August 7, 2013

Sisters in Sanity - Gayle Forman

Sisters in Sanity - Gayle Forman
Sisters in Sanity by Gayle Forman
Publisher: Harper Teen
Publication Date: August 16, 2007
Source/Format: Borrowed from the library || Hardcover

Have you ever had the "out-of-control" dream? The one where you know you're not crazy, but no one around you--not your parents, not your teachers, not even the authorities--will listen to you? For sixteen-year-old Brit Hemphill, the out-of-control dream comes true when her dad enrolls her at Red Rock, a bogus treatment center that claims to cure rebellious teen girls. At Red Rock, Brit is forced into therapy, and her only hope of getting her life back is in the hands of an underqualified staff of counselors. Brit's dad thinks Red Rock can save her, but the truth is it's doing more harm than good.

No girl could survive Red Rock alone--but at a treatment center where you earn privileges for ratting out your peers, it's hard to know who you can trust. For Brit, everything changes when she meets V, Bebe, Martha, and Cassie, four girls who keep her from going over the edge. Together they'll hold on to their sanity and their sisterhood while trying to keep their Red Rock reality from becoming a full-on nightmare. (from Goodreads)

Sisters in Sanity is Gayle Forman's first novel. The writing is as good as it is in her latest release, revealing a story that's quirky and real. But there's a marked difference in the character development, mostly because it felt incomplete. It's a good read, but not my favorite of the Forman books I've read.

There was a sprinkling of romance, a dose of family issues and perhaps a cup of individual character growth. But it's the friendship between V, Martha, Cassie, Bebe and Brit that really takes center stage. In reality, these five girls would probably not have been friends as they were such strong, different personalities. But thrown together as they were at Red Rock, a sisterhood was born. It was really important to me to see how each of the girls was respected and accepted for who they were. Their friendships went through ups and downs, but they were there for each other, willing to listen, to nurture and to simply care.

As individuals, each girl has their own reason for being in Red Rock. There were definitely a lot of touchy issues, and it did make me angry and uncomfortable to see how the so-called authorities at Red Rock handled them. Anyone who is going through a tough time shouldn't be subjected to the treatment that the book showcased. It's horrific, and damaging, and just very, very evil. If Forman's goal was to raise awareness and provoke discussion on this, then she certainly succeeded.

Brit is the book's main narrator. She is sent away to Red Rock for being nasty, aggressive and "acting out". Her behavior is perfectly normal, but her stepmother and father think that she might follow in her mother's footsteps and get lost in her own head. It hurt my heart to see her father pushing Brit away, and acting as if she were diseased and needed to be cured. I had my own opinions on what she would have benefited from having, and that certainly wasn't it.

Still, there's a lighter side to this novel. There's the romance Brit has, for instance, which shines brightly amongst the bleakness of Red Rock. The little moments she was able to share with the boy in question were really sweet. There's also the shenanigans the gang gets up to, and the many ways they learn how to thwart the system.

Sisters in Sanity toed the line between heavy and light, maintaining a good balance. While there were certainly parts of the novel that made me angry or sad, the fact that it made me feel something is certainly not to be discredited. Even though I would have liked to connect further with Brit and the others, it was still quite satisfying to read about their adventures and how it all comes to an end. It's a solid first novel from Forman, particularly if you enjoy books about friendships and hints of female empowerment.


  1. Beautifully said, Alexa!!! I agree. It's definitely not my favorite Gayle Forman book so far, but I still really, really enjoyed it. It was a bit lighter than the more serious books we see from Gayle now but it was so great to see one of her first books and how much she's grown as a writer over the years! So glad you decided to join in for the read along :)


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