Tag Archives: psychological

Broadchurch (2013 TV show)

ITV/Created by Chris Chibnallbroadchurch

My rating: 4.5 of 5

When the body of 11-year-old local Danny Latimer is found murdered on the beach, the small seaside town of Broadchurch is torn apart. Suspicious fly madly as neighbors who have known each other their entire lives begin to mistrust each other and deeply kept secrets begin being unearthed. Local policewoman and close friend of the Latimers, DS Ellie Miller finds herself assigned to the case, working under the leadership of an outsider, DI Alec Hardy. Not an easy task, as Hardy challenges Miller to doubt everything she knows, to look at her friends and neighbors with a cold cynical eye. But as the two watch the rifts growing in the tightly knit community, they vow to do whatever it takes to catch Danny’s murderer, whoever it may be.

I have to admit, I originally only tried watching Broadchurch because David Tennant has a starring role (which he performs admirably). I was very impressed, and by more than just Tennant’s acting. Chris Chibnall’s work in crafting a murder mystery in a small, contemporary British seaside town is impeccable. The suspense is kept up really well, feeding the audience clues while keeping the identity of the murderer a close secret. Even more impressive than the mystery (to me at least) was the way in which the show portrayed the effects of the murder and subsequent investigation on such a small community, as well as on Danny’s own family. The psychological and dramatic development was really well done, touching and unsettling without being overdone. I think a huge factor in how the show turned out is the excellent casting work and character development that was put into it. Each character plays an important role, and the actors chosen for the roles are perfect. Of course, Tennant makes for a great detective–cool and cynical, with a dark past. And Olivia Colman’s role as Ellie is a perfect counterpart, sweet and fiery and all too trusting. And Arthur Darvill as the local vicar–I swear, I would watch an entire show just devoted to Arthur Darvill being the local vicar, it’s fantastic. As an added bonus, Eve Myles joins the cast in the second season; I love her work. On the whole, I didn’t enjoy the second season as much as the first–the first being devoted to the criminal investigation of Danny’s murder while the second is split between the trial and the re-opening of Hardy’s dark previous case, the Sandbrook murders. Both series are excellent, I just felt that the second series wasn’t quite as strong as the first. Still, for anyone who enjoys crime fiction (or a good British drama), I would highly recommend Broadchurch.

Written by Chris Chibnall & Louise Fox/Directed by James Strong & Euros Lyn/Starring David Tennant & Olivia Colman/Music by Ólafur Arnalds

Note: Currently this TV series consists of two seasons of 8 episodes each. I’ve heard rumor of a third season, but haven’t seen anything particularly official or final yet.

 

 

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Challenger Deep

Author: Neal Shustermanchallenger deep

My rating: 5 of 5

“Caden Bosch is on a ship that’s headed for the deepest point on Earth: Challenger Deep, the southern part of the Marianas Trench. Caden Bosch is a brilliant high school student whose friends are starting to notice his odd behavior. Caden Bosch is designated the ship’s artist in residence, to document the journey with images. Caden Bosch pretends to join the school track team but spends his days walking for miles, absorbed by the thoughts in his head. Caden Bosch is split between his allegiance to the captain and the allure of mutiny. Caden Bosch is torn.” (I’m using the Goodreads summary here, because it’s perfect and I don’t want to change anything.)

I was absolutely blown away by Challenger Deep. I mean, I always enjoy Neal Shusterman’s writing, but this particular volume is something special even for him. It clearly comes from a very personal place, as he mentions in the afterword that a lot of the ideas come from his son’s own experiences with mental illness. And that personal connection really shows, inviting the reader into the world as it appears to someone struggling with a brain chemistry that isn’t working normally. I still can’t say I understand . . . I don’t think anyone who hasn’t actually lived there can really understand. But I can definitely be more accepting and willing to try to understand for having read this book (which is really helpful since I’m dealing with mental illness of a different sort with my Grandfather who has Alzheimer’s). I loved the was Shusterman wove together Caden’s “real world” experiences with life on the “ship” on its way to Challenger Deep. As you go, it becomes more and more clear that the “ship” is just another way in which he sees the world, you begin to see parallels between actually people, events, and choices. But because it’s presented in that way, you get this additional, interesting story that not only increases the reader’s understanding but is also really engaging in its own surreal sort of way. The writing, in Caden’s first-person view, is brilliant and easy to read in a strange, surreal way, even though the events are constantly flipping between “realities” sometimes even within the chapter. A nice plus also is that the chapters are really short, so it feels like a quicker read–and it’s easy to read a chapter or two between other things, even if you don’t have much time. I think I would highly recommend Challenger Deep to anyone, and particularly to anyone who has someone in their life who is dealing with mental illness.

