*I received an ecopy of this book from the publisher. This has not influenced my review.*
I’m having a hard time figuring out how to review this book, mostly because the main focus of the book was Liam’s schizophrenia—not the paranormal and definitely not the romance that’s hinted at in the blurb—and how it affected him and his family, and I have zero experience with that which means I am in no place to say whether it was portrayed accurately. So I’m basing my rating/review on the assumption that this was a mostly accurate portrayal, and I’ll try my best to explain it.
One thing I can say is that the author included a lot of aspects of the schizophrenia. There wasn’t just a laundry list of symptoms. Sometimes there wasn’t any explanation at all, for that matter—I thought one of Liam’s hallucinations was a real person in the beginning. But that’s not an insult to the book, it’s a compliment, because the author managed to put me in Liam’s shoes and show me what life was like for him. He saw and heard things as though they were real, so I did too. He had delusions and believed things, so he didn’t stop to think, “Schizophrenia causes delusions, and one of mine is that…” No, he just had his thoughts about these things because he believed them to be real. And the author didn’t just include symptoms but also things like how mental illness affected Liam emotionally, how it affected his life, how other people treated him because of it, the side effects he had to deal with because of his medication but also how those side effects were worth it because of how important his medication was, his visits to his therapist and how much she helped him, etc.
This book was also so much more emotionally intense than I was expecting. For one thing, Liam’s hallucinations were scary. As another character put it, Liam himself was generally not violent, just unpredictable, but in his own mind, he sometimes saw hallucinations that told him to hurt people or that threatened to hurt people themselves if Liam didn’t listen to them. They also physically hurt him sometimes; he didn’t obtain actual injuries, but he felt the pain, or he injured himself just trying to get away from them. Other times his delusions made him believe scary things, like that people were demons. So it wasn’t that I was scared of him, it was that I’d be scared if I were him. But the real intensity of the book came from the way Liam’s life and the lives of his family were affected, especially when he stopped taking his meds. The family aspect definitely came across as realistic, and the book got pretty heavy and even a little bit heartbreaking. I can’t say I agree with all his mother’s decisions, but Isaac was trying, even if he wasn’t perfect. And Liam himself didn’t want things to be the way they were, didn’t want to be a danger to anyone.
There was also a paranormal aspect though. For most of the book, it was clear that certain things in the book were schizophrenia and that other certain things were paranormal, but there were some things that blurred. That was the point though (it’s in the blurb even), and the author did a great job of that. Liam was an unreliable narrator, so even I wasn’t always sure what was real, what was retro/precognition, and what was hallucination. But then—this is what bothered me—even the definite schizophrenia things started getting iffy, like how the cat could sense the hallucinations and how the hallucinations could sometimes touch things in real life. I didn’t see any reason why those particular paranormal bits were added and would’ve preferred the actual schizophrenia remain fully real in order to make it a more accurate portrayal.
I also want to mention that this is one of those rare cases in which the blurb is spot-on. What it promises is exactly what the book delivers, albeit with less romance than it seems to suggest.
So, to summarize, I didn’t like that some of the schizophrenia seemed to be paranormal, but the emotional aspects, the characters, and the affect it all had on Liam’s life seemed realistic. And overall, I found this to be a very tense, intense, and gripping book!
Anyone who likes paranormal thrillers and unreliable narrators. Anyone who wants something that is a little trippy but also intense and heavy with a big focus on the impacts of mental illness and who doesn't mind that the schizophrenia itself has some seemingly paranormal aspects.
With his schizophrenia under control, life is looking up for twenty-five-year-old Liam Murphy. Independence looms on his horizon, and he’s under the care of a psychologist who understands him. Then he witnesses a murder at the yacht club. He worries it’s a hallucination and sign of regression, but soon becomes convinced that his meds have given him the paranormal ability to see past events and that the murder actually happened.
Attempting to make sense of his new talent, Liam finds an unlikely confidant in Mai Nguyen, a fellow college student and eternal optimist. Though she helps him navigate the unsettling memories threatening to engulf him, the emotional toll of learning terrible secrets he can’t prove pushes Liam to the brink of lucidity.
Desperate to wrest back control of his life, Liam tosses his pills. He spirals into a relapse and captures the killer’s attention as he bumbles through investigating the crime. Hunted by a possibly imaginary murderer, and haunted by self-doubt, Liam must distinguish between hallucinations and reality. If he doesn’t, he risks losing either his hard-won sanity or his life.