2014/02/22 by rmstrong1980
To Be Sane is the third book in Cilimberg’s Deep River High series. While the secondary characters we have come to know—Josh, Lydia, and Emily—are there, this novella focuses on two new freshmen and Amanda, the now-sophomore that Kirk Williams spared during the school shooting in Perfect Forgiveness (reviewed here).
The school shooter from last year has been sentenced and is serving his time in Juvie, but the bullying hasn’t stopped. Selena and Andy come to Deep River High from middle school, joining the hodge-podge of public high school. Selena and Andy both struggle with different things, making high school difficult. Selena suffers from OCD and Asperger’s Syndrome and Andy is shy and sometimes stutters (more on that below). Both also struggle with strange, unbidden thoughts and suicidal tendencies throughout the book.
Ms. Cilimberg has finally taken the advice, “write what you know.” She suffers from OCD and Asperger’s, which makes Selena’s internal commentary more than believable. She has also spent many years now with the secondary characters, and one can see their growth as characters and as teens.
The story is told from only three points of view (really, only two, but Kirk gets his own chapter in the middle of the book). While the character isn’t necessarily always obvious at the beginning of the chapters, the book usually just alternates chapters, so it’s fairly easy to know who’s head the reader is in.
Unfortunately, like the other books in the Deep River High series, this book desperately needs an editor and more research.
Selena is one-quarter Hispanic (her grandmother is of Mexican descent or from Mexico, it is unclear). Selena loves her grandmother’s heritage and because of that she mixes Spanish words in with her English dialogue. There is only one problem. Any first-year high school Spanish student will be able to tell you that Cilimberg (and, by extension, Selena) uses Spanish incorrectly. While the words are translated properly, it is simply a Spanish-English dictionary translation, without any thought to how a native speaker would use it. For example: When Selena is speaking to Andy, she uses the word “Tu” for “You” (“Tu okay?”) when the proper word would be “Estas” (You are/Are you). For anyone with a “working knowledge” of Spanish, this lack of proper research and editing for such an integral part of a character’s personality is very distracting to say the least. (As a personal pet peeve, the Spanish words in the book are not italicized, making it sometimes difficult and jarring to follow along.)
Andy, supposedly, suffers from a stutter when he gets nervous (like, when meeting new people). Unfortunately for the story and continuity, however, Andy only has a handful of stuttering episodes, and only one or two when he is with Selena (a new girl he ends up realizing he likes). A more realistic scenario would be Andy not being able to get a word out when he’s around her, but that’s not the case. From their very first meeting, the only time we see Andy stutter when with Selena around is when he gets a cyber-bullying text message.
Also, if there are people cyberbullying Andy, why can’t he just block them on Facebook and not answer/read their text messages? Both are very easy to do, any teen could very quickly figure it out, but apparently, it never crosses Andy’s mind.
Finally, the climax is very, in my opinion … anticlimactic.
There are also some very glaring formatting issues in the book, and many typos, both which would have been remedied by having an editor and reading the book in Kindle format before publishing.
It is obvious that Ms. Cilimberg has a heart for teens, and wants to present them with relatable characters that are as flawed as they are. However, that does not make up for the poor execution of the story.