Author: Robin Bridges
Thanks to NetGalley and Kensington Books for letting me receive a digital copy of this book before its official release.
Natalie Roman isn't much for the spotlight. But performing A Midsummer Night's Dream in a stately old theatre in Savannah, Georgia, beats sitting alone replaying mistakes made in Athens. Fairy queens and magic on stage, maybe a few scary stories backstage. And no one in the cast knows her backstory.
Except for Lucas—he was in the psych ward, too. He won't even meet her eye. But Nat doesn't need him. She's making friends with girls, girls who like horror movies and Ouija boards, who can hide their liquor in Coke bottles and laugh at the theater's ghosts. Natalie can keep up. She can adapt. And if she skips her meds once or twice so they don't interfere with her partying, it won't be a problem. She just needs to keep her wits about her.
Alright, it's official: I am a huge Robin Bridges fan! I read Dreaming of Antigone a few months ago and had it declared as one of my favourite reads this year. I think my rating of it was lower, probably a 3.5, but I can't really say which one I liked better, having now also read The Form of Things Unknown. So I'll just tell you that both reads are worth four full stars. They deserve all the positive comments they get.
Again, her love for poetic things is pretty obvious in this book. Never having read any of Shakespears plays before, I gotta admit, I found the way Robin Bridges included this, very enchanting. You'd think that a book in which the characters starr in a play is too childish, but nothing this author writes ever comes out as childish. Sweet and light, maybe, yes, but not childish. It can't be childish anyway, because the topic that gets described in this book is far too heavy. In a good way. I usually struggle with reading stories about mental illness. Most of the time, the characters either don't seen real to me, or the book itself bores me. I'd like to think that I wasn't too convinced The Form of Things Unknown would make me love the story because I knew what Robin Bridges was capable of. I'd rather believe that this story really capitivated me. And it did. So I am not even lying. What Nat was going through... It all had a spooky vibe to it and it was never too much to handle for the reader, because in the end, you never knew whether what she thought she saw and heard was real or not. But considering her past, you start doubting her without even wanting to. And by the end, maybe you'll even feel bad for thinking these things about her, because they make you no better than her so-called friends and what they did. I hope that's not a spoiler, but I am getting angry when it comes to bullying and that was what it was kinda about too.
So, anyway... Nat's brother convices her to take part in a Shakespear play. Without really giving it much thought, she decides to at least go to the audition. That's where she spots Lucas. Lucas is a boy (hello, new book boyfriend!) who attend the same mental health clinic as her, called Winter Oaks. But while everybody in town basically knows that he was there, Nat and her family are new in town, so no one knows her secret, her past. When the director of the play matches her a role and Nat, her brother and their new friends start working at the theatre, Nat also starts to see things, hear things, that can't be there. When she finally admits it to the others, they think it's a ghost that haunts the theatre and they come up with meeting, trying to talk to the spirit or whatever it is. But things just won't go back to normal and while she and Lucas grow closer due to that, she feels like she's on the edge of losing it.
As always, my "putting it in a nutshell" synopsis isn't the best and basically everything that can be read in the official blurb too.
While Dreaming of Antigone concerned a heavy topic too, I think Robin Bridges took a step forward with this current work. Of course, there are still light scenes, funny scenes and romantic scenes too. Did I mention I loved Lucas?! He was such a nice character, oh my. And I really liked how the book didn't revolve around him, but we found out enough about his past. Also, the book kind of had a Pretty Little Liars vibe to it. I can't exactly explain why. I have never read these books, but I've seen a few seasons of the show and the mystic part of it reminded me of it. And then I think it was important that we didn't get to read about Nat's presence at Winter Oaks. The story started after she was sent there, when she was back at her new home in Savannah.
So, if you're looking for an awesome read, I suggest you pick this one up. No, seriously. It's one of the best books about mental illness that I have ever read and the writing - especially Nat's thoughts (such a funny girl!) - is fabulous. I'm kinda sad the book wasn't longer, and I thought the ending, when Nat confronted her former friend (I won't say who), was a bit rushed. No bully gives in just like that. Would be nice if they did, but they don't. I can't read for the author's next book. Impatiently waiting!