Review: Swings and Roundabouts – Bethany Ruth Anderson

Image from Goodreads
Image from Goodreads

Title: Swings and Roundabouts
Author: Bethany Ruth Anderson
Publisher: Bamboccioni Books
Publication Date: 29 Aug 2013
Source: Review Copy
Rating: 3.5/5

Synopsis from Goodreads

Boy meets Girl. Manic Depressive meets Body Dysmorphic. Not your average love story. No help needed. Nothing to rely on – no drugs, no counsellors, no therapy. Just Sarah and Matt. Sarah and Matt; two people who meet at a party and fall in love; two people suffering with mental illness entering into a relationship, trying to contend not only with themselves, but also with each other. One in four people in the UK experience poor mental health at some point in the course of a year, and one in six experiences mental illness at any given time. Swings and Roundabouts is an honest account of how mental illness affects people’s lives and their relationships.

REVIEW BY BETH

To all intents and purposes Sarah and Matt couldn’t be more normal and considering how society is made up they are normal but then they’re not in the same breath. Their mental health issues set them apart from society and initially from each other, particularly in Sarah’s case.

Mental illness is at the heart of this novel but doesn’t define it, which is why Anderson creates such a compelling read. Both Matt and Sarah are rounded characters throughout, illness or no illness but it’s hard not to relate to them and imagine them as real. All of Sarah’s thoughts are really insightful and so exactly how many teens (including probably my teenage self) would think at some point. She avoids her friend Naomi because she knows Naomi will want to veg out on the sofa and heads for thin, ‘safe’ Lisa who is much easier to be around without the threat of food.

I found Sarah easier to relate to than Matt, perhaps because body dysmorphia as she suffers is easier to relate to than manic depression (shouldn’t that be bipolar disorder anyway?). Anderson also tells us Sarah’s story in the first person, drawing us closer to her whilst Matt is kept more distantly kept in third person – perhaps showing the extent to which he is sadly gripped by his illness. It’s a clever technical move and really works for the novel as a whole.

The novel takes some time to get going and has a real feel of a debut, with the writer trying to find her voice as well as create those for her characters. I’m not sure she achieves all the goals completely but this doesn’t detract from the piece she’s trying to create completely. Swings and Roundabouts is about love, sex, your first proper romance and discovering yourself through that process. It has the additional depth of both Sarah and Matt’s mental illnesses which are ever present underlying the actions of each character in some way.

A strong subject matter with some truly believable characters. It feels like a debut however and there are elements of the novel which possibly need a re-edit or reworking to combat this. I wouldn’t let that put you off though.

Author:

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