Bethany Ruth Anderson - Swings And Roundabouts (3 stars)

Bethany Ruth Anderson - Swings And Roundabouts

Anderson tackles the stigma of mental illness with a bravery rarely seen from a first novel

(Bamboccioni Books)

Boy meets girl. Manic-depressive meets body dysmorphic.

Despite their personal struggles, Matt and Sarah seem perfect together. However, as they try to navigate their relationship, the odds seem against them; Matt is slowly losing his grip on reality and Sarah is fighting her own crippling insecurities. They both rely on each other for strength to cope, but can love really be enough?

Bethany Ruth Anderson’s Swings and Roundabouts tackles the stigma of mental illness with a bravery rarely seen from a first novel. Anderson’s sharp characterisation allows the readers to relate with Matt and Sarah almost immediately. Sarah’s insecurities, for example, are something that most young women can identify with. In making them so accessible, Anderson succeeds in breaking down the typical stereotypes and offers a deeper understanding of mental health, which should be commended.

As with most debuts, the novel is in need of a little more technical tightening: the awkward layout and typesetting of the novel can occasionally be distracting. The narrative feels slightly unnatural in the first couple of chapters and the writing itself feels self-conscious at times. However it eventually grows into a confident, thoughtful representation of the struggles facing those with mental illness, and is not afraid or ashamed to explore the issues that the young couple face. This is new ground for both author and publisher – both will move from strength to strength after this learning experience.

Despite its serious intentions, there are some tender and comical moments scattered throughout that help to balance the gritty reality facing the two broken young people. Swings And Roundabouts may be about two people who fall in love, but it is equally about two people who need to start loving themselves.

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