Halpern, Julie. (2007). Get Well Soon. New York: Feiwel and Friends.
Textbook Chapter: 4
Subgenre: Realistic fiction
Get Well Soon is a novel about sixteen year old Anna, who suffers from anxiety, panic attacks, and depression. After laying out of school and threatening suicide, Anna’s parents admit her into a mental hospital to receive treatment. Anna is put on suicide watch for a few days, and the only thing she has to keep her occupied is a pencil and paper. As a way to deal with her situation, Anna begins to write about her experiences in the mental hospital in letters to her friend, Tracy. The book is in letter format, and is told through Anna’s point of view. As Anna spends more time in the hospital, she begins to make new friends, lose weight, and even has a forbidden relationship with one of the other patients. Although everyone else who is in the hospital cannot wait to get out, Anna begins to feel like it is the only place she belongs. However, after several different rounds of therapy, Anna’s insurance runs out, and she is sent home to deal with the real world. After arriving home, Anna realizes that she is better, as she gets angry, stands up to her mother, and does not feel any anxiety. Overall, Anna finds confidence in herself, and gains a new appreciation of who she is from her time in the mental hospital.
Personal Reaction/ Why Teenagers Would Read this Book:
In my opinion, this book was just ok. I thought the author did a good job of approaching the sensitive issue of mental illness in teens, but I was not a fan of the letter format. I think that teens would identify with the book, as the protagonist is a sixteen year old who struggles with body image, relationships, and feeling comfortable in her own skin, although she does have deeper issues than most teens. The book is definitely written the way a teen would write and think, with curse words, subtle digs at others, and funny asides. I can see how the word choice and style would appeal to the teenage reader. I do think it is important that teens are aware of how depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts can affect their perceptions about the world and themselves, and this book would definitely make teens think. Overall, this would not be my first choice to read again, but I think it does a good job of addressing a difficult issue.
Why was this book banned?
Get Well Soon was challenged by a parent of a teen in a public library in Wisconsin for inappropriate language and content that was inappropriate for children. The parent claimed that the “f-word” was not suitable for this age group, and the content of the book was not appropriate for her twelve year old. The parent was angry and asked a supervisor to remove it from the shelves of the library, and it was then thrown in the dumpster, without question, and without going through proper challenge procedures. This book was also challenged at a middle school library. However, the middle school responded to the challenge by keeping the book on the shelves.
Get Well Soon received great reviews! A review from Booklist says that teens will be able to relate to Anna’s character and her humorous sarcasm about her situation. It also says that teens will be able to connect to the way Anna is trying to shape her own life into what she wants it to be. A review from the Library Media Connection also gives good reviews and recommends the book. That review states that the book will have readers laughing and although there is some swearing, it is in line with how teens talk and think. It cites one of the important themes of the book in the review, saying that the book is about the relationship between teens and those who they would not typically associate. Overall, the reviews I read were very positive.
Kirkus Best Young Adult Books: 2007
Young Adults’ Choices: 2009
YALSA Quick Picks for Young Adult Readers, 2008
Overall, I feel like this book should not have been challenged. Yes, the book does have some swearing, and the f-word does appear on the first page, but the words are not the focus of the story. They are used in a way that teens would use them, and they do not detract from the content. The benefits of teens reading about other teens dealing with mental illness far outweigh the bad language that most teens read, hear, or say on a daily basis. I am sad that the public library in Wisconsin threw the book away and did not follow proper challenged book procedures, but I am glad that the middle school chose to keep the book on the shelves as it does have great value to teens.