For some reason, I procrastinated reading All Things New for a few months. It arrived in a mix of new ebooks from NetGalley. The blurb disappeared from my mind (which I wanted — I love to know as little as possible going in).
Based on the cover that managed to stick in my head, I expected a light summer romance. A beautiful blonde has her heart broken and when one door closes, a ton of new doors open.
But surprisingly, that wasn’t it. Two days ago [ed note: at time of writing], I felt ready to handle a bad book. It was midnight. I just needed to read until I was sleepy.
There’s nothing more soul-destroying than reading a ton of bad books, one after the other (I was even questioning if YA was still for me). But it had been near three months, I realised, since NetGalley had sent me this book. I had better get around to it.
And so it began with a pretty young girl in LA, celebrating New Years Eve with her fantastic boyfriend. Woop de doo. But something I didn’t expect happened — we find out Jessa has an anxiety disorder and Mr. Perfect Boyfriend is afraid to split with her as she’s “unstable.”
The less I say about the plot the better, as it will completely suck you in.
So, the review.
If you’ve felt insecure (let’s be real – who hasn’t?), you’ll find this book to be #relatable. There’s a range of struggles going on for Jessa, every one of which are universal at their core.
Mental health is a major part of All Things New, from Jessa speaking with the school counsellor to dealing with hallucinations.
We all know how well-discussed depression and anxiety are at this stage. They give off the illusion that there’s no stigma to be felt for those suffering from mental health issues. But when it comes to the less openly-discussed symptoms, it can be tough, embarrassing and downright scaring.
Jessa suffers from a number of symptoms of poor mental health. While it may be growing more common for people to openly discuss panic attacks, hallucinations are taboo. They come with a crazy label attached, which means Jessa won’t explain to her parents that they’re even happening. By far, this is one of the more relatable moments I’ve seen in any fiction novel – the number of people who’ve been afraid to admit the existence of their illness for fear it makes them crazy is how we’ve got a stigma in the first place. That, and the legit crazy treatments that were in use last century – electric shock treatments and the like.
There’s no use of strong imagery, with Miller putting her efforts into building characters and not pictures. It’s a style that suits the book well. Personally speaking, at some points I found myself so gripped by the story, I hadn’t the chance to visualise anything. It was all too much for me to slow down. I couldn’t think about what was happening, never mind imagine it. I just needed to see what came next.
Each person has a distinctive voice, personality and their own personal struggle. We hear about many (even from those everyone else believes to be fine), driving home the idea that everyone has their own stuff going on.
You never know what anybody’s going through, so be kind.
I should mention that All Things New is religious of-sorts. Jessa, a previously practicing Christian, felt ignored by God after many pleas and prayers. Seeing as God turned His back on her – or maybe wasn’t there to begin with – she wasn’t going to bother. He heard her desperation and chose to leave her helpless. Who’d want a God like that?
If Christianity bothers you, I wouldn’t recommend you avoid the book because of it. This is a fantastic lesson in how to write a story of an internal journey. Following Jessa’s story as she transforms makes this a must-read.