Based on Halpern's (Toby and the Snowflakes) experiences, this first novel begins as a run-of-the-mill story about a 16-year-old girl's short stint in a suburban Chicago psychiatric hospital: think sterile hallways, dysfunctional group therapy sessions and foul-mouthed, pissed-off adolescents who have been committed against their will. Before long, however, it evolves into an upbeat story that offers a hype-free, realistic look inside a teen ward. The narrator, Anna Bloom, actually enjoys Lakeland by the end of her stay. She feels more confident in her thinned-out body (although her loss of 12 pounds in 11 days seems a stretch), has opened up to her peers and even had a reciprocated crush on the lanky boy down the hall-none of which would have befallen the pre-Lakeland Anna. The talk about kissing and playing cards could make some forget they're reading about time spent at the loony bin, as Anna sometimes calls it, but Halpern balances these sorts of discussions with Anna's reactions to fellow patients who hear voices or claim to worship "the Dark Lord" and to rules forbidding all physical contact. As the novel progresses, readers will get a kick out of Anna's snarky sense of humor and her capacity for self-renewal. Ages 12-up. (Oct.)Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Get Well Soonby Julie Halpern
A teen fiction debut that's a little bit Bridget Jones, a little bit Girl, Interrupted--a funny (yes, funny) novel that takes place in a mental hospital.See more details below
A teen fiction debut that's a little bit Bridget Jones, a little bit Girl, Interrupted--a funny (yes, funny) novel that takes place in a mental hospital.
“I completely fell in love with Anna Bloom’s voice—it’s wry, romantic, and so, so true.”—Gabrielle Zevin, author of Elsewhere
“An upbeat story that offers a hype-free, realistic look inside a teen ward . . . As the novel progresses, readers will get a kick out of Anna’s snarky sense of humor and her capacity for self-renewal.”—Publishers Weekly
“[Anna] is endearing as a caustic damsel in distress. With Anna down the hall, landing in the ‘loony bin’ just might be a whole lot of fun.”—The Chicago Tribune
“A funny novel about depression. That's the welcome, endearing product Julie Halpern offers readers . . . a never-didactic message about emotional growth and psychic healing.”—Kirkus Reviews Best Young-Adult Books 2007
“Debut author Halpern drew from her own teen experiences with depression, and Anne’s voice, filled with spot-on musings, sarcasm, slang, and swearing, is uproariously funny and authentic . . . Many teens will connect with the vague anxiety that lands Anna in treatment as well as her subtle, realistic sense that her life is her own to value and shape.”—Booklist
“Funny, easygoing prose . . . an appealingly comic cousin of Carolyn Mackler’s The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things.”—Kirkus Reviews
“There is a lovely sweetness in the blooming relationship between Anna and Justin . . . Halpern creates a narrative that reflects the changes in Anna with each passing day that includes self-reflection and a good dose of humor. Readers will cheer for Anna as she gains confidence in herself, dares to rebel a little, and gets well as she goes back to her life.”—Voice of Youth Advocates
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- 12 - 18 Years
Meet the Author
Julie Halpern is the author of Into the Wild Nerd Yonder and Don't Stop Now, as well as the picture book Toby and the Snowflakes. In addition to writing, Julie is a middle-school librarian. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin in Madison, lived in Australia for six months, and created a couple of zines before she started writing books, and realized she was and always has been a writer. She is married to the artist Matthew Cordell, and they live outside Chicago with their daughter and gloriously large Siamese cat, Tobin.
Julie Halpern is the author of Get Well Soon, Into the Wild Nerd Yonder and Don't Stop Now, as well as the picture book Toby and the Snowflakes. In addition to writing, Julie is a middle-school librarian. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin in Madison, lived in Australia for six months, and created a couple of zines before she started writing books, and realized she was and always has been a writer. She is married to the artist Matthew Cordell, and they live outside Chicago with their daughter and gloriously large Siamese cat, Tobin.
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Read an Excerpt
GET WELL SOON
I AM SITTING AT A DESK IN THE MIDDLE OF A HALLWAY, and all of the lights are off. No one will tell me what they're going to do with me or how they're going to help me or how long I have to be here. They just plunked me down in this freaky place, told my parents not to worry, and now I'm stuck.
They told me to write. Write down your feelings. It'll help you. Have some paper. Have a pencil, they said. I don't like pencils, I told them.They smudge. I once kept a journal all in pencil, and when I went back to read all of the depressing stuff that I wrote, it was gone. Smudged away. I wrote it all down, the stories of my life, my feelings, all of the crap you're supposed to say in journals so you can look back and see what a big loser you used to be. But it was all gone, mushed together as if none of it mattered in the first place. Which it didn't. Because I still wound up here.
