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A Danger to Herself and Others


A Danger to Herself and Others

Alyssa Sheinmel’s A DANGER TO HERSELF AND OTHERS begins with Hannah, the protagonist, trapped in a mental institution. She believes she’s perfectly sane and the incident that put her there was all a giant mistake. How could she, the perfect student, the best friend and the mature child, be crazy?

It’s all just a giant misunderstanding, and when they figure out what happened to her best friend, Agnes, they’ll have to release her, won’t they? She and Agnes were inseparable --- she would never try to hurt her, would she? No, and it’s her job to prove it, especially since colleges aren’t going to wait for her to get her act together and her applications finished!

Hannah finally finds a way to prove herself with her new roommate, Lucy. If she can befriend and maybe even help Lucy, then it would clearly show that she isn’t crazy or a “danger to herself and others” as her file says. However, Lucy may have her own problems and they could be the key to solving Hannah’s own secrets. Yet, if you ask Hannah, she has absolutely nothing to hide and everything to prove.

"A DANGER TO HERSELF AND OTHERS reigns you in simply because you need the answers to all of your questions....well-written with strong themes of ultimate truth and inner strength and a very mysterious tone."

Follow Hannah’s journey through a book full of twists and turns that leaves the reader wondering what’s real and what’s fake. Hannah is a dynamic and well-developed character, and you will be rooting for her throughout the story, hoping she gets out of the institution, sees Agnes one more time and manages to get into the college of her dreams. Yet she does seem different from most other teenagers, from the way she acts and her manipulative thoughts and actions. All the way from trying to befriend Lucy for personal gain or only admitting and telling only half truths to the other people in the story, the reader is never really quite sure what is sincere and what is done for Hannah’s benefit. Yet, it all boils down to a girl desperate to prove that she isn’t crazy unlike what everyone believes.

Told from Hannah’s point of view, this story leaves the reader with only limited knowledge of what’s going on in the real situation. Fortunately, you also get small pieces of her childhood and life before the institution presented to you by Sheinmel. You’re able to learn inside information that no one else in the story knows about Hannah, but it hardly makes up for all the questions you still have. It leaves you with the knowledge that something else is going on, but you’re clueless to what it could possibly be or what it means.

Other characters also add to the intrigue, such as “Dr. Lightfoot,” the psychiatrist who always wears ballet slippers, Jonah, Hannah’s friend (and maybe more) from summer camp and Queen Bee, a patient who practically rules the institution. Their uniqueness creates a story where almost every reader will have someone they can relate to in these unusual circumstances. Each of the characters add their own individual personalities and ideas to an already complex storyline.

Often leaving you with more questions than answers, A DANGER TO HERSELF AND OTHERS reigns you in simply because you need the answers to all of your questions. But, it does help that the book is well-written with strong themes of ultimate truth and inner strength and a very mysterious tone. You’ll be reading it in only a handful of days, hoping that Hannah gets the ending she deserves, even if it may not be the one she wants.

If you are looking for a story that’s challenging in its perspectives and the mind of the protagonist, then this is the book for you. Sheinmel holds nothing back on the grim details of some mental illnesses and the tough situations that occur because of them. Hannah is a character who is complex, and you’ll constantly find yourself wanting to learn more about her and her state of mind. This book will even lead you to wonder what’s going on in your own mind, and that’s a huge success for any book! So if you’re in the mood for a mystery that could lead to despair or freedom, Courtney Sheinmel’s A DANGER TO HERSELF AND OTHERS is the book for you.

Reviewed by Anna B., Teen Board Member on February 13, 2019

A Danger to Herself and Others
by Alyssa B. Sheinmel