Published by Harlequin Teen on May 2, 2017
Genres: YA, YA Contemporary
Source: eARC via NetGalley
They're more than their problems
Obsessive-compulsive teen Clarissa wants to get better, if only so her mother will stop asking her if she's okay.
Andrew wants to overcome his eating disorder so he can get back to his band and their dreams of becoming famous.
Film aficionado Ben would rather live in the movies than in reality.
Gorgeous and overly confident Mason thinks everyone is an idiot.
And Stella just doesn't want to be back for her second summer of wilderness therapy.
As the five teens get to know one another and work to overcome the various disorders that have affected their lives, they find themselves forming bonds they never thought they would, discovering new truths about themselves and actually looking forward to the future.
Diversity Rating: 2 – It’s a Start!
Racial-Ethnic: 2 (Clarisa is Asian, but I don’t believe her identity is clarified any further than that)
Disability: 3 (Everyone is mentally ill, but not everyone’s mental illness is written well)
I would have loved attending a camp for mentally ill teens like the one presented in Four Weeks, Five People when I was still a teen. Not the being-mentally-ill part, of course, but spending a couple of weeks in the wilderness learning coping mechanisms and interacting with other kids who understood what I was going through. So how in the world did a story idea I was completely open to go so wrong in Four Weeks, Five People?
Well, four of our five narrators are uninteresting. The one who was interesting and sees their character fleshed out the most? They get put on a bus at the end of the book via suicide attempt. The reactions of the remaining four are supposed to be the clincher of the book, but it’s hard to care about the suicide attempt’s aftermath effects on them when you don’t care about them in the first place. The “make me care about these kids” ship sailed at about the halfway point of the book, at which point I was still largely apathetic.
I’d name some names to be less vague about it, but it would be a massive spoiler to do that? Sorry.
Anyway, we’ve got Clarisa, who has OCD; Andrew, who has anorexia; Ben, who has a disassociative disorder that leads him to live more in movies than reality; Mason, he of the Narcissistic Personality Disorder (AND WE’RE GONNA HAVE SERIOUS WORDS ABOUT HIM); and Stella, who has depression and is angry all the time.
Thanks to that first paragraph, I can’t even let you in on who my favorite is! But I can sure tell you about the two who are poorly written: Ben and Mason.
Ben is straight-up annoying John Green material who tries to spout Profound Things and who deserves a good kick in the cojones for the way he treats Clarisa during their brief fling. Part of it is his illness making him check out, but even when he’s at attention and checked in to the world around him, he’s still a pretentious brat. It’s just not possible for me to be impartial about him! I can own up to this being a personal thing.
Mason’s poor characterization, however, is more clear-cut. Narcissistic Personality Disorder is barely understood and rarely gets written or otherwise portrayed well in media that features it. We tend to associate it with serial killers and other negative figures as well as celebrities. Go Google “people who have narcissistic personality disorder” and see what turns up. I DARE YOU.
Anyway, of the five characters, Mason is closest to the one who fulfills the antagonist role. At the very least, he is the most antagonistic of the group and the one to exhibit the least character growth over the course of the novel. It’s disappointing to see this considering how NPD is often thrown around willy-nilly about anyone without any true, psychologically diagnosed basis for it. It’s just another negative portrayal in a sea of them.
Four Weeks, Five People is poorly paced and not particularly engaging due to a combination of its character-driven nature and its mostly uninspiring characters, but the good intent is there. Even in Mason’s portrayal, Yo clearly wants to bring awareness to NPD. That makes it even more of a shame that the book didn’t work for me.