I really loved Faceless, which I won in a competition a few years ago, and so when I saw on twitter that Sheinmel’s next book, A Danger to Herself and Others, was on NetGalley, I was requesting it very shortly after. Approved a few days later, I started this, left it, then came back and consumed most of it within a single night. Compelling and thoughtful, it is entirely not what I expected – I was thinking of a thriller, of toxic female friendships, and of a self-interested protagonist manipulating all those around her. There were elements of this in the book, but it was much more than that as well.
Only when she’s locked away does the truth begin to escape…
Seventeen-year-old Hannah Gold has always been treated like a grown up. As the only child of two New York professionals, she’s been traveling the world and functioning as a miniature adult since the day she was born. But that was then. Now, Hannah has been checked into a remote treatment facility, stripped of all autonomy and confined to a single room.
Hannah knows there’s been a mistake. What happened to her roommate that summer was an accident. As soon as the doctor and judge figure out that she isn’t a danger to herself or others, she can get back to her life of promise and start her final year at school. Until then, she’s determined to win over the staff and earn some privileges so she doesn’t lose her mind to boredom.
But then she’s assigned a new roommate. At first, Lucy is the perfect project to keep Hannah’s focus off all she is missing at home. But Lucy may be the one person who can make Hannah confront the secrets she’s avoiding – and the dangerous games that landed her in confinement in the first place.
Gripping, heartwrenching and powerful, A Danger to Herself and Others is Girl, Interrupted meets We Were Liars in this new novel from New York Times bestselling author Alyssa Sheinmel.
Very different to the first book of hers that I read, Faceless, this thoughtful piece on mental illness and unreliable narrators is poignantly drawn.
Hannah Gold is clever, independent, and has been grown up since she was four or five years old. Locked up in a secure facility, she’s convinced that all she has to do is convince the doctors that she’s perfectly fine and this is all a misunderstanding, and she’ll be allowed out in time to start the first semester of senior year in high school.
But the arrival of new roommate Lucy might just be the catalyst which leads to Hannah discovering far more about herself than she ever thought would be true.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Hannah is arrogant, self-satisfied, and frankly, quite unlikeable. Superior and manipulative, she’s convinced she knows better than everyone, and that she knows exactly how to get them to do what she wants. Starting the book, I was aware that we were dealing with an unreliable narrator, so I took everything that Hannah said with a pinch of salt, especially about what happened to land her inside. But as the book went on, what I thought would be a reveal on a par with, say, Dangerous Girls or Black Cairn Point was much more subtle than that, and thus much more rewarding.
Lacking the emotional heft of Faceless, if I wasn’t comparing this book to Sheinmel’s last offering, I think I would be much more enthusiastic about this book. As it is, my opinion is that it’s very good – but it’s not as good as Faceless. If I wasn’t aware that they were the same author, I probably wouldn’t feel the need to put the same caveats on it.
Ah, the perils of becoming a victim of one’s own success.
Let me try again.
This nuanced and delicate look at mental health and self-perception is really very good, and highly recommended.