(Don't) Call Me Crazy — anthology edited by Kelly Jensen

September 28, 2018


TITLE: (Don’t) Call Me Crazy
EDITOR: Kelly Jensen
RELEASES: October 2nd, 2018; Algonquin Young Readers
GENRE: Nonfiction

SYNOPSIS: What does it mean to be crazy? Is using the word crazy offensive? What happens when such a label gets attached to your everyday experiences?

In order to understand mental health, we need to talk openly about it. Because there’s no single definition of crazy, there’s no single experience that embodies it, and the word itself means different things—wild? extreme? disturbed? passionate?—to different people.

(Don’t) Call Me Crazy is a conversation starter and guide to better understanding how our mental health affects us every day. Thirty-three writers, athletes, and artists offer essays, lists, comics, and illustrations that explore their personal experiences with mental illness, how we do and do not talk about mental health, help for better understanding how every person’s brain is wired differently, and what, exactly, might make someone crazy.


As someone who struggles with her own mental health, I’ve appreciated the recent uptick in representation in the YA book world—as it’s so necessary and I think it can do so much good, especially for young readers coming to terms with their own mental health—but there are two things I’ve found sorely lacking: nonfiction presented in an interesting and approachable manner from authors that readers already know and love, and representation that reflects even the more marginalized segments of the mental illness community.

With this in mind, you can imagine how ecstatic I was when I learned that (Don’t) Call Me Crazy would fill both of those needs.

“Crazy” is not a singular—or definitive—experience.
—Kelly Jensen


The first thing I have to rave about is the wide variety of representations offered in this book. Not only are there authors from so many different backgrounds—queer, trans, bi/multiracial, Latinx, and/or Native, to name a few—but there are so many important diagnoses and topics discussed.

I have significance, for I am a human being, entire.
—S. Jae-Jones

There’s Dior Vargas’ discussion of how hard it is to be a person of color with a mental illness in a society that depicts MI as a “white” issue, S. Jae-Jones’ narrative of what it feels like to be the Manic Pixie Dream Girl, Mike Jung’s relation of autism (and the fact that it is not an illness to be cured, no matter what certain “activism groups” claim)… In fact, I’m just going to include a list at the bottom of this review.

They did not know the extent of my talent for smiling when I was a tornado inside.
—Amy Reed

Something else I loved about this collection is that there are so many different viewpoints on healing/coping. There are stories encouraging, others encouraging therapy or meditation, and even one I related very strongly to, where Heidi Heilig discusses feeling like “A Bad Crazy” for choosing not to medicate or to strongly pursue a “cure” for the time being. No writer ever vilifies another path to coping or healing; the general theme is that we do what we need to do in order to survive and pursue peace in life. The finishing piece from s. e. smith, “Call Me Crazy”, even talks about reclaiming slurs and hurtful terms, fighting back against stigmas, and being proud of ourselves—mental illnesses and all.

Nothing is as powerful as a woman who embraces herself, without apology.

This may go without saying, but please practice self-care while reading this collection, as there are certainly quite a few triggering topics. There are discussions of sexual assault, abusive family members, eating disorders, hospitalizations, self-harm (including the comic by Yumi Sakugawa, which depicts a cartoonish character harming themselves), transphobia, racism, sexism, suicidal ideation, attempted suicide, ableism, and more.

People do not tend to know when I am pretty freakin’ unwell. For a lot of reasons. I don’t want anyone to feel uncomfortable or burdened or—often, I just don’t want to talk about it.
—Emery Lord

Finally, I just wanted to share a few of my stand-out favorites and the ones that meant the most to me on a personal note:

Ashley Holstrom’s thoroughness in branching off from a discussion of trich to describe its sister illness, dermatillomania, which I have dealt with literally as long as I can remember and have never seen depicted in a book, nonfiction or otherwise.

S. Jae-Jones’ commentary on how the romanticization of mental illness in women causes an environment that is not conducive to women seeking and receiving the help they need.

Heidi Heilig’s admittance that she considers herself “A Bad Crazy” for not seeking out a cure or treatment for her mental illness—I think a lot of people will be able to relate to this.

Amy Reed’s story of her struggles with addiction, in which she reminds us that healing is a forever process.

Jessica Tremaine’s history of her disordered eating habits and the desperate need for control that they stemmed from.

MILCK’s narrative around the combination of anorexia and depression—and just as notably, the underlying message that nothing is stronger than a woman who is brave enough to love herself in a society that tries to tear her down.

Emery Lord’s incredibly relatable piece on depression, numbness, and the general lack of desire to exist—I literally feel like Emery Lord and I are mental illness soul sisters after reading this, and I cried, a lot, because talk about feeling seen.

Victoria Schwab’s explanation for why she stays so busy. Her reasoning is precisely the same as my own need to constantly be doing something, even if it’s at the risk of “being present”—and her struggles with obsessive thoughts even began in the same way that mine did, by revolving around an all-consuming fear of losing her parents as a child. From another kid who grew up compulsively listening for the sounds of my parents continuing to breathe while they slept, I see you, Victoria. ♥

Those are just a few of the gems in this collection, though, and I think there is honestly something in this book for everyone and anyone who has any experience with mental illnesses of their own. I cannot recommend this collection highly enough, and hope that it will become a staple item in teen libraries everywhere. Between the stories of hope and healing, the resources offered, and even the uplifting comics and fun lists of movies and books with healthy rep, this is a fantastic resource and one that I will be recommending to friends and loved ones for years to come.

Representations—listed by author, in order of appearance:
Ashley Holstrom: trichotillomania, dermatillomania
Dior Vargas: imposter syndrome, borderline personality disorder (BPD)
Sarah Hannah Gomez: OCD, bipolar II
Stephanie Kuehn: misophonia/4S
Mike Jung: autism
Christine Heppermann: phobias, abuse
S. Jae-Jones: bipolar
Monique Bedard (Aura): erasure of MI in Native communities
Heidi Heilig: bipolar
Emily Mayberry: PTSD
Amy Reed: addictions, abuse
Jessica Tremaine: anorexia, bulimia
Reid Ewing: body dysmorphia
Susan Juby: alcoholism
MILCK: anorexia, depression
Libba Bray: OCD, anxiety
Emery Lord: depression, suicidal ideation
Gemma Correll: anxiety (multiple comics)
Clint Van Winkle: PTSD/PTS
Esme Weijun Wang: anxiety
Victoria/V. E. Schwab: obsessive thoughts
Kristen Bell: depression
Mary Isabel: PTSD, abuse
Lisa Jakub: anxiety
Meredith Russo: depression, suicidal ideation, attempted suicide, body dysmorphia, experiencing transphobia
Yumi Sakugawa: self harm (comic)
Kelly Jensen: depression, anxiety
Adam Silvera: depression, suicidal ideation
Hannah Bae: paranoia
S. Zainab Williams: depression (comic)
Nancy Kerrigan: disordered eating
s. e. smith: depression, misdiagnosed BPD, “craziness”
NOTE: I took notes while reading, but apologize if I missed anything represented in any specific stories. I opted not to include the authors’ races or sexual/gender identities in most of these because I wasn’t familiar with all of the authors and did not want to make any assumptions or out anyone without their consent.
Thank you so much to Algonquin Young Readers for providing me with this ARC in exchange for an honest review!




More about Destiny @ Howling Libraries

Just a horror aficionado/geek girl trying to juggle motherhood, reading, blogging, gaming, and everyday life.

    1. I already really wanted to read this, but now I want to get my sister a copy as well! She deals with some less common MI stuff and I think it would be nice for her to see it included here.

      1. Awww, that sounds amazing. ♥ I feel her on that. Most of my MI stuff is less common as well and I was so pleasantly surprised to see it listed there. One of my diagnoses is one that carries a lot of stigma, and one of the stories in the collection was from someone who didn’t even have that diagnosis, but she took the time to talk about how hard it is on people who have it, and how unfairly they tend to be treated, and that just meant the world to me. It’s just really lovely. ♥

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