Hi all! It’s Sarah, checking in since Jen is off enjoying Ireland at the moment. Sadly I have no funny lawn care stories or anything that will be nearly as entertaining as something Jen would post but she did give me permission to write a guest blog so I’m taking the opportunity to share how I really feel about Side Effects. Check it out below. Jen will be back in the US soon enough but this is not the last you’ll see of me. I’ve been promised one more guest blog so I’ll be back in a month or so with what will be the best guest blog of all time. Thanks to Jen for letting me post this and I hope you’re having a fabulous trip! We miss you.
I’ve always thought it was funny that we never hesitate advising someone to see a doctor and take medication for their diabetes or their high cholesterol or heart disease. And yet with mental illness, there is a stigma and a shame attached to taking medication, to talking about the disease, to seeking help. And that’s exactly why so many people who struggle with mental illness feel isolated and alone, as if they have nowhere to turn for help and no one to talk to. In Jen’s book, Side Effects, the main character, Isaac, feels all of these emotions and more as he struggles through the ups and downs of high school and first love while also trying to handle his anxiety disorder.
As someone with a background in social work, I see the same issues Jen writes about in Side Effects every single day. What struck me as I read the book was the honest and yet hopeful way in which Jen writes about anxiety disorder. Rather than exploiting the illness, Jen uses a light touch to portray not only Isaac’s struggle but also his triumphs. Side Effects is an entertaining story but is also a great tool in regard to understanding what it’s like for many people who experience anxiety disorders. Parents, teenagers, professionals, teachers, and many others who may interact with youth similar to Isaac will find Side Effects informative and helpful. Not only does the book provide some insight into what an anxiety disorder is like, readers will also find themselves cheering Isaac on as he finds his way and falling a little in love with Grace, just like Isaac, in the process. And most importantly, anyone who has been in Isaac’s position will take great comfort in knowing they are not alone and that finally someone has taken the time, energy, and love to write about their pain in a very real way.
I was amazed and touched by the way Jen managed to combine the good and the bad of anxiety disorders throughout Side Effects while creating characters that you truly come to know and love. It’s a sensitive issue dealt with the respect and the care it deserves throughout the novel which is, sadly, quite rare. Side Effects speaks not only to Jen’s talent as a writer but also her general spirit and overall character. It takes someone who is empathetic and kind to write about anxiety disorder in the manner that Jen does. I’m lucky enough to know that Jen is all of these things and more and reading her novel only confirms that Jen is not only a talented writer but an incredible human being.