Book Name: The Existence of Amy
Series: Standalone Book: N/A
Author: Lana Grace Riva
Book Type: Physical > Paperback
Obtained: Review Request
Genre: Fiction, Contemporary, Mental Illness
Disclaimer: A copy of this book was provided to me, by the author, in exchange for a fair and honest review. The fact that the book was given to me did not alter my ratings/judgement of the book in any way. All opinions in this review are of my own.
TW/CW: Mental Illness > This book covers and portrays these topics: depression, anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder.
Amy has a normal life. That is, if you were to go by a definition of ‘no immediate obvious indicators of peculiarity’, and you didn’t know her very well. She has good friends, a good job, a nice enough home. This normality, however, is precariously plastered on top of a different life. A life that is Amy’s real life. The only one her brain will let her lead.
This book is exhausting…
This book is exhausting to get through, to read, and to “experience.”
“The Existence of Amy” revolves around our main character, Amy, as she battles her hidden struggle with OCD, anxiety and depression. On the outside, with the exception of being known as a canceler, she’s perfectly fine and functional. She greets her coworkers at work, she makes small chatter, she gets through the workday, meets with clients, has work meetings, and has laughs with friends. Yet, behind each of those activities, she struggles terribly and everything gives her anxiety. Most of her day’s energy is being spent on making the right enough decision to “look normal to others.” The thoughts that run through her head are enough to make you need to sit down and breath.
Anxiety in every corner…
Amy’s OCD comes with a gang of their own lovely friends: anxiety and depression. She avoids her colleagues/friends by making up whatever excuses humanly possible to get out of a social gathering, even when every bone in her body craves to be there. Consequently, one of her friends is getting more and more upset with her for her lack of attendance in many of the events that Amy is invited but fails to show up to.
But she can’t help it. There is danger in every corner of the world and in every spec of existence. Everything gives her anxiety. The need to converse with others in a “normal way” is draining. Her mind races with thoughts when she’s boarding the bus. Flying in a plane was a terrible experience as she has to chose between being cold or using her jumper as a makeshift pillow because she didn’t want her head to touch the chair as she slept. She couldn’t even accept a gift from someone because the voices in her head told her that the object would contaminate the things in her purse and she follows up by discarding the gift and then washing her hands several times afterwards.
The first chapter was hard to get through (pacing), but when I finally settled down to read it, I found myself eating through the book and devouring it in days. I have countless sticky notes tabbing different sections and pages of the book; quotes are marked, scenes are picked out, conversations are noted. I absolutely loved this book.
I think, the worst part about this entire book was how exhausting it was to be in Amy’s head. It’s real and it’s relatable. For me, I teared up every now and then because, Hey! Sounds a bit like me… I, too, never show up to social gatherings. I crave to be hanging out with friends, but the thought of being there invites stones in my stomach. Though Amy’s reasons for avoiding gatherings and hanging out with her friends are different than mine, I found myself relating to her in a good few scenes.
Normal on the Outside…
The sad part is reading her day at work. On the outside, Amy is someone I’ve always admired and maybe been envious of. She participates in meetings, something that would nauseate me. She still makes it to some gatherings, at least. She converses and chats with her coworkers. She goes on business trips to another country! All of these I find nearly impossible to do, but she does it. On the outside, she’s that professional office worker I’ve strived to be since always! On the inside, poor Ames is on fire trying to decide which sentence to use to look normal by her standards.
“This makes me incredibly sad because people don’t understand. Why would anyone reject a kind act? It makes no sense to them. So, they can only assume I must be rude. I must be ungracious and unappreciative. I am none of those. I am. simply. scared. So. Very. Scared. All. The. Time.”
Characters wise, I liked two of the three friends. I can tell that they all show love and worry for Amy’s odd behaviors. The last friend, I can’t tell if the author specifically wrote for them to act like so, but she felt like a very real representation of someone who is not particularly considerate of what others might be going through. Everybody in this world fights secret battles and people seem to understand that. I, for one, have never been angry for anyone’s constant cancelling on me. Well, this character was beginning to get on my nerves because they just simply never thought about “Maybe something’s up with Amy.” I don’t know. Maybe it’s just me, but I just didn’t like them. Personal opinion.
Hyperaware of every action…
This isn’t the OCD that has taken over on the internet in a meme form. This isn’t the OCD that people joke about when a tile is misaligned or you wash your hand once too many times on a single occasion. This is the OCD that begins by disturbing your life slightly, slowly creeping up and turning into destructive waves until Amy needs to call in sick to work because she can’t leave her bed.
You are taken into Amy’s mind and you experience her view on life with her. Through her eyes, you become almost hyperaware of the little actions that the average person doesn’t think about. For example, when you ride the bus, you have a very autopilot way of thinking… ticket out, scanned ticket, ticket into pocket, quick grab the pole, lemme play on my phone, my stop!, pull the bell, get off. For her, every second is filled with anxiety from having to worry about being 1 second too late to board, to bothering a fellow passenger, the looks others give to her, the choice of seats, the germs, the feeling that others are more productive than she is, silently begging someone else pulls the bell instead of her, and so on.
Beautiful, realistic, and heartbreaking, this book really draws you into Amy’s head, essentially trapping you in with her. You begin to see the warped way she views the world. Throughout the book, I had moments where I had to rationalize with her like, “Aw come on Ames! They probably aren’t thinking that about you!”
A lovely book. It was tiring to get through, not in a bad way, but in an eye opening and experiencing way.