The Monster In My Head is a Young Adult novel, written by first-time novelist Emma Lawson. The novel focuses intently on the impact that mental health problems can have on teenagers and this is shown by the lead character of 17-year old Gina Taylor and her battle with her monster.
The novel is in the form of a diary, where Gina begins to write down the story of her day-to-day life after being given an English assignment to write about an issue that impacts upon her life every single day, so Gina chooses her monster. As she begins to write and explain her situation, very quickly the reader learns that the monster is her anxiety. The anxiety that’s slowly being tearing her apart for several years. Gina’s anxiety is so severe that she lives by three rules and these rules have come to control her entire life and it leaves her isolated, alone and scared.
Through her words, we see Gina’s struggle with not only her anxiety but her will to live. When her parents announce their divorce, Gina’s world only becomes smaller and her monster begins to eat away at her even more. But Gina knows that she only has a year left of high school before she has to go to university and go out alone, and she has no idea how on earth she’ll survive.
Then one day, someone unexpected walks into Gina’s life, an outside named Flynn, who is determined to break down all Gina’s rules and is determined to get her to live again because she’s never really been living, only surviving. It becomes very clear in the novel that although Gina tries to get throw Flynn off, he’s going to become part of her life regardless of what she wants.
Slowly, but surely their friendship begins to grow and the reader learns that Flynn has secrets too, that he’s as broken as Gina is. After an unexpected death in the family, he moves away and meets Gina and he’s hurting too, he’s filled with guilt and regret and together, the two of them bond over their pain.
The two grow very close as they try to tackle their problems and try to focus on living there life to the best they can, Gina refuses to succumb to her monster and Flynn fights his own demons, together they make a pretty good team, constantly pulling each other back from the edge.
What I really enjoyed about this novel is that the author didn’t once sugar-coat what living with anxiety is like, she showed how Gina’s life is literally being ripped apart by it and dictating her anxiety is a monster was a nice move. Flynn’s realistic portrayal of someone living with depression and guilt was also very realistic, which I enjoyed. The book also does not end at the end, the two of them aren’t magically cured, but they’re coping and Gina’s monster will always haunt her, but she’s learning that not everything has to be scary.
The format of the book was a bit strange for me at first and it took me a while to get used to it, but I really enjoyed reading it as a diary and it was something that was a little different. It also really opened my eyes to what it’s like for someone who suffers from anxiety, it was honest and raw, which a lot of anxiety books, don’t tend to do.
I would definitely recommend The Monster in My Head to everyone, in particular teenagers and those who have suffered from mental illness, but I warn you I did cry a little!
The Kindle version is currently available on Amazon.