Buffering: Unshared Tales of a Life Fully Loaded – a book review

Book Reviews

I always say I’m not one for YouTuber books. It would really have to speak to me. I’ve bought some YouTube vegan cookbooks and one other biography. Hannah Hart’s book was always on my radar but due to preconceived ideas I never picked it up. That was until I wanted to read about someone’s path with mental health. Living in the centre of off kilter mental health I was desperate to reach out to someone else’s story. I have watched Hannah for years now, not regularly but there has always been something enticing about her abundant happiness – it’s infectious. I had so many ill preconceived notions about Hannah’s life – I assumed she had no problems, I assumed everything worked for her and with the help of hard work and positivity she got to where she is. Wow, was Buffering eye-opening for me!

From the first chapter we were introduced to her family. We got to know Annette, her mother, Naomi and Maggie, her sisters and the other prominent figures in her life. Her mother struggles with schizophrenia and due to that they lived through hardship that no child should experience. What stood out to me the most was how Hannah stepped forward to take care of Maggie. The strongest story in my head is Hannah as a child rushing home to find toddler Maggie eating cigarettes off the ground. Every time Hannah recounted an experience like this or telling the cops about her situation hoping her younger sister could have a better life it showed the immense courage and foresight Hannah had as a child. 

I related to Hannah in parts; mostly her struggle with guilt around religion and family as well as struggling with mental health. When Hannah spoke about flying on the plane and she was sure she was going to die because she enjoyed herself at Burning Man. I had this experience hugely through my teens. If I was able to enjoy myself without thinking of God then why shouldn’t I be punished for it? This is something I am coming to terms with but it has taken years. Hannah perfectly explained that overhanging guilt when it came to religion. Like Hannah, it took world experiences to question my thinking and realise something wasn’t adding up. It wasn’t comforting me and making me happy – it was terrifying me. 

When Hannah spoke about her struggle with coming to terms with her sexual orientation due to her ideas about sexuality it really opened my eyes. As a straight woman I never thought about the fact it was celebrated when I had a date to prom or when I had a first kiss. Hannah was expected to supress and ignore any feelings she had. That internal struggle with “right” and “wrong” must have been immense. Although I can’t understand the struggle it takes to come to terms of being gay, I can understand the strength and bravery it takes to be true to yourself and not become overwhelmed by the opinions of others. 

All in all this book is a gem. It is filled with knowledge and mistakes and love and hate and respect and emotions and self realisation. When I think of a biography I think of someone pouring their soul into it even if it is tough. Hannah did exactly that and more. Any ill preconceived notion I had about Hannah Hart was wiped away and now I see her as a hard working, determined, strong, caring individual. When she is struggling, she seems to struggle but not let it overwhelm her. That is something I am trying to learn. 

If I could talk to Hannah I would ask her what it must feel like bearing your thoughts on paper for the world. How she came to terms with religion ruling her thoughts and how she gets on with life even when it seems overwhelming. 

All The Bright Places – a book review

Book Reviews

I was intrigued by this book for quite some time, I think I heard of it first from Zoella’s Book Club. I ordered it and it sat on my bookshelf for months until my sister took it to read and suddenly my interest piqued again (siblings evoke that lifelong feeling of “I want what you have)”). I will admit it took me some time to read it because my focus dropped during the middle of the book but I really am glad I read it to the end. This is my first book review so I’m going to break it into: summary (no spoilers), design (mild spoilers), and thoughts (spoilers). 


SUMMARY

The book focuses on two teenagers, Finch and Violet who meet at, what initially seems like, an unlikely place. The chapters vary from perspectives between Violet and Finch as we follow their lives and how they inevitably intertwine. Both characters are intrigued by death; Finch is consumed by thought, while Violet is enveloped by experience. This book looks at their relationships and the progression of that. The book focuses around topics on suicide and death, both are being experienced by teenagers with very different personalities.


DESIGN

The book is well designed with an attractive bold and vibrant blue with, what I have come to realise, are post-it notes placed across the book. The font is well thought out as it is reminiscent of careful handwriting with a marker. The use of blue and yellow is very strong and it makes the cover seem youthful. Before I read it I liked the cover but since reading it I think it was definitely the right choice. In the book Finch covers his walls in post-it notes with words that mean something to him, throughout the book he also paints his room a strong vibrant blue which is reflected on the cover of the book as the blue on the cover is textured like a painted wall. I like that the cover has some symbolism in relation to the story and that it is not a mundane, tell-all cover either. It looks at the progression of the plot and the progression of Finch which is summarised on the cover through graphic design.


THOUGHTS

I enjoyed this book and I am looking forward to watching it when it comes to cinema but I wasn’t entirely enthralled by it as much as I thought I would be. I think my issue came with Finch – carefree people and I don’t gel purely because I am so rigid in life. I find it difficult to imagine someone who has no ties whether that is to their family or their education or life in general. Finch was, in a sense, carefree except for the fact he was consumed by death. He wanted to feel it and research it until he could quote it in a moment. He was interesting for that fact, most of us ignore death. We experience it, then quickly get back to the grind. Finch, however, looked at death as a welcomed end but Violet kept him going. 

Violet, the other main character, lost her sister in a car accident while on the way from a party and suffers from PTSD due to it. She is terrified to get into a car, she doesn’t have the motivation to commit to school, and she has an aversion to her old gang of friends.

Violet meets Finch in the Bell Tower where they are both there to experience the moments before death. Finch ends up saving Violet but because he is labelled as the ‘freak’ everyone assumes Violet saved him. Their relationship forms and he becomes obsessed with her. I enjoyed their relationship more at the end of the book rather than the start where he was chasing her. I felt she looked at him with caution but she was utterly intrigued. I assume she had spent her life, before meeting him, thinking he was Freak Finch. She seemed cautious to love him or to even entertain him but he grew on her. I really liked Violet as a character, she was hardworking, studious, creative but was really hurt by losing her sister (as anyone would be). She was interesting because she had everything going for her; she was going to NYU, she set up her own website, she was safe and secure. Then everything changed and she was left with a shell of a person rather than the original Violet. 

Finch on the other hand had a very tough life with an abusive dad who left him for another essentially more “complete” family. His mother was there but near to vacant. He struggled with his mental health (maybe in another sense of it he didn’t struggle and it actually consumed him). The thing is I find these stories a dime a dozen, good girl finds bad boy and they fall in love but there was something different with ATBP. Yes, Violet tried to change him near the end but the theme of suicide and death was so strong that it wasn’t a typical good girl/bad boy scenario. I don’t think I read such topics when I was a teen. I read about death but never suicide. I never read a potentially suicidal dialogue such as Finch’s. ATBP approached such a heavy topic but Niven did so with respect. She wrote about the gritty, real side of mental health, not the glamourised version which is often at the root of YA novels.

ATBP is a great book and maybe my issues were that I am simply too old for it. That being said I would recommend it, especially to a younger demographic. Mental health needs to be an open topic and books like this, who introduce us to the topic as a teen, utterly aid in the conversation being ignited around mental health.

“This is my secret—that any moment I might fly away” – Finch