I have had Are We All Lemmings and Snowflakes? on my TBR since YALC last year, and was finally prompted to pick it up when Amy-Louise (aka Tomes with Tea) picked it for my April TBR and asked if we could buddy read it, and I’m so glad she gave me the nudge to read it, because it is brilliant.
First things first: the front of this book contains a number of trigger warnings. If anything listed there is an issue for you then please read this book with caution. It contained a very specific trigger for me that a friend warned me of in advance, and it still hit me like a brick (which is testament to how brilliant Holly’s writing is).
The book opens with Olive in the middle of an episode of what she calls “the Nothing”. It starts with her under her desk, surrounded by blankets, missing her dad’s birthday and ends in a situation where it looks like she might have hurt herself. Olive has a mental health condition. It later becomes apparent that she doesn’t know what her diagnosis is, because she doesn’t want to put a label on it. The message was very clearly that you don’t need to have a label to suffer from mental health difficulties. I loved this. I also loved the accuracy and the details from the mental health services in the UK, like the anxiety and depression score test, and the positive way that medication was mentioned as something that can help treat mental ill health.
Olive is offered the chance to go to Camp Reset, a new private Mental Health facility that’s being piloted which means Olive can go there for free. This facility is amazing, and gives us some insight into the kind of care that those who don’t have a lot of money don’t usually have access to. The camp is amazing, there’s a lot of activities and the bracelets and diaries alert the staff to any potential issues as measured by their algorithm. I wanted to go to this camp myself. But Olive discovers that the surroundings don’t matter so much when you don’t like yourself. Olive’s issues are frequently difficult to read about, because it is clear that she doesn’t like herself. She says things like “the human I hate most is me”, and “I can’t remember what fine feels like”, which hit me hard in the feels.
Are We All Lemmings and Snowflakes? doesn’t shy away from the reality of living with mental illness. At Camp Reset, Olive has to look closely at her issues and challenge her beliefs. This might be a posh retreat, but she still has to work. Money can’t buy an easy solution to mental ill health. Holly shows us that it isn’t glamorous. Everyone at this retreat has a different story, and they are all unlikable characters at times (Olive sometimes behaves appallingly to others, especially Lewis), but this is a very realistic portrayal of life.
Olive sets out to “find the formula” for her own sanity, believing that if she does she will never be ill again. The project consumes her, and Olive runs the risk of having another episode as a result.
I can’t say much more without spoiling this incredible book. It’s hard to call this an enjoyable read given the content, but it is perfectly written, thought-provoking, compelling and very important.