Hardcover, 160 pages
Published June 8th 2010 by Roaring Brook Press
There are lots of reasons that Stacey ends up in a mental hospital but what convinces her that she needs help is smashing through a glass window in order to hurt herself. Perhaps she felt that death was the only option remaining for her and that’s what spurs her to do it but the act itself serves as a wakeup call and she voluntarily checks herself in.
In How I Made it to Eighteen, Tracey White recounts her own experience in a mental asylum under the guise of Stacey (I’m not sure why she uses a different name in her book). The book is structured in chapters which begin with notes from Stacey’s medical records and are prefaced by questions about Stacey that her four friends answer. The graphic novel is at least superficially similar to Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen but whereas Kaysen’s work focused primarily on the lives of the various inhabitants of the mental hospital, White’s volume is a more sombre look at Stacey’s fight to reclaim her mental self from whatever is ailing it.
As I said previously, there are many reasons Stacey is in the hospital and one of them is her appearance:
Another, bigger, reason is her mother:
The graphic novel is not particularly brilliant but neither should it be dismissed outright. I felt that the most compelling thing about this book is the unflinching look White takes at herself and the issues that made her what she was at that point in her life. Her struggle to get better reads authentically and as a reader, I could tell that Stacey, White’s alter-ego, felt genuinely confused and bewildered by what was happening to her and the things she was feeling. Stacey’s reliance on her boyfriend for emotional stability is made more profound by his absence in the entire novel. But perhaps one of the most eerie and poignant scenes in the entire novel is the one-sided conversation Stacey has with the toilet when she finally confronts one of her biggest problems. I got chills and I imagine that someone who is also facing the same issues will have a greater reaction to the scene.
I feel the novel will help both people who are suffering from the same things as Stacey does and also people who are not as it did me. The novel helped me understand and gain more empathy and that’s always a precious thing.