A Danger to Herself and Others by Alyssa Sheinmel is the sort of book you enter with a mild curiosity. You’re introduced to the rather strong personality of Hannah immediately as she opens her thoughts to you regarding the reason for her confinement in a mental health facility. She knows she does not belong there, that her captivity is a mistake, and she is just waiting for the doctor–whom she nicknames Lightfoot–to come to the same conclusion. Almost instantly we are introduced to a character who knows what has happened and what is going on as a result, however we are left in the dark about the details and events that led up to Hannah’s imprisonment. This was such a fascinatingly effective tool for the author as it kept me thoroughly engaged throughout the course of the novel. I grew more and more desperate to learn what had happened to Hannah’s friend Agnes as the story continued.
Hannah’s voice is a powerful one, filled with a singular perspective that leaves readers feeling completely captivated by her story. Though we spend very little time outside of the hospital, every moment of Hannah’s experience is thoroughly engaging. We follow her through her initial days and the start of her therapy and experience her every thought during that time. I was constantly back and forth between whether or not I liked Hannah, her thoughts alternating between the sort I could empathize with and the sort that made me feel she was an awful human being. It was a fascinating reading experience, one that I don’t have very often. Despite myself, I found that I really enjoyed reading from her perspective. She’s a flawed character in many ways, but it is that fact which makes her so fascinating.
Much of A Danger to Herself and Others is shrouded in the mystery of one’s own reality, what that means, and resultingly the reality of others. The truth is opened up to readers in a slow, but enticing manner. You’re left at the edge of your seat, devouring each page with an odd need for more. In the strangest of ways, I could sometimes see myself in Hannah’s position, feeling as she was feeling. And in a character as dark as she is, the fact that the author managed to evoke such feelings from me was shocking and extrordinary. It’s certainly a reading experience that I am unlikely to ever forget.
A Danger to Herself and Others isn’t a book that I’d go out of my way to buy nor one that I see myself reading a second time. But that does not take away from how raw and exemplary the first reading of it is. I definitely am glad that I had a chance to read this book and I believe others should definitely read it themselves. The writing was superb, capturing the internal thoughts of a girl dealing with a significantly difficult to grasp change in her life, the slow burn of her realization about who she is and what that means. I would 100% recommend this book for the initial experience alone.
I received a free copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.