top of page

A Peculiar State of Mind by Karianne Gabaldon (BOOK REVIEW) 1/5

Firstly, I’d like to apologize for some of the harsh views I have against this novel. I met the author over Facebook and, having my own mother as a Schizophrenic and having a keen interest in writing about mental health myself, had very high hopes for it. In the efforts to support an indie author writing the same subjects I do, I immediately bought a paperback copy to read and review. It was not at all what I was expecting, and I have a lot to say about it- mostly negative. I mean no offense to the author by giving this honest review of my impressions for her novel. Please beware of spoilers, as I have to talk about this book in depth in order to explain why I’m reviewing it so poorly. TRIGGER WARNING: Discussion of depression, self harm, drug use, suicide, rape, eating disorders, purging, mental illness.

To start, I need to point out the awful formatting and design of the book. I understand many indie authors struggle with publishing- but this book is horribly produced. The cover is decent, but once you open the book, you’re met with formatting that is off, huge spaces between entries, misproper placement of headings, and the font itself is unusual for a book. I know many authors do not have the time or money to hire a formatter for their work, but some things are not publish-ready, and this is one of them.

One of the first things that bothered me about this book is a disclaimer right at the beginning, which reads, “Disclaimer: All characters or persons in this book are based on real beings and all this book is based on real events. The names are fictitious due to legal circumstances. Schizoaffective disorder is nothing to do with multiple personality disorder, or DID. Having schizoaffective disorder does not make one crazy. Crazy is a stereotype, as are straitjackets, lobotomy, and institutions. Please do not use these medical terms incorrectly.” There are several things incorrect about this disclaimer. Firstly, the book ends with an author’s note that says that the main character, Fendi, is actually the author of the book. You would think then that, despite names being changed, it still reveals a great deal of personal information. But then, the line about straitjackets, lobotomy, and institutions being a stereotype, is also incorrect. I understand what Miss Gabaldon was going for here, but these things are not stereotypes- there’s real history to back them up as legitimate ways used to handle mental health cases. In fact, all of these are still used today: Lobotomies, though not the crude surgeries used in the past, are still performed- albeit rarely, and as a last resort. Straitjackets are still used for restraint, and institutions are still in working order all around the world. These are, at times, used poorly in literature or used as insults towards those who struggle with mental health, but they’re not merely stereotypes.

As I read on, I was taken aback by how this book was not at all how I thought it would be. It was marketed as being about the author’s life with schizophrenia. However, that’s not what this book was. While there were times it was about the schizophrenia, the book was told in poorly written diary entries, which relayed a series of unfortunate events- and a series of average life moments. The books goes through a rollercoaster of the author: Being diagnosed with Schizoaffective Disorder and Autism, the first entry shows signs of voices. Then, it goes past that to show a myriad of issues: A minor sexual assault that ended up in court, then ended up with changing schools. Immediately after, there is an entry about hydrocodone use and energy drinks- in which the energy drinks are made out to be more of an issue than the hydrocodone. Another entry is happy- and then back in a mental hospital, while swearing she’s not a drug addict. Then a move, more happy posts, then disaster as bullying happens at a new school, but very quickly things are happy again. There are several entries where the main character is dating someone and things are going well; and then it skips to years later, and she’s divorced, and she got raped, and then it immediately talks about struggles with purging and eating disorders, and a psychotic break.

This book gave me whiplash. It would go from something happy to horrible, happy to horrible, over and over again- and the writing lacks the ability to support it. If this was better conveyed, it may help to bring it together in a more concise manner, but it’s written with these very child-like diary entries, no emotional depth, just stating things without much to them.

The second portion of this book is a big plug. It’s rife with advertisements. Every entry mentions either a song release- with the song titles- or an album name that she’s released. Strangely, it was supposed to be that Fendi, the character, was writing these songs- but the songs have the author’s copyright listed on them, and if she changed the name of the characters for privacy, you would also think the song names would be excluded in interest of running with the story. She then continues on with more books she’s released or was writing at the time, and it quickly became less about struggling with Schizoaffective disorder, and more about her career. Among the last few entries, the main character was said to be sick often from a genetic mutation- but it didn’t say how she was sick, or with what, only that she was in and out of the hospital.

Then, without warning, and with several entries from the last mention of self harm or drug addiction or anything life threatening, there was an end to it all saying that the character, Fendi, committed suicide. It comes out of nowhere, and is a poor end, with a lot of warnings about talking to your health provider and getting help, as well as a list of hotline numbers.

However, this end is horribly done because then, in an author’s note near the end, it speaks about how the character is really the author- who is very much alive. This book was written with a non-fiction vibe, saying how it’s all real events, but given a fictional suicide abruptly. And it’s not even halfway through the book that it ends.

The author did say, in the marketing that made me grab the book, that there were song lyrics included and that it was a bit of a song book. I thought that was reasonable. However: It takes up most of the book. The story ends halfway through the paperback, and the entirety of the rest of the book is poorly formatted lyrics from songs and albums, all copyrighted under the author’s name. When you open the book to where the story ends and the songs start, it becomes apparent that it’s actually more than half of the book that is song lyrics.

In my opinion, this truly needs a lot of work. I applaud the author for working on books and songs despite her many complications and issues, but this book was supposed to be about her experience with schizophrenia. Instead, it went through every issue under the sun from drug use to rape to depression to schizophrenia- and then ended full of self advertising and song lyrics. It’s not an accurate depiction of schizoaffective disorder, and reads far more like a distracted ADHD-led collection of diaries, poorly written and giving no real depth or insight into the issues. Between the constant back and forth of happy versus disaster, and the horrible formatting and endless plugs of this novel, it’s merely a headache. I wish I had anything positive to say about it, but I cannot recommend this book.

1 view0 comments
bottom of page