Review – ‘Terminal Regression’ by Mallory Hill

I’m sorry about the lateness in posting! I’ve had a wi-fi blackout at home for the past month and unfortunately I’ve been too busy at work to be able to blog. :/ This post is long overdue, so let’s just get straight into it!

Title:  Terminal Regression
Author: Mallory Hill
Genre:  Dystopia, Romance
Date of Publication: 17th January, 2017
Page Count: 277 pages (paperback)
Synopsis: (from Goodreads)

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“WINNER OF THE SECOND ANNUAL AUTHORS FIRST NOVEL CONTEST Laura Baily’s life is meaningless. In a world where purpose and passion are everything, Laura feels as though she has no place and no business even existing. Her life is forfeit, and it would be better for everyone if she simply ended it, if she simply got a ticket for a train to oblivion and faded from memory. But what awaits her at the end of the line isn t death but Terminal B a community of people more like her than she considered possible, including the beautiful, tormented Will Noble. Though Laura still thinks little of her own life, the lives of others begin to fascinate her as never before. And when those lives become imperiled, Laura discovers the last thing she ever expected to find on her way out of the world: a mission and a reason to live. Compelling on both a human and global scale, TERMINAL REGRESSION is a novel of rare power and humanity. It is the story of a tomorrow that teeters on the edge of utopia and dystopia and a resigned outsider who might just change it forever.”

In short: I loved Terminal Regression beyond reason.

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The main character was witty and had an enjoyable pov; I snickered at a lot of her wry asides and observations of society. What was most important to me was the depiction of mental illness – I empathized so much with Laura who suffered from clinical depression, and her reactions and coping mechanisms rang very true to me. Her depression wasn’t simply window dressing to make the book ‘edgy’, it was a major part of her character and informed her choices and the events of the book.

There was a fairly small cast of characters and while a couple weren’t as fleshed out as they could’ve been, for the most part I felt that the supporting characters were well-drawn and realistic, and I liked how Will, Grant and Mimi had their own stories and history instead of just being players in Laura’s hero’s journey.

The author came up with such a creative and fresh take on the dystopian society trend that is very popular right now, with a revolution unlike any other I’ve read before. In an era of Hunger Games and Divergent and the like, this was a breath of fresh air. Some may find the climax to be, well, antic-climactic, and perhaps it was a little too easily resolved, but I appreciate the originality and found it very appropriate to the story being told. This is more about Laura and focuses intimately on her issues and struggles, as opposed to focusing on the society in general.

At length (with some spoilers, be warned):

This book really moved me. I can’t emphasize enough how deeply it affected me. The reason I requested this ARC was because I’ve struggled with depression for over a decade now and while I’ve never acted on it, suicidal ideation (wanting to die) has been a part of my daily routine. I read as a form of escapism, but I also like to read books in which the main character represents something personal to me and articulates what I’m unable to express.

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Unfortunately the few other books I’ve come across with suicidal protagonists haven’t really spoken to me because the authors have saddled them with a whole stable of issues – there’s almost always some form of sexual abuse involved, emotional abuse, eating disorders, drug addiction…basically everything that could be wrong HAS gone wrong. And that hasn’t been my experience, so I can’t identify with those leads. I feel guilty, because they have every reason to want to die with all the abuse and hardship they’ve suffered whereas my life is fine (as my mother says, I have a roof over my head, I have a stable job, food on the table, nice things, why should I be unhappy when I have so much).

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But Laura IS me. Okay, her life isn’t entirely perfect, her father was taken from her when she was young; he was given a ticket for a journey on a train that nobody ever returns from (popularly assumed to either lead to one’s death or simply the next adventure), which is how this dystopian society deals with non-contributors, those who don’t fit in or criminals. Aside from that, though, her life’s great on the surface – she has a mom that loves her, a supportive community, enough food and resources…and yet Laura ends up applying for a ticket on this train because she feels she has nothing to live for.

