Review: The Symptoms of My Insanity by Mindy Raf

18 April, 2013 Reviews 15 comments

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: The Symptoms of My Insanity by Mindy RafThe Symptoms of My Insanity by Mindy Raf
Series: Standalone
Published by Dial Books for Young Readers on April 18th 2013
Pages: 384
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
Amazon Good BooksBook Depository
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two-half-stars

A laugh-out-loud, bittersweet debut full of wit, wisdom, heart, and a hilarious, unforgettable heroine.

When you’re a hypochondriac, there are a million different things that could be wrong with you, but for Izzy, focusing on what could be wrong might be keeping her from dealing with what’s really wrong.

I almost raised my hand, but what would I say? “Mr. Bayer, may I please be excused? I’m not totally positive, but I think I might have cancer.” No way. Then everyone at school would know, and they would treat me differently, and I would be known as “Izzy, that poor girl who diagnosed herself with breast cancer during biology.”

But Izzy’s sense of humor can only get her so far when suddenly her best friend appears to have undergone a personality transplant, her mother’s health takes a turn for the worse, and her beautiful maybe-boyfriend is going all hot and cold. Izzy thinks she’s preparing for the worst-case scenario, but when the worst-case scenario actually hits, it’s a different story altogether—and there’s no tidy list of symptoms to help her through the insanity.

There are few books that I feel ever get the “teenage speak” right. There are even fewer that feature all those little awkward moments we’ve all dealt with in high school. Because let’s face it, sometimes being a teen is awesome, but other times, it completely sucks. Really, really hard. The Symptoms of My Insanity takes a few of those moments and presents them in such a relatable way where I could sit back and go, “Oh, it’s my teenage self all over again when I was socially awkward!” Then I realized, “Wait. I’m still socially awkward.”

Izzy has a lot going on her plate in Symptoms: her mother’s cancer seems to be coming back, a popular guy in school is suddenly showing interest in her, her best friend is acting strangely and she has to prepare her art portfolio. It’s a lot. And thank goodness for Raf’s humor, because without it this would be one sad novel. The thing with Izzy is that she gets so wrapped up in everything that’s going on, she tends to glaze over or ignore the finer details. It’s her biggest flaw in the story and ends up almost costing her a friendship. At times this frustrated me because I really thought Blake’s arc was very obvious and I really needed her to wake up. She was dangerously tip-toing into “shakable heroine” territory.

But despite her flaws, I don’t really blame her for it. She’s a very relatable girl that reminds me of myself. Particularly, her experience shopping for a bra had my name all over it. Shopping for a bra is just one of those things that can make even the most confident woman, young or old, feel insecure. From dressing room lighting to the oversized mirrors that seem to emphasize everything, it can be a… humbling experience. But when you’re in high school, still going through puberty, perhaps even faster, and you’re more well-endowed than the others, it’s even more stressful. Those little awkward moments were captured very well in Symptoms and I couldn’t help but feel for Izzy.

Then the novel wore on and I was still really enjoying it even with the predictability here and there. But then something happened to really make me rage a little and bring down from rating from 4 stars to 2.5. If you are curious as to what it is click the spoiler, but be warned: It does spoil the plot twist (but honestly, the plot twist seemed very obvious from the beginning, so whatevs) and the ending of the book. I don’t usually add this level of spoiler-age to my reviews, but I really need to get this off my chest. So feel free to skip it.

View Spoiler »

Other than my biggest issue hidden in the spoiler, there was also slut shaming from Izzy’s mom and friend. BUT Izzy does correct her mother on that in the end. This didn’t exactly thrill me since I do believe her mother’s inability to accept her daughter’s changing body directly impacted Izzy’s self-esteem. The good thing is, by the end, Izzy does show a good amount of growth, grows a backbone and learns to be proud of herself.

Another thing that I wasn’t sold on was her best friend Jenna. Jenna knew Izzy had a lot to deal with as far as her art portfolio and her mother’s illness, but still proceeded to demand Izzy’s time to further her own ventures. The really sucky part is that Jenna started distancing herself from Izzy after she agreed to help her. I get that friends grow apart and that Raf was trying to show that correlation, but for me it felt way too sudden and wasn’t very gradual to be believable.

Overall, Symptoms of My Insanity is an entertaining read. Raf tackles a lot of different challenges teen girls face with a comical edge. Unfortunately, the last 3rd of the novel did not measure up to my expectations and caused me extreme disappointment.

ARC was provided by the publisher for an honest review. No monies or gifts were exchanged.

