Genre disappointment

I was going to review a mystery/thriller that I finished not too long ago, but I’ve decided not to review this particular book. It wasn’t poorly written, full of typos, or incoherent. So, why am I not going to review this book, you ask? Three words: mental illness stigma.

Now that you’re probably rolling your eyes and preparing to unfollow my blog, let me give you a bit of my background. Around twenty odd years ago, I was diagnosed as having bipolar type 1, as well as an anxiety disorder. Actually, let me back up: I was diagnosed with grand mal epilepsy, an unspecified sleep disorder, major depressive disorder, and the lovely generalized anxiety disorder. Eventually, bipolar 1 replaced the mdd diagnosis. Then came the pills; lots and lots of them. I was a minor when all this started, so I had very little say in my own treatment (remember, this was twenty years ago). Chances are, if you can name it, I’ve been on it at some point. Mental illness treatment is seldom linear, and in my case, I was also being put on different medications for epilepsy (oddly enough, I’m currently on a mood stabilizer that also acts as an anti-convulsant. Go figure). There were upsets, bad side effects (one antidepressant actually made me suicidal), and several hospitalizations.

I don’t write any of this in an attempt to receive anything remotely resembling pity: I’m here, I’m currently doing well, and my mental illness is simply one part of the person I am- and not even the most defining part. However, it does play into why I’m so bummed about the book I finished recently.

This book, which I will not name, had an interesting premise, unique characters, and a fantastic setting. It moved at a good pace, and had several twists and turns that kept me reading. But, once again, as has happened quite often recently, the murderer’s sole reason for committing the crime was simply “mental illness.” And with that, this book lost me. I feel that, not only is it lazy writing for a character’s complete motivation to be thrown on ye random mental illness (in the case of this book, it was undefined, but I’ve seen a lot of schizophrenia and borderline personality disorders filling in that blank lately), it can be harmful to those who are just beginning the very long road to getting help with mental illness.

I read because I love to visit different places, see through different eyes, and experience new things. If I’d read multiple books describing violent, irredeemable monsters as having a mental illness back when I was still struggling horribly to just continue, it would have broken me.

Now, of course authors are free to write anything they want. And of course, people reading my ramblings might think I’m overreacting (maybe I am), but I want to try something: I want any of you who are still with me at this point to comment with a mystery/thriller or fantasy that portrays mental illness in a healthy light. I’d love to read those books. And, maybe- just maybe- I’m not the only one.

So, weigh in please: let’s get a good list going. And I promise, the next blog post will be back to my semi-regularly scheduled broadcast.

20 thoughts on “Genre disappointment

  1. First of all, I’m so proud of you for writing about this.

    As for books, I thought The Woman in the Window portrayed an intriguing take on agoraphobia. I wasn’t happy with the ending of the book, but the story and character development was enjoyable. I wouldn’t recommend The Couple Next Door at all. I couldn’t finish it because of the stigma the author was placing on postpartum depression.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I loved It’s Kind of a Funny Story!
      It seems like contemporary fiction and YA are trying to deviate from the “crazy serial killer” trope: I’m hoping adult thrillers will follow suit.
      I’m adding Death Stalks Kettle Street to my tbr list. Thanks!


  2. This sounds likea very popular YA thriller, that I don’t understand the hype. I can’t stand when a thriller relies on that stereotype. It’s cheap and damaging. They always explain it like, of course, it was the mentally ill person because mentally ill *eye roll* I’m trying to think of any that were really healthy rep in a thriller. I’ll get back to you if some come to mind.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I recently read Elizabeth Is Missing by Emma Healey, I thought it was a good story revolving around dementia.

    The Cunning Woman’s Cup by Sue Hewitt has a character with agrophobia, although a minor character it was dealt with well and the rest of the story was very good.

    I also thought The Bug Jar by Ava Black was good, it left me thinking about the mental health messages for a long time afterwards.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I would have felt the same way. It’s a shame authors feel the need to do this and I agree with you that it does nothing to help lessen the stereotypes or reduce stigma.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I wrote a post about this myself. Being an epileptic with bipolar and PTSD blah, I just had THE WORST depression ever recently and I can say, authors rarely get it right. I’m 43 and have been on so many meds, I can’t even count.
    I have to say, most memoirs are pretty good like Unquiet Mind and such.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I feel you on this topic. I’ve been diagnosed with both GDD and GAD (they seem to go hand in hand). Also mild OCD. I really think there are a lot of books out there that don’t get these things right and also put a further stigma on to something that’s already stigmatized.


  7. Oh Witty, you are speaking to my heart here. I am also bipolar 1 with anxiety. I also suffer from PTSD. My daughter has disabling OCD. Writers never get it right! If you have never suffered you can’t relate. If you can’t relate, at least do some research to be sure you are getting it right! Much love to you and all of the other sufferers out there. HUGS

    Unfortunately, I have no book recommendations. I look forward to this list though.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. If you ever need an ear, feel free to dm.

      I read Muse Of Fire by Heidi Heilig and the main character has bipolar (the author confirmed in the author’s note). That’s the first fantasy I’ve read with a bipolar “good guy” main character.


  8. You know what? Many authors, even some of the popular ones look to use/exploit mental illness to gain traction with their readers. It is very easy to attribute any wrongdoing to mental illness. The insanity plea card is played in almost every legal thriller that I have read. It is one thing to take the opportunity to highlight and create awareness, and entirely another thing to vilify it.
    You are spot on in your assessment. Cheers!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I completely agree with you – particularly in light of the current habit of writing off crimes as ‘disturbed individuals’ when in fact there are definitely other factors at play, it does just seem like a cop-out in a lot of ways. I don’t read many thrillers or crime novels, but I think the ones that work best are the ones where they are well thought-out and the motive is recognisable, as opposed to being just “they were mentally unbalanced”.

    Liked by 1 person

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