Thursday, August 23, 2018

Born Scared

Born Scared by Kevin Brooks
Candlewick Press: 9/11/18
advanced reading copy; 256 pages
ISBN-13: 9780763695651

Born Scared by Kevin Brooks is a recommended YA psychological thriller featuring a protagonist with a type of anxiety disorder.

Elliot is a  thirteen year old who has spent his whole life afraid, terrified of everything. He is confined to his home by what is likely some type of severe panic/social anxiety disorder and on medication to control his overwhelming ever-present fear. When the pharmacy makes an error and refills one of his prescriptions with the wrong pills, his mother has to ask a friend to pick them up. When she doesn't arrive when expected, his mother has to venture out in a snow storm to see if she can find her and get Elliot the pills he needs.  Then, when hours have passed and his mother hasn't returned, Elliot decides he can no longer wait. He must face his fears and leave the house to find his mother. Elliot sets out with his fears, but, as he battles through the storm, his medication wears off and he is at the mercy of his terror-laden hallucinations and paranoia of what he fears may happen.

Elliot is an interesting, compelling character and your heart will be breaking while you are rooting for him to make it through the storm and the incredible number of obstacles he must face. Elliot also has an inner monologue with a character that I'm not going to name, but it adds a new dimension to his character and his disorder.
The actual story is told through multiple viewpoints - Elliot, a pair of robbers, and Gordon, a bank manager. The two robbers dressed as Santas and the drugging of Gordon added a comedic tone to the story that, in my opinion, was not necessary and detracted from Elliot's very real struggle. (I would have kept the robbers, lost the costumes, and found another way to delay Gordon.)

The novel consists of short chapters and, since it is for ages 12 and up, it is a quick, easy read for an adult. It does, however, offer real insight into someone with an anxiety disorder. While the reader may be telling Elliot "Wait, it's okay, it's only a....." Someone who fears everything, fears everything. Nothing is only a.... Elliot, despite his overwhelming fears, overcomes more than many his age could under the same circumstances. I found it a bit implausible to believe Elliot would have been able to do some of the things he did, but Born Scared did hold my attention for the whole novel. However, I'm not completely convinced it is a good choice for ages 12 and up based on some of the events.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Candlewick Press.

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