“I just kind of reached a point where I couldn’t take it anymore. Being me was so sad. I’d wake up and wonder if I should even bother getting out of bed. I was questioning my whole existence, and the best I could come up with was that the universe had made a mistake, that I couldn’t possible exist just to be miserable. And it wasn’t like I wasn’t trying. I tried everything, just desperately searching for a feeling  I couldn’t name. So finally, I just gave up. I left because I didn’t have a purpose. I didn’t like my life or the person I was. I was just tired of failing every time I tried. There’s something wrong with me, I think. Nothing really excites me. Honestly, I’ve felt dead for a long time.”

This whole passage makes my heart ache with sympathy – I feel this, I LIVE this every day, I know exactly what it’s like. I share so many of Laura’s feelings on life and death that it’s like the author’s bared my soul on these pages instead of writing about a fictional character.

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Unfortunately the train doesn’t lead to the oblivion that Laura craves – instead, she and the other passengers are shepherded into another community they didn’t even know existed and put to work in different areas including manufacturing, general labor, agriculture and management. Given that she’s a suicide, she’s given the easy role of farm hand at an orchard, whether those like her are given simple repetitive work to distract them from their issues as well as put into group therapy, but that doesn’t work out.

“It’s always rough at first. But soon enough, you’ll find something to live for.”

“That’s my problem, sir,” I said. “I can’t wait anymore. And I won’t wait anymore. If there’s nothing on this earth to make me feel good about myself, why should I keep living? Why should I have to go on feeling inadequate and worthless when I’ve done nothing to deserve it?”

This is the same kind of line I’ve been told for years, and it frustrates me how complacently people just ASSUME that eventually some purpose will be magically bestowed upon me. ‘Just read a book, watch tv, engage in a hobby, make some friends, go out on the town’, etc. etc. which is such rubbish. It’s not like we CHOOSE to be unhappy, and if only we put some effort into trying new things, it would solve everything.

And sure, if you take away all our privileges, we’ll have more reason to be unhappy, but it’s not like living in a palace with our every whim catered to would provide a magical cure either. Sometimes it’s just the mysteries of brain chemistry that deal you a bad hand of cards, and then this apathy and misery is something you’re stuck with for the rest of your life.

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So Laura’s as wretched and miserable as she was back in her old life, just without her mother and the comfort and familiarity of her former lifestyle. And it’s a routine that’s set to continue, until she runs into a former classmate, Will, who’s being forced to work under inhumane conditions and she finds some sense of purpose in caring for him and trying to improve his life.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. ‘Oh, god, so all her problems are solved because she falls in love with a GUY? Gag.’ But no, seriously, that doesn’t happen at all! One of the GREATEST things about this book is that Laura’s depression isn’t magically handwaved away by the end simply because of a romantic relationship. She specifically states that just because she’s dating Will isn’t a guarantee that she’ll be able to throw off the shackles of mental illness and I LOVE IT.

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It’s even acknowledged that their relationship isn’t formed under the healthiest circumstances and they’re mutually using each other to meet their emotional needs, and that makes me adore their co-dependent romance all the more. They really do have the quirkiest, most adorkable relationship even in the midst of some really dark, traumatic circumstances:

“Will, I don’t want a boyfriend. I want to be dead. You’ll always be second place. You can’t expect me to want you more than what I want most. But if you want to kiss me and stuff or act all stupid and flirty, I’ll do my best to respectfully receive it.”

“In a weird, roundabout way, did you just say you’ll be my girlfriend?”

THEY ARE THE CUTEST. ❤ I’ve never had a book boyfriend before, but Will is simply #boyfriendgoals what with the tender way he supports and cares for Laura, building her up when she tears herself down. The way their relationship is developed is so beautiful as they become friends under adverse conditions, developing a strong bond before falling in love, and their courtship had me giggling as Laura dealt with her social awkwardness and romance throwing a wrench in her whole ‘walking dead’ persona by being extra droll and sarcastic and Will patiently reaffirms their connection and waits her out. The ending is hopeful without being unrealistically sappy and perfect. I love everything.

Personal Rating: 5 out of 5 kitties approve this book!

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Disclaimer: I received a digital copy free from Story Plant via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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