Title: The Museum of Us
Author: Tara Wilson Redd
Publisher: Random House/Wendy Lamb Books
Expected Publication Date: June 26, 2018
Genre: YA, Mental Illness
Rating: 4.5 Stars
I received an ARC copy of The Museum of Us by Tara Wilson Redd in exchange for an honest review. Thanks goes to NetGalley, as well as Random House/Wendy Lamb Books for this advanced copy which is expected to be released on June 26, 2018.
Dear fellow Babblers,
Sometimes, well, often I find myself sitting at my kitchen table, walking down the street, laying in bed, riding in an airplane without really being “there.” I slip away from reality for moments on end, dreaming about far off places, worlds, and possibilities. I get a sort of idea in my head and just like that become obsessed with dreaming it to life. A lot of my time is spent in these fantasies that it is very easy for me to lose my grasp of reality. That being said, The Museum of Us by Tara Wilson Redd is a book that instantly speaks to dreamers like me. It is a spell binding story of the dangers of becoming so absorbed in the world of fiction that life outside of it appears almost meaningless by comparison.
Secrets are con artists: they trick you into letting them out.
Sadie loves her rocker boyfriend Henry and her running partner and best friend Lucie, but no one can measure up to her truest love and hero, the dazzling and passionate George. George, her secret.
When something goes wrong and Sadie is taken to the hospital calling out for George, her hidden life may be exposed. Now she must confront the truth of the past, and protect a world she is terrified to lose.
Sadie is caught between two worlds. There is the real world where she has supportive parents from whom Sadie falls in love with old vinyl records and vintage cars. She is one of the stars of her high school’s cross country team,where she meets her best friend Lucie. She has a punk rocker boyfriend Henry whose love for Sadie is boundless.
And then there is Sadie’s world. Not her parents, Lucie, nor Henry can compare to this made up universe where Sadie can be a spy,own a wand and have soaring adventures. But most importantly, George is in this world. With George, Sadie is free to be anyone she wants. Together, they smoke cigarettes in Parisian streets and sneak into forbidden libraries. There memories make up an entire museum that no one else can see. All of Sadie’s fantasies and all the worlds she have ever traversed in books come to life in her head with George, her secret. Sadie knows and can readily admit to herself that George is not real. However, when she is alone he somehow comes to life in her head. Sadie has real conversations with him, has real feelings for him and can touch him just like a real person. Everything is real for Sadie, but at the same time isn’t. George makes Sadie feel real, happier than her family, friends and boyfriend can which is why even in their presence, Sadie is lost somewhere else in her imagination with George.
Both of Sadie’s worlds come crashing down on her one day when she crashes into a tree on the highway, having been lost in the world inside her head with George. She wakes up in a hospital room to a broken leg and the end of George’s existence just beginning. No one knows about Sadie’s world with George but are all coming dangerously close. Unconscious, Sadie had been calling out for George the minutes following the accident and must explain this “George” that no one knows of to Dr. Roberts who believes that Sadie’s crash was a suicide attempt. Not yet willing to let go of her other world Sadie spends the next several days in a mental hospital.
During the span of two weeks Sadie alternates back and forth between her two universes. There are several flashbacks to important moments in Sadie’s life including the first car crash she was in with her parents. This memory continues to haunt Sadie as she believes the death of the other driver falls on her shoulders, having distracted her father from the road. Through these flashbacks the reader learns much about Sadie’s character. Ever since she was young she was always seen as the special, or more, strange girl. She spent most of her time alone on the playground acting out scenes going on in her imagination, causing teachers and even her parents to worry about her and thus seek out help. As Sadie grows older, she learns to protect and mask her other world, out of fear it may be taken away from her.
In the hospital Sadie is in danger of losing her made up world and finds herself oscillating back and forth between her life with George and her life in the real world. She is given a spiral green notebook with simple, yet impossible instructions: write a true story. Between these pages Sadie must fight a battle against her mind and choose an unreachable world of wonder and that which wants to take it away.
The writing style is timeless. It’s riveting with evocative descriptions which are sure to appeal to readers. The Museum of Us paints a flawless portrait to show the possibilities and also the dangers of losing oneself in imagination, a very common habit amongst readers. While many readers have had mixed feelings of Redd’s treatment of mental illness – depression and suicide – , I found it to be delicate and insightful. This theme overlays the entire novel but not to the point that it takes away from the beauty of the plot and the relatable quality of the protagonist Sadie. It wasn’t so much mental illness that was really a major subject of discussion in the book but rather Sadie’s journey from realizing her illness to taking it upon herself to find her way out of the dangers of her own mind. Though the conclusion was a bit disappointing and felt rather rushed, I admired Sadie’s strength and determination to let go of and entire world that up till the end, was holding her back from living amongst the real.
Sadie’s struggle is real. Her journey in the hospital takes her back as she is forced to face her childhood traumas and make sense of her world and everything around her. She must accept reality and walk away from threats to her relationships with her family, friends and even herself. This is something I really admired about Redd’s treatment of Sadie’s illness. She was not pushed, put under painful operations or influenced in any way from others. Alone, Sadie battles her illness and though she relapses and must overcome several obstacles, manages to save herself, without much outside help. I think this represents an example to many that change is possible and not everything has to be how it always was. Every reader, in one way or another can connect with this book in the sense that we all have demons that we defeat and walk away from in our own race. There is no one way, no special pill, no cheery support group, no magical crystal ball and definitely no such judgmental clock guiding our lives or leading us away from danger. In the end, we are all in it alone and it is where we choose to be and who we choose to become from here that makes us the writers of our own stories.
(Book image credits go to Goodreads)