by Jennifer Castle
Release Date: June 7th 2016
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance, Mental Illness
From the award-winning author of “The Beginning of After” and “You Look Different in Real Life,” “What Happens Now” is a touching, insightful novel about learning to heal, learning to love, and what happens when fantasy becomes reality.
I would like to thank the author for agreeing to discuss the stigma associated with mental illnesses and how her character deals with this, and how they do as the narrator/author.
It seems incredible that after all this time, with all the public service campaigns and TV ads for medication and celebrities coming forward to talk about their own experiences, there’s still so much misunderstanding associated with depression. And so much confusion, too. As in, “How do you know if you’re depressed or simply stuck in the blues?” and “Why do people get depressed, anyway? Can’t they just suck it up like the rest of us? Yeah, life is hard. Deal with it!”
The stigma is, depression is weakness. Depression is not trying hard enough to be happy. Depression is something you choose and have control over.
When I decided I wanted to write a novel about a teenage girl living with depression and moving forward under treatment, I wasn’t on some mission to tackle that stigma. I wanted to write the story because I’ve lived it.
When we first meet Ari, it’s been four months since the night she “hurt herself on purpose.” She cut her arm with a razor as a plea for help; she says she wasn’t trying to die but rather, to live, because it was the only way she could show how much she was struggling. I think that happens a lot. The nature of depression is that it makes you feel like you’re alone in the universe and nobody will ever understand you; it’s sort of a cruel joke of the disease. Ari actually feels ashamed that she doesn’t have a “reason” to be depressed because nothing bad’s ever happened to her and she has a loving family. I think that’s a huge part of the stigma, especially for young people. People often think that depression is something you have to “earn” in some way.
Ari lives in a small town, so everyone knows what she did. She catches people trying to get a sneak peek at the scars on her arm. So when she meets Camden Armstrong and his friends, who all go to a different school, she loves being able to “start fresh” with people who don’t know her past. The fact that they’re fans of the same vintage sci-fi TV series she’s obsessed with — Ari has found inspiration and strength from one of the main characters — adds to their appeal. But eventually, she realizes that her depression is part of who she is, now and forever, and staying balanced amid first love and family issues will help her discover new things about herself. Ari’s depression is hereditary; her mother struggles with it too, and that connection causes problems along the way.
For me, the most interesting part of Ari’s journey wasn’t the night she cut herself but rather, all the nights she didn’t…all the nights where she felt gradually stronger and more hopeful about the possibilities out there for her. There are so many of us living life this way. I hope WHAT HAPPENS NOW is, among other things, a portrait of depression most people don’t get to see.
Jennifer Castle received her B.A. in Creative Writing at Brown University and worked as a celebrity publicist’s assistant, an advertising copywriter, and a struggling screenwriter (yes, that’s an actual job) before falling into a niche producing websites for kids and teens. Her debut, THE BEGINNING OF AFTER, was a 2012 YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults selection as well as a Chicago Public Library “Best of the Best” book. YOU LOOK DIFFERENT IN REAL LIFE and its companion digital novella, PLAYING KEIRA, were published by HarperTeen in June 2013. Her next novel, WHAT HAPPENS NOW, is forthcoming from Harper in June 2016. She lives in New York’s Hudson Valley with her husband and daughters.
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