Screw journals. I don't need a journal to tell myself what I already know: Life sucks. I'm fat. Nothing interesting ever happens to me. I don't want to deal with that shit anymore.
So I'm not going to keep my thoughts around. I'm going to send them away. I'm going to write my thoughts in letters, like I did when my sister went to overnight camp. That way they're gone. Someone else has them, and I don't have to look back and see how pathetic I once was. I will write letters and I won't feel so bad. I won't feel so bad that I'm depressed. I won't feel so bad that I'm fat. And maybe, just maybe, I won't feel so bad that my parents had me locked up in this fucking mental hospital.
Friday, Day 1
By the time you get this letter, you'll probably know where I am. I can just picture you calling my house after you got off of work at the mall and my mom trying to answer the question "Is Anna there?" What did she say? "Oh, sorry, dear, she's at the nut house. Try back in a few months." I can't imagine she'd call it a nut house, though. She probably said something like, "emotional rehab." Maybe she didn't even tell you the truth. Shit. Did she tell you I went to a fat farm? I'll be pissed if that's what she's telling people. I'd rather be considered crazy than fat any day.
But I'm not crazy, Trace. I just can't believe I'm here. I can't believe that things got so bad that my parents sent me to a mental hospital. It's weird here, T. Right now, it's like, 10:30 at night and they have me just waiting in the middle of some hallway at one of those school desks (where the seat is connected to the desk part and there's that little book holder basket where the person behind you can stick their feet. Remember when Joe Shafton used to torment me in junior high by shaking my desk incessantly? Bastard. I finally started crying in class and the teacher let me change seats). All I have with me right now are my pillow from home (my mom packed it), and this gummed pad of paper and a suckball pencil (annoyingly without an eraser) that they oh so generously gave to me. I'm embarrassed to say that I've been crying since the moment I got here, and I think the lady at the desk is sick of hearing it. I told her you weremy best friend and that I'd kill myself if they didn't let me write you a letter. The writing is helping me feel a little calmer, so that's good. I wish I could have talked to you before my parents dragged me here, but I didn't want you to freak out while you were ringing up some big thong purchase at work (do you get less commission when you sell thongs than granny underwear 'cause there's less fabric?). Sorry--I'm trying to be funny so I don't go completely insane due to the fact that I AM WRITING TO YOU FROM A LOONY BIN!!!
[Pause to note that a group of teenagers just passed me in the hallway. They were totally staring at me, so I just shoved my face into my pillow so they wouldn't see how horrid I look from all of the crying I've been doing. At least I don't wear makeup, so I don't have freakish mascara running down my cheeks.]
Lakeland Hospital. Why am I here, you ask? I don't know. I know I haven't been at school much lately, and I've been a little weird to talk to (sorry about that). I don't know what my problem is. For a while now I haven't been feeling very normal. Like, I can't sit through classes without getting antsy and claustrophobic and having to get up to go to the bathroom (so embarrassing). My mind starts racing and racing, and I can't concentrate on things at all. I just start thinking about how I might get a stomachache and won't be able to sit through class, and then it makes my stomach actually start to hurt and I just have to get out of there. And sometimes I worry that my stomach will make a grumbly noise, and some jerk guy will say something like, "Lookslike it's time for your ten o'clock feeding, Fat Ass." I even start thinking about what would happen if (yes, you may laugh) I fart in class! Nobody forgets a class farter. I mean, I totally remember when Johnny Stran ripped one in 7th-grade history, and everyone simultaneously scooted their desks away from him--SHROOM!--so he was left alone in the middle of the classroom. I would be mortified if that happened to me. That psycho bitch therapist I saw over the summer claimed that these are called Panic Attacks, but I don't think I've ever read anything in scientific journals about fear of farting (not that I've ever actually read a scientific journal, but, whatever). Just because it supposedly has a name doesn't help the fact that I can't sit still or be near anyone. Not you, of course, but it's just nice and mellow when we hang at your house. And you wouldn't berate me if I farted in front of you (well, you might, but then I'd just remind you of that time you let out a turbo one at a slumber party while we were doing Light as a Feather, Stiff as a Board, and everyone thought it was some evil ghost fart and they dropped you).
