ARC Review: The Unquiet by Jeannine Garsee

TITLE: The Unquiet
AUTHOR: Jeannine Garsee
PAGES: 400
ISBN: 978-1599907239
BUY IT: Amazon
GET IT: July 17th RATING: 5/5 [in the genre] or 8.5/10 [all books I’ve ever read].
FOR: People looking for a genuine, accurate portrayal of mental illness. Teenagers. Fans of old-timey ghost stories who want a modern twist. Anyone who likes good, solid writing. People who miss R.L. Stine’s Fear Street series.

When Rinn Jacobs moves to a new town she hopes it will be a fresh start-a place where nobody knows about her past. At first, everything goes according to plan. She falls in with the popular girls at her new school and falls for the very cute boy-next-door Nate. But River Hills High School has a secret. The ghost of a girl who died back when Rinn's mom was a student supposedly haunts a hallway. Rinn's not sure she believes it, but when strange things start happening to her friends, Rinn decides there's only one way to know for sure. She needs to ditch her bipolar meds and see what the voices are really trying to say...

The Basics: I’m not sure if it’s possible to express how much I love this book in writing. SQUEE!!!!! would probably be a good approximation. I’m a psych nerd, so any use of mental disorders will attract my attention. The difference here? Garsee does it well. Rinn is a believable, relatable character who has very severe problems—but that doesn’t stop her from being a normal teenage girl who wants to fit in. Her candid descriptions of her voices, her guilt over a past accident, and her daily struggles with reality are both moving and highly accurate. Her relationship with Nate is at just the right heat level for a high school girl, and her friendships with Lacey, Meg, and Tasha are just the right combination of sweetness and drama. This could be someone’s memoir. Now add the ghost story, and you have an exciting thriller that, almost to the end, poses a question: is it real, or just happening in Rinn’s head? The plot never lets up and the last page leaves you with a chill running down your spine.

The Breakdown: You can tell that Garsee is a psychiatric nurse. Her portrayal of Rinn’s disorder exudes authenticity, from the recollections of her manic episodes to the flatness she feels while on her meds. Rinn is just the right combination of headcase and normal teenage girl. She tries not to let her disorder define her, but she can’t help but feel trapped by it anyway. She wants to be normal, but the guilt of her past actions lingers. She’s got some spunk but she’s deeply insecure too. You can’t help but root for her from the very first page. Her voice is a relatable backdrop for a very eerie tale of a girl drowned long ago, and spooky happenings in the school’s old, rundown tunnel.

The best part of the plot is the uncertainty. All the weird goings-on toe the line between paranormal and reality. Maybe Meg really did get an ear infection. Maybe Lacey had a borderline moment and wrote that mean e-mail to her boyfriend. Maybe the oily air was just gas from the boiler room. Maybe there is a ghost, or maybe Rinn’s delusions are stronger than her meds. You don’t know—and that’s the scariest part. It’s part thriller, part mystery. Rinn is part architect to her own disaster. She can’t stop her fascination with the ghost, even as it pulls her deeper and deeper into danger. You’re half rooting for her to find answers and half screaming at her to get the hell away from this crazy town. 

And there’s always more going on under the surface than seems at first. This is a small town where everyone has secrets, and more people are connected to the ghost than you realize. Until it’s too late. And Rinn seems to be the only one who sees the horrors going on. Between the threat of danger and Rinn’s isolation, you as reader can’t help but feel the claustrophobic sense of fear that pushes Rinn deeper into the ghost’s mystery. And Garsee isn’t kind to her characters. This is a place of real danger, where no one is safe. If you can read this in the dark without shuddering, I applaud you. I couldn’t.

Solid writing, believable, flawed characters, and a tight plot that never lets up—that’s The Unquiet. Did I mention it also has a gorgeous cover? Pick it up July 17th! 

Note: I received this ARC free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. The price of the book in no way impacted my stated opinions.

Disclaimer: This is not the most typical portrayal of Bipolar Disorder. It’s an extremely good portrayal of severe Bipolar Disorder. However, as always, mental disorders come on a spectrum and not everyone with this disorder is going to have psychotic hallucinations, violent experiences, etc. Also, meds are important.

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