic in this sense as I felt it was easier for me to add my own feelings and experiences to the story. The only thing I do regret is that Amy’s language was too formal, I think I would have felt even closer to her if her language was a little more colloquial.

In summary, I thoroughly enjoyed reading The Existence of Amy because it made me feel less alone and that I was on the right way to recovery. However, this is not a plot-driven book so do not expect to be hooked by the events in the novel. To me, this is more of an educational book that I believe should be put in all hands! 

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