I was originally going to send this directly to JLA. But then I realized how much that I wanted to share this with everyone. I’ve kept a lot of this stuff secret for awhile now and I’m ready for it to not be a secret. The main character of JLA’s new release Scorched really inspired me to be more open about myself and so that’s what I’m doing. I also want to warn you that there will be mild spoilers for Scorched in this letter. Thank you.
Dear Jennifer L. Armentrout, doctor
I don’t tell a lot of people this. Mostly because I feel…embarrassed. Ashamed. Like someone is going to think I’m weak. Like people are going to look at me and see that I’m completely healthy, online having no idea that on the inside, I’m a complete and total utter mess. I barely told my dad a week ago, when I have a panic attack at work and I was spent, exhausted, and there was no way I could drive myself home and I had to call him.
When I bought Scorched the other night, I was really excited to read it. I love your books. Ever since I read Obsidian over two years ago, I’ve just been in love. I love Katy and Daemon, I can’t even begin to explain my addiction to Alex and Aidan and the Covenant series. I just recently read Frigid, and the Wait for You series…I just love it so much. My friends have even taken to calling me Tessa from Be with Me because of how much I’m like her and because of how much I really do love cupcakes. I was so excited to read Scorched. I knew you had said something about it being a very hard book for you to write and I knew it wasn’t going to be any easy book to read but I don’t think I knew it was going to affect me as much as it did.
When Andrea is in the kitchen, watching her friends in the pool, just after she’s made dinner, and her thoughts get away from her and she gets anxious and she has to remind herself to calm down, to breathe, to stay focused…I stopped short. I was reading before bed, at a sleepover with my friends, and suddenly I felt overwhelmed. How many times a week do I feel like this? Constantly. Being left alone in my thoughts is a scary situation for me because sometimes I can’t stop thinking. I start with something so simple and I just lose control of the thought so quickly until I’m suddenly at worse case scenario. I can’t breathe, I can’t control my thoughts and suddenly I’m in a panic. I have to constantly stop myself from getting to that point. That scene with Andrea in the kitchen felt so familiar. I stopped reading for the night and went to bed.
Yesterday, I woke up and had a great day with my friends. We made shirts to pay tribute to a Cora Carmack book we like, we went and watched the USA soccer game and the NBA finals at Buffalo Wild Wings, and we just had a blast. By the time I got home, I was exhausted and ready to fall into bed. But I was also ready to finish Scorched so I did so.
And let me tell you this: I love this book. Immediately after I read it and marked it read on GoodReads, I gave it five stars. I’ll give it five stars on every website I possibly can. But I will say this: I won’t review it. Not completely, not like I usually do. Because now I know why this was such an insanely hard book for you to write. But it was a very hard book for me to read.
I suffer from an anxiety disorder, one not unlike the one that Andrea suffers in the book. Our disorders differ, and we both have very different ways of coping with it but the way she thinks, the incredible amount of self-doubt she has and the panic attacks she suffers…it all feels incredibly familiar and real. I’m a happy person, I’m a confident person. But my brain…its a little messed up sometimes and there’s not a whole bunch I can do about it sometimes. Sometimes a thought gets away from me and suddenly I’m panicking and I can’t breathe and the world disappears and a thought that started off as “I wonder if I’ll have time to get myself food before work today” has suddenly morphed into “I’m going to die some day and I don’t want to”. That’s how my mind works sometimes and its scary as hell.
Andrea has that significant panic attack in the book, and the description of it felt so real. Incredibly real. So real that I cried, a lot, and I got very anxious. I didn’t have a full fledged panic attack but the panic attack she suffered in the book felt so real that I got incredibly worked up, and I had to wind down a bit. I don’t blame you or anything for causing that, ha, so please don’t think that. Circumstances in my life at the moment have led to my panic and my anxiety to be a little higher than normal lately. Its totally okay. In fact, I was insanely impressed at how incredibly accurate and familiar that panic attack felt. You wrote it perfectly. If it hurt even half as much to write it as it did to read it, I really do understand why this book was so hard to write. I messaged a friend of mine that I know suffers from anxiety too and he helped to talk me down until I could continue reading the book.
But then came the rest of the book. I don’t want to write too much of it in detail because I’m publishing this publicly and my followers might read it and might want to read your book and I want to give them a chance to read it without the spoiler thing getting in the way. But I will say this: as much as the descriptions of her panic attacks affected me, the rest of the book did so as well. Andrea has a lot to deal with other than getting her anxiety under control. She has an addiction and that’s a huge thing for her. For me, what felt familiar, was the sort of thoughts she had. The way she felt she was expected to give things to guys because what else could they possibly want from her. The way she felt that maybe she wasn’t actually deserving of love. The way she felt like she was disappointing everyone because she kept changing her mind and couldn’t make up her mind. The way she felt like no one could ever completely love her when they found out how “messed up” she was. Those feelings…I try to hide them and push them aside as much as possible but they are there, they are there all the time and I felt so in touch with Andrea every single time she thought them. I knew exactly where she was coming from.
The later bits of the book, after the incident happens, when she goes to get help…that is when I really truly fell in love with this book. Because Andrea getting help and slowly putting the pieces of her life back together, figuring out where she was strong and where she needed help…that was so full of hope and light and it felt good to read it. It felt like you were handing hope over to me, Jennifer, and it felt incredible. While that bad part of my brain wanted to tell me “Well, of course its worked out, of course she’s loved, of course people still care about her despite the mess she’s made, its a book and its fiction and we control the outcome…”, the good part of my brain said, no, you’re wrong, Sara. Yes, its fiction but so much of fiction is based in reality. If Andrea could get herself together, take care of herself, and live her life despite the fact that she has this problem, and she can find friends and family and a boyfriend who could love her with this challenge, so can you. You gave me that hope. Its not easy to always believe those things but you really helped into giving me that hope and I know that whenever I spiral into those sort of thoughts, that I’ll remind myself of Andrea and how she got through so I can too.
This letter ended up being way longer than I seriously meant it to be but it all boils down to this: thank you for writing this book. As someone who suffers from this kind of disorder, thank you so much. Too many people in this world ignore the sicknesses that they can’t see with their eyes. I’ve had too many people tell me that mental diseases and illnesses aren’t real and it kills me to hear it every time when its so incredibly real to me. Its mean so much to see a character suffer through something like this, if only to show others how real this is and what a struggle, internally and externally, it can be, every single day. Thank you for writing it so accurately, for making those panic attacks and those anxious thoughts so real that for a moment I really did forget that I was reading a book. Maybe that’ll give an insight to people who aren’t familiar with this how insanely scary it can be sometimes. Thanks for giving us a voice, thanks for giving us and especially me hope and just…thank you so much for writing this book. It means a lot to read about characters like me and you don’t often read a book about a girl with anxiety and panic and I’m really glad I finally got to. I’ll always keep reading your books, but after this, I know I never will forget this one in particular. I’m so glad there is a voice out there in fiction that represents the many of us that go through this sort of thing. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
Sara E. Santana
What A Nerd Girl Says
Update: I had to share this response. Because it simultaneously made me smile and cry. Because JLA is badass and awesome :)