Anyway, these panic attacks are the reasons why I'm never in class anymore. Either I ditch and hide in the bathroom, go to the nurse and lie on one of those nasty lice-proof vinyl couches and chew Pepto tablets, or convince my mom to call me in sick. That last one was getting much harder to pull off. You know how nice my mom is, but she was starting to hate lying for me. She told me she was afraid I'd never go to school again (which doesn't sound too bad to me). But she started making me feel guilty, likeI shouldn't force her to make the choice between my truancy and my happiness. And she and my dad have been fighting a lot (what else is new) because he thinks she's being too passive and should just make me go to school. I guess she kind of is being passive, but in this case I like it. Plus, if he wants me to go to school so badly, why doesn't he make me go? Not that I want him to even talk to me, but isn't that hypocritical? Mom's all worried that since it's my junior year I won't be able to get into college with all of these cuts on my record. I try to tell her that at least they're cuts from honors level classes, but that doesn't seem to help. That's why I started seeing that skag of a therapist. My mom found her by recommendation from one of her mah-jongg friends. She's kind of perverted (the therapist, not the mah-jongg friend). Everything I say she relates to sex. The other day she said I liked The Clash because, get ready for this, "Clash is a slang term for a vagina." She actually said that. What a total freak! It's not like I would listen to them for their music or anything. And since when is that a slang term for a vagina? She totally made that up. Plus, she's always telling me how I need to lose weight. Like I didn't know that. And how is making me feel more like shit about myself therapeutic? She analyzed this dream I had where I was pushing a shopping cart with a floppy wheel, and she said the wheel represented my "spare tire." I thought only men had spare tires. And there she is sipping on her Diet Coke the whole time. She probably goes and throws it up after each therapy session. If she doesn't sound sucky enough already,she's the one who recommended to my parents that I get hospitalized. I mean, just because I wouldn't go to school. And I want to die. But I don't remember telling her about that.
I will now describe this place to you, just in case you have to spring me and need to draw a map. To the right of where I'm sitting is an elevator with some intricate key system instead of up and down buttons, no doubt so I can't escape. In front of me is what looks like a check-in desk at a doctor's office. The hall lights are dimmed, but from what I can tell, I'm at the cross of a T-shaped series of hallways. Someone is coming. More later ...
... HOURS LATER
This place sucks. I want out of here so badly. I am now sitting on a bed at the end of the hallway near the check-in counter wearing nasty blue hospital pajamas. You know how I told you I said I'd kill myself if they didn't give me this paper and pencil?
"We called your doctor," a desk lady told me.
"Your hospital psychiatrist. Until he can meet you on Monday, you're on PSI II."
Who is this "doctor" anyway? He can't even come in on a weekend to meet me to see if I'm actually suicidal or not? Probably because of his golf game, or whatever it is that those in the psychiatry business do with the overabundance of money they make not helping people. So now I'm on PSI II--Possible Self-Injury Level II.Meaning, I could kill myself at any moment, so someone has to watch me constantly. I think the only thing worse is Level III, and that would have me tied up and sedated. But, oh joy, I'm lucky to only be on a bed in the hallway, instead of in a room. I miss my bedroom at home already. It was my favorite place in the whole world. I even miss the babyish clown wallpaper border my parents put up before I was born but never bothered to take down. And I totally miss my clothes because they won't give them back to me until I have proven that I won't kill myself (I'm not naked--just in a hideous blue hospital frock). How would I even do it, paper-cut my wrists until I bleed to death?
Before they gave me the PJs they made me go into a room with two big women with mustaches and thick German accents (I may be making up the mustaches and accent parts) while I took my clothes off. Thank God they didn't have to search any further than just looking at me, if you know what I mean. They gave me all of these psychological tests, too. I had to sit at a desk while some blond-bunned woman asked me twelve billion questions. The way she spoke to me was like I wasn't even a real person. The whole time I was crying and hugging my pillow, and she showed absolutely no sympathy. I'm sure these fools think I should be in this loony bin, with the way I'm acting. They even gave me a Rorschach test--you know, the ones where they show you blobs of ink and you have to say what comes into your head. I think I may have messed that one up, though, because each inkblob looked like the same thing to me--that piece of evil from the movie Time Bandits. Remember when we watched that? And there was that devil guy who exploded at the end into little pieces that all had to be collected up and contained, or else something really bad would happen? But one of his pieces (that looked like a burnt turd) was found in the little boy's toaster oven, and he kept yelling at his parents not to touch it because it's evil but they do touch it and then they blow up? Well, all of the ink blobs looked just like that piece of burnt turd evil to me, so that's what I told them.
I'm never going to get out of here, am I?
GET WELL SOON. Copyright © 2007 by Julie Halpern. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews. For information, address Feiwel and Friends, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10010.
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