Steph Sinclair

Steph Sinclair

Co-blogger at Cuddlebuggery
I'm a bibliophile trying to make it through my never-ending To-Be-Read list, equal opportunity snarker and fangirl, YA Books Central editor and co-blogger here at Cuddlebuggery. Find me on GoodReads.
Steph Sinclair
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15 Responses to “Review: The Symptoms of My Insanity by Mindy Raf”

  1. cynicalsapphire

    Bahahaha, I love that opening. I’m totally still socially awkward; I’m just not as bothered by that now as I once was.
    Seriously, it was SO obvious what was up with Blake and with Jenna and she just had NO freaking clue.
    Wait, what? The average bust size is a G?? Really?  Looks down at Bs. They are not even trying, are they. Sigh. Oh well, less back problems for me. *taunts*
    You know what really bothers me about this book? How unclear everything was. Like, whether Jenna was raped or if she wanted the sex and was just used (which is still awful but a different issue entirely). I felt the same way about Blake. I’m 95% sure it was a bet, but I don’t think that was ever actually admitted. He claimed he didn’t intend for his friends to see the picture or whatever, and I’m like “whatever, bitch, tell someone who believes you,” but I would like to have that affirmed, because Blake does not deserve to get off that easily, like it was an accident. NO.
    What? You didn’t take photos of a singular boob and text them to your whole class? High school, you did it wrong.
    OMG, mental image of high-fiving each others dicks. I about died.

    • Steph Sinclair
      Twitter:

      cynicalsapphire And the odd thing with Jenna and Blake was that Meredith asked her a few times if she knew about it and Izzy never bothered to follow up. I realize she was dealing with a lot, but c’mon man!
      I had the G incorrect (I edited my review). It’s actually somewhere around E-F (that includes pregnant and/or nursing women too, so don’t feel too bad!). But yes, still larger than a B. Just think of it this way: you don’t have to worry about giving yourself a black eye when you jump up and down. 😉
      Yeah, things were very vague, but I’m pretty sure she wasn’t raped–just tricked. Oh the Blake thing was a bet of sorts. But wasn’t it a dare because of the hazing? He did tell her she was “picked” because he liked her. I don’t think he should have gotten off easily and I really don’t like how Izzy ended up feeling sorry for him. And his character was written like we were supposed to feel sorry for him too. UGH. NO.
      Clearly, I did high school all wrong. Shame on me for denying the student population a gander at my voluptuous breasts. HOW DARE I?
      High-fiving dicks totally happens. I have seen a group of male egos in action.

    • Steph Sinclair
      Twitter:

      cynicalsapphire And the odd thing with Jenna and Blake was that Meredith asked her a few times if she knew about it and Izzy never bothered to follow up. I realize she was dealing with a lot, but c’mon man!
      I had the G incorrect (I edited my review). It’s actually somewhere around E-F (that includes pregnant and/or nursing women too, so don’t feel too bad!). But yes, still larger than a B. Just think of it this way: you don’t have to worry about giving yourself a black eye when you jump up and down. 😉
      Yeah, things were very vague, but I’m pretty sure she wasn’t raped–just tricked. Oh the Blake thing was a bet of sorts. But wasn’t it a dare because of the hazing? He did tell her she was “picked” because he liked her. I don’t think he should have gotten off easily and I really don’t like how Izzy ended up feeling sorry for him. And his character was written like we were supposed to feel sorry for him too. UGH. NO.
      Clearly, I did high school all wrong. Shame on me for denying the student population a gander at my voluptuous breasts. HOW DARE I?
      High-fiving dicks totally happens. I have seen a group of male egos in action.

  2. Kelly

    Ugh, I was going to avoid the spoilers tag, but went ahead and I am SO glad that I did. I live in NS, where the exact scenario you depicted (about a girl killing herself, after being bullied by peers after a sexual assault, that the police did nothing about despite photos of her during the act being made public) has just happened. The thought of a large group of girls getting together to take the blame for being victims to sexual assault just hurts my heart.

  3. Addai A
    Twitter:

    Great review, I was disappointed with how the issue was handled in the spoilers but I will say one thing, I LOVE the most popular girls in school! seeing those gifs just had me cracking up all over again.

  4. readingwishes
    Twitter:

    I was expecting a rather light, FUN read but this is the second review in the last 24 hours I’ve read that says otherwise. I like the sound of Raf’s humour but the rest sounds rather depressing which I’m not so sure I’m up for, especially since that’s not what I had in mind for this novel.
    “Oh, it’s my teenage self all over again when I was socially awkward!” Then I realized, “Wait. I’m still socially awkward.” Ha, don’t worry, I’m socially awkward too 😉
    SPOILERS! *twitches* Must. Not. Look. *runs away*
    Anyways, thanks for the review, Steph. It’s fabulous! It’s definitely been an eye-opener and made me realise that maybe this book just isn’t for me.

  5. Danny_Bookworm

    Ah bummer! I really thought this was going to be a great read. AS I am not planing to read it anymore, I read the whole part hidden in the “Spoiler Section” . I must say that I get your frustration and it would probably frustrate me too..

  6. EscapeInABook
    Twitter:

    Another book I had high hopes for in 2013, but because of the message(or should we say the message that isn’t there) I think I’ll spend my reading time on something else. Excellent review, Steph!

  7. Lisa FicTalk

    Great review, Steph.
    I must say that I don’t see myself picking this up though. After everything you said I think I’d be a rageball of emotions if I did.

  8. fdss asfgfs

    “didn’t meet my expectations”

    off the high horse already, society doesn’t have to conform to you.

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