Book Review: The Form of Things Unknown by Robin Bridges

by - 2:21:00 AM

Title: The Form of Things Unknown
Author: Robin Bridges
Pages: 304
Genre: YA Contemporary
Release Date: 30 August 2016

From Goodreads: "Natalie Roman isn’t much for the spotlight. But performing A Midsummer Night’s Dream in a stately old theatre in Savannah, Georgia, beats sitting alone replaying mistakes made in Athens. Fairy queens and magic on stage, maybe a few scary stories backstage. And no one in the cast knows her backstory. Except for Lucas—he was in the psych ward, too. He won’t even meet her eye. But Nat doesn’t need him. She’s making friends with girls, girls who like horror movies and Ouija boards, who can hide their liquor in Coke bottles and laugh at the theater’s ghosts. Natalie can keep up. She can adapt. And if she skips her meds once or twice so they don’t interfere with her partying, it won’t be a problem. She just needs to keep her wits about her."

Thank you to NetGalley and Kensington for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for review!

The Form of Things Unknown is a wonderful YA contemporary that deals with the topic of mental illness. Natalie and her family have moved from Athens to Savannah in order to take care of her grandmother who has schizophrenia. While the move has been difficult for Natalie, who has just recently spent time in Winter Oaks hospital due to a psychotic break, she decides to try and make the best of her summer and auditions for a play at the local theatre. There, she meets some new friends and reunites with someone from Winter Oaks- Lucas. Natalie is happy that she's able to make new friends, but now she skips out on her medication so that it doesn't interfere with her partying. Can she keep her wits about her or will she suffer another breakdown?

This book was kind of out of character for me to read at this point in the year, as it is no longer Summer, but I couldn't resist a book that was not only set in Georgia but also about the theatre. The characters were really fun to read about, the setting was very familiar, and the plot was full of twists and turns. Something that I was personally on the fence about was how the mental illness of both the main character and the grandmother was addressed. Throughout the book, Natalie really talked down about herself and really put her illness in a negative light. She constantly called herself crazy and would try to say that people deserved better than her, and that she was a horrible person for doing things that normal teenagers do. It really bothered me how often she talked down on herself, and I wished that she was more positive at times. There was also some negativity surrounding the grandmother and her illness, but there is a scene towards the end of the book that really turns things around for her and certainly made me smile.

My favorite character had to be David, who is Natalie's brother. He was so loyal to Natalie and always made sure that she was okay and taking care of herself. There were a few times he was a bit more invested in a certain other character, but he was definitely there for her when she really needed him. Natalie, as I stated above, was fairly negative throughout the book. I understood that she was having trouble adjusting to her new life in Savannah and was stepping out of her comfort zone with doing the play, but I just couldn't get over how she was regarding her illness. I also really enjoyed the grandmother towards the end, despite her being a difficult character throughout most of the book.

While I didn't exactly enjoy Natalie as a character, I did enjoy reading about her and her journey through the book. The plot was fun, and I loved the A Midsummer Night's Dream being incorporated in the story. The readers get a lot of insight into the theatre life, and as a high school theatre geek, I really appreciated that. You basically get a lot of theatre, some drama between old and new friends, a bit of a complicated-but-really-shouldn't-be-complicated-love and it all comes together to make a very interesting read. The writing was well done and I enjoyed how descriptive the author was, even about the small things such as the feelings that Natalie got when she was alone in the theatre. It really seemed like the author had a pretty decent grasp on not only how a teenager thinks and acts, but how a teenager dealing with mental illness thinks and acts. I definitely liked the way that Robin Bridges writes and I will definitely be checking out the companion novel, Dreaming of Antigone!

If you're looking for a really cute Summer book that touches on the theme of mental illness, be sure to pick up The Form of Things Unknown. It has some really beautiful writing, a decently large cast of characters with unique personalities, a look into theatre life, and brings the topic of mental illness to light in a big way. I highly recommend this to anyone looking for a good contemporary to help close out the Summertime!

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