Friday, March 15, 2019

YA Romance-Made-in-the-Psych-Ward Novel Teaches Important Lessons

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

When Addie Foster's obsessive tics and lengthy routines become too debilitating, the 17-year-old is admitted to the psych ward of a Seattle hospital to get help with her OCD.  Surrounded by a group of teens battling schizophrenia, severe depression, delusions, and more, life at the facility is never boring.  Addie is especially taken with Fitz, a boy her age who's smart, funny, and brave.  Even though he's constantly fighting with the voices inside his head, Addie feels like Fitz is the only person who's ever really gotten her.  A teenage romance kindled in the psych ward is not likely to go anywhere, but Addie doesn't care—she's just grateful to have a true friend on the inside.

Then Fitz asks Addie to help him break out of the hospital.  For reasons he won't explain, Fitz insists he has to go to San Juan Island and it has to be now.  Addie understands obsessions, but she's not too keen on breaking out, especially when she's finally making progress with her OCD.  Still, she can't deny her new pal (who is maybe becoming more than a friend), so a plan is hatched ... Will it work?  What will happen when the pair is on the outside trying to make important decisions without their medication, their doctors, or their hospital friends?  Can their lives—their romance—ever really work outside the psych ward?

Waiting for Fitz is a debut novel by Spencer Hyde, a college professor who spent three years of his adolescence at Johns Hopkins being treated for severe OCD.  His experience makes the book feel authentic.  It also colors his fictional treatment of mental illness—he normalizes the issue without ever trivializing it.  Hyde's sympathetic view helps the reader see the patients in his novel (and thus their real-life counterparts) as teens who are just like everybody else, even as they deal with unique problems.  He preaches hope for those with mental illness, encouraging them to never, ever give up. 

Addie and Fitz are likable leads, although they are definitely not your average high schoolers.  They're old souls whose unusual interests will probably not resonate with most young adults.  While these oddities may alienate teen readers, it does keep the characters' developing relationship ... interesting.  That being said, the first half of Waiting for Fitz really dragged for me.  There's a lot of talking and philosophizing to wade through without much action to perk up the plot.  In fact, the plot doesn't even really start until the middle of the book, which is (not) coincidentally when the story really begins to get engaging.  The problem, I think, is that Addie has no real story goal so she doesn't do much, especially in the book's initial chapters.  Fitz is the star of the show, making Addie's role in the story kind of murky.  Despite the action picking up in the second half of Waiting for Fitz, I ended up not loving the novel.  I did care about the characters and became invested enough in them to finish the book.  All in all, though, this was just an okay read for me.


Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for violence and mild sexual innuendo

To the FTC, with love:  I received a finished copy of Waiting for Fitz from the generous folks at Shadow Mountain in exchange for an honest review.  Thank you!

2 comments:

  1. It sounds like Addie is the main character, but that it should have been Fitz. I wonder if that would have fixed things. A character with no direction just doesn't work.

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  2. I read this too and I completely agree with your review. The last third of the book was the best part.

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