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R.I.P. Eliza Hart Hardcover – November 28, 2017
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Intensely real, sending a lasting reminder that not all illnesses or struggles are visible from the outside and that there is no shame in seeking help.
A riveting coming-of-age tale and tragic absorbing mystery...The protagonists' portrayals are realistic and teens will easily relate to their shattered dynamic of friendship, popularity, and secrecy.
--School Library Journal
A compelling mystery that will keep readers going until the hopeful conclusion.
Once you begin this riveting story, you won't be able to put it down.
With a bold voice and memorable teenage characters, Sheinmel has woven together a story full of intensity and intrigue that teens areguaranteed to enjoy.
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Ellie suffers from claustrophobia and has been to more therapists than she can count on one hand. She looks fine from the outside, and often the teasing and tormenting from others is too much to take, especially when it comes from a younger sibling who is all the things she is not: athletic and cool and easy to like. Ellie thinks that getting out of New York City and moving to a boarding school in California where she is surrounded by the ocean and its open spaces will help to cure her.
Upon arriving, she discovers that her childhood best friend, Eliza Hart, is also a student there. This was Ellie’s best – and only – friend for years. They were friends before her claustrophobia took over her life. Ellie is eager to have a friend again after all these years where her claustrophobia has singled her out and left her feeling and being alone.
Unfortunately, Eliza Hart has a different idea and spreads vicious rumors about Ellie. While Eliza seems perfect in every way and cool without even trying, Ellie is awkward. The rumors that are spread force Ellie to be an outcast once again.
When Eliza is found dead, her friends are sure that Ellie did it, and Ellie is determined to find out what really happened to her one time bestie. An unlikely friend comes in the form of her suite mate and together they chase down leads, follow the buzz, and discover what really happened to Eliza Hart. The beauty of this tale is that Ellie realizes it is not her story to tell. She lives with the stigma that her former BFF placed on her, and she keeps her friend’s secret. Isn’t that what best friends do?
Sheinmel’s writing on what it’s like to suffer from claustrophobia – never to go higher than a few flights of stairs so as to stay closer to the ground, never to drive through a tunnel, never to get on the subway, never to be in a room that doesn’t have a window – paints a picture of how limiting the life of a claustrophobic can be.
The way the author weaves in the various storylines makes this a page-turner with everyone a suspect, and everyone knowing something about someone else. The characters are strong and dependable, even in their weakest moments. Their humanity shines through and sheds a light onto what mental illness could look like.
Mental illness manifests differently for each person who suffers from it and often the person who is suffering is holding onto their own beliefs, hopes, and wishes, not to mention the stigma and shame that comes with it. If education and compassion are the answer, then reading “R.I.P. Eliza Hart” by Alyssa Shienmel is a part of the question of how to understand mental illness.
Characters: It's important to note that trauma and mental illnesses are at the forefront of R.I.P Eliza Hart; the mystery behind Eliza's death played second fiddle to Ellie's confronting her claustrophobia triggers and how depression affected others. R.I.P. Eliza Hart was also unique because there were chapters from Eliza's perspective as she recounted how death felt and her relationship with Ellie and those around her.
Worldbuilding: Eliza's boarding school was in sunny California and was just remote enough to feel removed, but the various flashbacks really helped illuminate the California lifestyle.
Short N Sweet: R.I.P Eliza Hart is an important book that I recommend to everyone.
For several reasons, I really connected with the characters in this book, both Ellie and Eliza. I am claustrophobic myself, though I’ve never had such a severe form as Ellie does. I have, however, had a few panic attacks in small spaces, especially times when I’ve had to have MRIs (ugh I hate those). So I understood what Ellie was going through, even though my issue is not as severe as hers. I have also had experience with someone very similar to Eliza’s father (my brother-in-law), and I can say without a doubt that Alyssa’s portrayal of him and the effect on those around him was spot on. I was writing in the margins of my ARC very early on when he was on the page as to what I thought the issue was, and I turned out to be right. I know that’s very vague, but I really don’t want to give anything away.
Overall, I just want to get across that Alyssa’s portrayal of people struggling with, surviving with, and living fully with mental health issues is carefully drawn, sympathetic, and never maudlin. I’d recommend reading the author’s note at the end, in which Alyssa explains her thinking behind the book and some of the work she did to ensure accurate portrayals of various mental health issues. She also does a wonderful job showing how mental illness affects not only the person afflicted but also those around them, be they family or friends, co-workers or classmates. I highly recommend reading this book, even if you’re not one who normally enjoys “issue books.” It’s really not maudlin or overly heavy, nor is it preachy when dealing with a tough subject. The balancing act Alyssa strikes in this book with Eliza’s story is darn near perfect; I truly don’t think I’ve seen such a straightforward, unflinching, and sympathetic look at this issue in any book I’ve read before.
Again, I know this is rather vague, but I don’t want to give anything away and ruin the reading experience. I would just encourage you to check it out for yourself. It’s a relatively short, easy read, and I think you’ll find yourself quickly turning the pages just as I did. If you read R.I.P. Eliza Hart, I’d love to know what you think of it!
Rating: 4 stars!
Thank you to Scholastic Press for the ARC copy of this book for purposes of review. This is my honest and voluntary rating and review. Thanks also to Rockstar Book Tours for including me on the blog tour!