Title: Turn the World Upside Down
Author: Nyrae Dawn
Publisher: Harmony Ink Press
Length: 200 Pages
Category: Contemporary, Teen Fiction
At a Glance: Author Nyrae Dawn has written the most beautiful story—an important novel that brings into light circumstances that teens deal with every day of their lives.
Reviewed By: Sammy
Blurb: They’d have to turn the whole world upside down to understand us…
Hunter Donovan’s temper never used to be a problem. He lived the perfect life with the perfect family before the dark truth came spilling out. Now his dad’s in prison, and after Hunter explodes at school, accidentally hitting a teacher, his mom has him committed.
Hunter doesn’t belong at Better Days. He needs to be stronger, not sent to a well-dressed loony bin. If he’d been better, less selfish, he would have realized something was going on under his own roof. No amount of psychoanalyzing and group therapy can change the past.
But among the bullies, fights, and bad cafeteria food, Hunter meets a group of friends: anxiety-ridden Casey, wild and exciting Rosie, recovering bulimic Bethany, and Stray, a self-harmer who doesn’t think he belongs anywhere. Around this group of misfits, Hunter doesn’t feel so alone and angry anymore.
Still, as he’s making friends and falling in love with Stray, the guilt is always there. If Hunter can’t open up and find a way to deal with what happened, he might fall victim to his mental illness—and he won’t be the only casualty.
Review: “Maybe I like the idea of someone to hide in the dark with. Maybe that’ll make it easier to find the light.”
There is so much dark in Hunter’s life. Running from the realization that he failed to see what was happening to his little sister at the hands of the man who should have been her fiercest protector leaves him so shaken, so angry, so very, very lost he cannot find his way back from the deep dark abyss his life has fallen into over the last few months. When his mother decides to send him to Better Days, he remains determined to get his time there done without really revealing all the pain inside—that is, until he meets the small gang of equally struggling teens who become his second family.
From Rosie, whose bright spark defies any logical reason she should be in the facility at all, to the bulimic Bethany and the fragile Casey, Hunter slowly begins to see there are people who are just as lost as he feels. But it is Stray, a foster teen who self-mutilates, that really manages to pierce the darkest place inside Hunter and slowly help him find the light. As their relationship deepens, and one devastating episode after another occurs, Hunter must finally come to terms with the fact that the only person he can truly save in the end is himself—but that revelation comes at a great price, and more loss must happen before true healing can begin.
I am going to freely admit the above summary for the novel Turn the World Upside Down is the weakest I have ever written. There is good reason for that: this story is so incredibly rich and multi-layered, intense and just emotionally stunning that to describe it further would be to give too much away—and, dear reader, this is one you must experience for yourself. It is just gorgeous. It is also full of multiple triggering events for those who cannot read about suicide, cutting, depression, and sexual abuse/incest. While I wish I would not have to have put this warning in my review, it is important for those who are sensitive to those issues to realize that all of these elements are dealt with in the story. BUT—and this is big—they are written about with incredible compassion, understanding and most occur off the page, referenced but not described, and when they are included, it is fashioned in such a way that your heart weeps for the victims and subsequently soars as hope accompanies each moment of pain that has been endured.
Author Nyrae Dawn has written the most beautiful story—an important novel that brings into light circumstances that teens deal with every day of their lives. She writes with tenderness for the families who must make the wrenching decision to hand their children over to mental health facilities in the hopes that somehow they can fix the brokenness that holds their child captive and threatens to destroy them. She crawls inside the heads and hearts of teens who have been handed a life that has pushed them far beyond their ability to cope, and reveals how lost and broken they feel. This story—this gorgeous, heart-wrenching story—grabs you by the hand and leads you unflinchingly into a place of utter despair, and promises that some will be helped and, sadly, terribly, some will falter and fall before they can find their way back to the light. This novel is honest, beautifully written and so very important on so many levels.
I encourage you to pick up this book and experience its beauty for yourself. I cannot recommend it highly enough, no more than to say that it has made a lasting impact on me. Of that I can assure you.
You can buy Turn the World Upside Down here: