The Book: The Existence of Amy
Author: Lana Grace Riva
Genre & Themes: adult fiction, mental health issues – OCD, depression, anxiety
Trigger warnings: OCD, thought spirals, depressive episodes
Rating: 3.75/5 stars
Thank you so much to Lana for sending me a copy of her debut novel, The Existence of Amy, in exchange for an honest review. I read Lana’s short self-help book, Happier Thinking, last year. Happier Thinking is almost a pamphlet where it gives you tips and suggestions for changing the way that you think. It was really interesting to then read this book, as our main character Amy implements some of these tips in her daily life!
The Existence of Amy focuses on Amy (can u believe), which on the outside looks pretty normal, as everything always does. However, the people in her life are unaware that underneath, she is suffering deeply with OCD and depression.
I liked the raw way Amy talked about her experience of living with OCD and depression. There were times where Amy was having a conversation with her irrational brain and it was so heartbreaking but interesting to read about.
The possessive way in which OCD has taken over Amy’s life, and the fact that she doesn’t feel like she can say anything is really sad, and well done in this book. From the outside looking in, you wanted to shake Amy and tell her that the people in her life care about her, and would want to know she’s suffering. However, I know it’s not that simple when you’re in the situation, and you have a brain telling you the opposite. It felt very raw and true to real life. I think the discussions surrounding mental health are what really carry this book and make it soar.
I think the plot was quite simple – it’s very much a snippet of a regular life, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it’s not one that’s overly driven by things happening. It’s a “headspace” sort of book, where a lot goes on in Amy’s head and we spend a lot of time with Amy and her thoughts.
Saying that, a large portion of the book is set at her job/on a work trip with her colleagues. It would have therefore been interesting to get actual specifics about her work as that sort of roots you into understanding the character and getting a feel of the bigger picture. Instead, it was all very vague “clients, meetings, freelancers, tight deadlines” etc. As so much of the novel was set in the workplace, I would have liked to have known a bit more about what she does!
I also think some of the side characters could have been further developed a bit. Her best friend, Ed, was developed more than other side characters, but even he felt a little two-dimensional at times. That being said, I did enjoy their friendship a lot, and I also really liked Nathan as a character, too.
I will say, there was a particular scene that made me uncomfortable. At one point, Ed gets possessive and thinks he can tell Amy who she should be dating. He apologises in a later scene, saying he was out of order, which duh, but Amy very much took it as her fault, thinking “why aren’t I normal?” When, like, she is very normal for not wanting to date someone if she doesn’t want to. I dunno, I’m not sure how I feel about this whole scene tbh, I just know it made me feel a bit weird.
Other than those small bits, I really enjoyed this book. It was hard to read from a mental health perspective as I could relate to so much of it, but it was a very quick read. I finished it in just two days, and was sad to see it come to an end. So, whilst there were a few bits where I think it could have been improved, I still really enjoyed it and it ended up being a 3.75 star read for me! I know that’s very specific, but it felt like just under a 4 star, and was definitely higher than a 3 star read so 3.75 it is haha.
Thank you so much for reading, and I hope you have a wonderful day. Thanks again to Lana for sending me a copy of her book!
Do you have any book recommendations which focus on mental health issues?