It’s 1997, and 14-year-old Juliet has it pretty good. But over the course of the next two years, she rapidly begins to unravel, finding herself in a downward trajectory of mental illness and self-destruction that eventually leads to a ‘therapeutic boarding school’ in rural Oregon.
From there, deep in the woods of the Northwest, comes an explosive portrayal of teenage life from the perspective of The Bad Friend, and a poignant reflection that refuses the traditional recovery arc.
Voted by both Bustle and Nylon as a most anticipated novel of 2019, this portrait of a young teenager’s fight toward understanding and recovering from mental illness is shockingly dark, funny, and heartfelt.
A highly anticipated debut—from a writer hailed as “a combination of Denis Johnson and Joan Didion” (Dazed)—brilliantly captures the intimate triumph of a girl’s struggle to become the woman she knows she can be.
Like Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar and Cat Marnell’s How to Murder Your Life, Juliet the Maniac offers no clear answers, no definitive finish-line, just the wise acceptance of the challenges ahead. This punchy debut marks the breakout of a bold and singular young writer.
Sometimes your reading schedule really needs a palate cleanser – you know, something that really stands out from everything you’ve read recently and makes you sit up and take notice. I’ve been reading a lot of historical novels this month for some reason and when I picked up Juliet the Maniac after these, the effect was the equivalent of spending a month listening to Classic FM and then walking into a room with a gig in full swing from The Clash. Juliet the Maniac stood out for all of the right reasons and I’m so happy to be joining the Blog Tour today.
Juliet Escoria’s novel reminded me of the first time I read Prozac Nation. It hits you right between the eyes and definitely does not pull any punches. The writing style is fresh and invigorating, I know that she’s attracting a lot of comparisons – from Sylvia Plath to Denis Johnson – but the truth is that Juliet Escoria has a voice all of her own and it’s a startling and very impressive one.
It was intriguing that her character Juliet shares a name with her and it did make me wonder how autobiographical this novel actually was. I loved the strapline that indicated that this novel is ‘a girl’s struggle to become the woman she knows she can be’ and I wondered if Julia Escoria is the woman that this character became…maybe one day I’ll hear her speak and find out for myself
Juliet is a character that you won’t forget in a hurry. Just like Elizabeth Wurtzel in Prozac Nation or Cat Marnell in her writing, you feel torn at times between wanting to hug her and wanting to give her a bloody good shake. Her drug use is not something that I could sympathise with, but the torment, the voices and the agony she was going through was so vividly described that it was very difficult to sit in judgement of her. One of the things that stood out to me was the use of language and how Juliet’s pain is so evocatively described. It’s a haunting read and not one for the faint-hearted – but definitely, a book that you will not forget in a hurry.
The novel is structured in four distinct sections, each one dealing with a part of her mental health journey and this allows you to experience the highs and lows alongside her. It is quite relentless at times to be on this journey alongside her, but the structure allows you to experience these situations in bite-size pieces and this is a more manageable experience for such a hard-hitting read.
Escoria’s writing is razor-sharp and will challenge her readers’ preconceived ideas about mental health. It was hard to believe that this is a debut novel as her voice is so assured – I will definitely be looking out for whatever she does next as her skills at bringing a character to life, vividly on the page are remarkable and I’m definitely not going to forget Juliet in a hurry…
I would like to thank Melville House for a copy of Juliet The Maniac to read and review and to Nikki Griffiths for inviting me onto the blogtour. Doesn’t it look fabulous in my #OnTheShelfie
Writer On The Shelf
JULIET ESCORIA is the author of the poetry collection WITCH HUNT (Lazy Fascist Press 2016) and the story collection BLACK CLOUD (CCM/Emily Books 2014), which were both listed in various best of the year roundups.
Her writing can be found in places like Lenny, Catapult, VICE, Prelude, Dazed, and Hobart and has already been translated into many languages.
She lives in West Virginia with her husband, the writer Scott McClanahan.