‘I’ll tell you what happened because it will be a good way to introduce my brother. His name’s Simon. I think you’re going to like him. I really do. But in a couple of pages he’ll be dead. And he was never the same after that.’
There are books you can’t stop reading, which keep you up all night.
There are books which let us into the hidden parts of life and make them vividly real.
There are books which, because of the sheer skill with which every word is chosen, linger in your mind for days.
The Shock of the Fall is all of these books.
The Shock of the Fall is an extraordinary portrait of one man’s descent into mental illness. It is a brave and groundbreaking novel from one of the most exciting new voices in fiction.
Hello bookworms and welcome back! I’m back today, presenting you a review of the book I recently finished: The Shock of the Fall by Nathan Filer! This is a young adult contemporary novel that deals with the topic of mental illness, more specifically, schizophrenia.
First of all, I must sing my praises to this book for being so amazing. You should all know me well enough now to know that I have a certain…
obsession interest in books that center around the topic of mental illness and while there are many books right now tackling anxiety and depression (which by the way is totally not a bad thing), there are not many books that focus around other, more intense or abstract illnesses such as schizophrenia.
Nathan Filer does an incredible, INCREDIBLE job of exploring this mental illness, through this unique, raw, dark and compelling debut novel. The Shock of the Fall is by far my favourite YA contemporary, alongside A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness. (And trust me, that says a LOT about how good this book is)
“Mental illness turns people inwards. That’s what I reckon. It keeps us forever trapped by the pain of our own minds, in the same way that the pain of a broken leg or a cut thumb will grab your attention, holding it so tightly that your good leg or good thumb seem to cease to exist.”
I shall talk about Filer’s portrayal of mental illness in this novel first, because my mind is simply reeling from the beauty of it all. Honestly, every element of this story weaves together perfectly to create a dark, raw image of the experiences someone goes through when they have schizophrenia, the downward spiral through the illness and the thoughts and actions that come along with it all.
In my opinion, and by no means am I an expert in schizophrenia, (but since Filer was/is a nurse, I suppose his word is pretty solid), I believe that Nathan Filer did an amazing job of portraying this mental illness, in a way that was so compelling, so dark, yet so real and emotional.
If you know what schizophrenia is like, it’s confusing in itself. It’s not an illness many of us can relate to at all. While depression and anxiety is quite common, and is easy to relate to, schizophrenia is much harder to understand. Hallucinations, frantic and jumpy thoughts, detachment from reality that can lead to these people doing and saying fairly freaky/intimidating things; as people from the outside, schizophrenia is hard to understand and it’s even harder for us to accept people with it. Which is why I love this book, for raising the awareness, and giving us a glimpse into the mind of a schizophrenic.
“Her brother has a disease, an illness with the shape and sound of a snake. It slithers through the branches of our family tree. It must have broken her heart, to know that I was next.”
The characterization was beautiful. This novel is written in the direct perspective of the main character, whose name is Matt. We are basically reading his entries in his ‘story’ that he is supposedly writing for an audience. So because of this, we get a clear image of Matt, of his thoughts and his personality, and we can clearly read his progression and decent as he sinks deeper into this mental illness that plaques him.
The most beautiful thing about reading from Matt’s perspective is that Filer does it in such a way that reading from his perspective is jarring. You can hardly trust what you’re thinking about the entire situation of the story, because Matt is an unreliable narrator. His thoughts are frantic and all over the place.
“It’s like we each have a wall that separates our dreams from reality, but mine has cracks in it. The dreams can wiggle and squeeze their way through until it’s hard to know the difference.”
There are times throughout the entire novel, when you will be brought to question where in the time and place of Matt’s mind, you are reading from. At times it’s hard to tell whether you’re looking into a memory from the present, or the past. I loved this so much, and it made for an intense read, despite the confusion.
However, it’s not just the characterization of Matt that was great, but Filer, despite having this novel live in the mind of the mental illness patient, did an amazing job of showing how this mental illness affects the people around him. We can see through this book, how this illness affects the strangers around Matt, but also his family. We see how hard it is for friends, mothers and fathers and other relatives to deal with it, and how sometimes it can be extremely hard and too much, for some people.
“There is weather, and there is climate. If it rains outside, or if you stab a classmate’s shoulder with a compass needle, over and over, until his white cotton school shirts looks like blotting paper, that is weather.”
The Shock of the Fall gives us the amazing experience of being in the shoes of a schizophrenic. Sometimes seeing it from the outside is a littler scary, intimidating and can lead us to avoiding these people. I know that’s how I would feel. But this novel was an extreme eye-opener. More than anything my tears are free-flowing out of me because now I know what it’s like for people who experience schizophrenia. Oh and look, now I’m crying because I CAN’T KEEP A HOLD ON MY FEELINGS. ARGH. *wipes back tears*
If nothing else, I want you all to read this novel for how it portrays mental illness. And loss. It’s a beautiful tale that not only deals with mental illness on it’s own, but also the pain of loss.
“Writing about the past is a way of reliving it, a way of seeing it unfold all over again. We place memories on pieces of paper to know they will always exist.”
The writing style that Nathan Filer used, I thought, was perfect in setting the tone of the novel, and perfect for the execution of the entire mental illness perspective. I could literally feel the frantic nature of Matt’s mind, the raw, haunted feeling that hovered over the entire story line of his book. And I could almost feel myself spiraling into the pit of Matt’s illness along with him.
It’s written as entires by Matt himself, and these can vary from typed entries, to different kinds of entry styles. Even letters. What I loved even more was the inclusion of visual prompts. Images that correspond to important images to Matt and to certain scenes in the book. I’ve never seen a book written so uniquely like this one.
“Sometimes memories refuse to be locked in time or place, they are always present.”
My thoughts and ramblings could never do this book justice. I could talk about this book for another few thousand words if it was guaranteed that you are all such lovely bookworms that you would read a review that long. BUT ALAS, I KNOW YOU GUYS TOO WELL. Which is why this is where I will end this review.
Brave and groundbreaking are the perfect words to describe what The Shock of the Fall is. It’s a book I believe everyone should read. It will impact you in some way, that is definitely guaranteed. READ IT NOW. PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE.
Have you read The Shock of the Fall?