Rapids by Anna Bowles – REVIEW

Yan Harris is VERY EXCITED.

Well, of course she is. It’s summer, she’s got over her depression and she’s in London for a week with her BFF Chelsea. After seventeen years in a sleepy village where everybody just knows them as The Chinese One and The Brainy One… life is calling.

It’s a pretty cool prospect… if Chel can stop worrying about online discourse in the Nordhelm TV fandom long enough to enjoy it. Chelsea’s worried about Yan, too, to Yan’s annoyance.

Barely sleeping, barely eating, getting increasingly gobby, having an – ahem – close encounter in a toilet, giving a Tory MP a good kick in the shins, and running around kind of literally screaming…. well, it’s all just good summer fun, isn’t it?

Isn’t it?

In the desperate battle of Yan vs. bipolar disorder, does the poor disease really stand a chance?

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Zuntold.
Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

“My brain feels like it’s turning inside out; the world is a dense, burning, glittering transparency.”

It’s Mental Health Awareness Week this week so now seems like the perfect time to read the newly-released Rapids by Anna Bowles. Written by an own voices author, this YA contemporary explores the hypomania of Bipolar II. This aspect of the illness is not featured in fiction very often so it’s both refreshing and educational to read. 

Seventeen-year-old protagonist Yan is half-Chinese and finally spending a week in London with her best friend Chelsea touring potential universities. Flashbacks taking place two months prior detail Yan’s depression and suicidal ideation. Now everything is perfect and Yan is desperate to experience all that London offers. However, her behaviour begins to worry Chelsea as she begins to spiral out of control.

“All summer I’ve been feeling more and more alive. There’s a smooth, swift river running through my soul. Sometimes I think I could melt into it, burn up in the joy.”

This was an exhausting book to read as it portrayed Yan’s hypomania so vividly. Yan isn’t always likeable but it’s clear she needs medical intervention and it’s heartbreaking to witness her go without it for so long. As the book notes though, would we recognise these symptoms for what they are with only the usual limited knowledge of Bipolar II? 

Alongside Yan’s deteriorating mental health, the narrative also explores family as Yan searches for her dad who she suspects also has a mental illness. Her yearning for some sort of connection and understanding is visceral at times. The author highlights how NHS cuts have affected mental health services especially in the countryside and the catastrophic damage this can have on vulnerable people. And alongside the mental health aspect is a discussion about fandom and its advantages and disadvantages. Rapids is an emotional and raw exploration of hypomania that deserves a place in every school library.

(Goodreads | Amazon UK | Book Depository | Waterstones)

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