Title: How I Made it to Eighteen: A Mostly True Story
Author: Tracy White
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press
Check this book out on Goodreads.
How do you know if you’re on the verge of a nervous breakdown? For seventeen-year-old Stacy Black, it all begins with the smashing of a window. After putting her fist through the glass, she checks into a mental hospital. Stacy hates it there but despite herself slowly realizes she has to face the reasons for her depression to stop from self-destructing. Based on the author’s experiences, How I Made it to Eighteen is a frank portrait of what it’s like to struggle with self-esteem, body image issues, drug addiction, and anxiety. (Source: Goodreads)
This book is put forward as the “mostly true” story of Tracy White’s stay in a psychiatric hospital. The book deals with White’s depression, eating disorder, drug addiction, and anxiety. It shows multiple sides of the issues with “input” from her friends, mother, and hospital records in regards to her health and the issues that she is meant to be dealing with while she in in the hospital.
I really did not like this book. I had some issues with the storytelling which was messy, but also shallow and didn’t really deal with the kinds of things I expected to see in a book about mental health. I wasn’t a fan of the art, and found the font really hard to read. I found the voice confusing and a little lacking, which really added to the shallowness of the overall storytelling. This was probably one of my least favourite graphic memoirs on mental health.
The book follows “Stacy Black” as she spends time at a mental health facility when she is 17 years old. The book jumps from flashbacks, to action, to interviews with friends, to files from the doctors. This was kind of jumpy and hard to follow for me. It does settle into something of a pattern, but I still found it kind of messy. I don’t think the way the story was told really allowed for any kind of revelations or really information about mental health to really be dealt with. Honestly the whole thing just felt kind of stagnant, nothing happened, White doesn’t really deal with any issues. This leads to something of a shallow narrative. I didn’t feel like White really developed much of a voice, she never really does any introspection instead she uses her friends as a shield so that she won’t have to deal with any of the issues her book is meant to deal with. In the end, when she starts to have a breakthrough, the book just ends.
Another problem with the narrative is that White tries to make it clean. All of her problems have obvious sources, she’s able to pin blame on some very specific incident with each and every thing that is wrong with her. She is able to put blame on something. This is really not a great thing in my opinion, because mental health doesn’t have blame. There’s no point in placing blame for depression and anxiety on her mother other than to make her mother seem like an even worse person. I just found this whole things kind of troubling.
Aside from my problems with the plot I wasn’t a fan of the art. Of course it’s not exactly the style I like, but that’s not the main issue. The layout was kind of messy and often confusing for me. She tries to do some interesting things with space but it was unclear a lot of the time which made it hard to follow. The font is the main thing that makes the book difficult to read though. It’s super tiny and you can hardly read it at all, that’s just aggravating when you’re already having issues with the book.
I really wasn’t a fan of this book and definitely wouldn’t recommend it. It’s not the best book I’ve read on mental health, and there are really a lot of others that would be better places to turn for graphic memoirs on the subject.
Have you read the How I Made it to Eighteen: A Mostly True Story? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!
Check out Tracy White at her website.
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