 

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A Girl on the Shore

Mangaka: Inio Asanoa girl on the shore

My rating: 2.5 of 5

Warning: Mature Audience/18+

Koume, a middle-school girl aching from being used and abandoned by the popular Misaki. Keisuke, a middle-school boy whose parents are never home and whose brother committed suicide a while back. The two come together again and again, using each other, seeking something more, something satisfying, something bigger. And while it’s uncertain whether they’ll find what they’re looking for in each other, it’s true that their relationship will change both of them in ways they never expected, although whether that’s a good thing or not remains to be seen.

I’ve really enjoyed Inio Asano’s manga in the past, particularly the well-loved Solanin. From the back cover and the reviews I’ve seen, I guess I was expecting A Girl on the Shore to be something similar, although of course I expected it to have some more mature content, being rated 18+. I was quite disappointed to find the majority of the book is exactly that: mature content. There are all the elements of a great story present, and in other circumstances with the proper development I could have easily rated those elements a solid 4.5 of 5. Koume and Keisuke are both interesting, complex characters that tell us something about ourselves. Keisuke has all sorts of stuff going on with his parents and his deceased brother that could have been developed more. Koume not only has permissive parents and an unsatisfactory relationship with Misaki, she also has an interesting female friend in her class and an old childhood crush/friend which were all present but needed more development. The whole idea of feeling incomplete and looking for something bigger in life is something I think we all can relate to, something that could have really been developed. And may I just mention, Asano-san’s art is gorgeous and life-life in an amazing way. So why a 2.5 instead of a 4.5? The reason is that all of these amazing aspects of this manga are only sparsely developed, giving way throughout to huge sections of very explicit sexual content between these two kids. Now I realize that they’re having sex and trying to find something important in that relationship is an important part of the story development, but there are reasonable limits, even for an 18+ manga. And for me, A Girl on the Shore crossed those limits, not only because it had too much explicit sexual content but perhaps even more so because it left important story elements relatively undeveloped to make room for that content. Disappointing in the extreme, although you may find it otherwise. I’m sorry to say that I can’t really recommend this manga although I generally love this mangaka’s work.

 

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The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil

Author/Illustrator: Stephen CollinsThe Gigantic Beard that was Evil

My rating: 5 of 5

Dave lives on the island of Here in a neat, tidy house on a neat, tidy street. Every day he follows the same, orderly routine. In fact, he detests disorder, as do all the denizens of Here. But one day everything changes for Dave, one day all the disorder that haunts his nightmares seems to burst forth from his nearly bald body to form a beard. An enormous beard that won’t stop growing no matter how it’s trimmed and treated. A beard so disorderly and gigantic that is seems ready to devour the entirety of Here. So of course, the people of Here do what they have to do; they deem the beard “evil”.

I really enjoyed The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil much more than I expected to. It felt like a mix of Shaun Tan, Dr. Seuss, and The Stanley Parable, not that that makes any sense but it’s true nonetheless. There’s exactly that sort of combination of silliness paired with a deep, unsettling underlying tension. Because this story really is a parable about us all, not one that I could spell out the moral to but one that’s valuable to consider nevertheless. It’s a scary but important reflection on human nature. The textured, stylized art and the sporadic, sometimes-rhymed writing work remarkably well with the theme. Actually, the entire graphic novel is just fitted together in every detail in a way that just works. If you’re at all of a philosophical bent, I would definitely recommend The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil.

 

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Kokoro Connect Hito Random

Kokoro Connect vol 1Author: Sadanatsu Anda

Illustrator: Shiromizakana

Kokoro Connect (light novel), vol. 1

My rating: 4 of 5

The five members of the Cultural Research Club were pretty much thrown together into this nonsensical club through a variety of circumstances, but in spite of that they generally have fun together. But  Taichi, Iori, Inaba, Aoki, and Yui get to know each other in ways they never expected when an unexplained phenomenon strikes their club. In short, they find that their personalities (memories? souls? essences?) will randomly switch between the bodies of other club members. It’s so ridiculous that it’s hard for even them to believe at first. Certainly it’s not something they could even try to explain to parents or teachers–what could they possibly say? Thus, they make the best of the situation, but even with the greatest care they can take any number of deep secrets are inevitably going to be revealed. Will it even be possible to look each other in the eye with all that’s happening?

I really enjoyed the first volume of the Kokoro Connect light novel. I’d heard so many good things about the anime that I really wanted to read the original story, and it was definitely worthwhile. At first it seems like a silly (in a good sense) high-school story–people with overdone characters, lots of jokes, that sort of thing. And even in the serious parts, some of this atmosphere is preserved. But the fact is that there are serious parts. Anda-sensei tries to really delve into how disconcerting this sort of phenomenon would actually be, how it would affect your very sense of self over time if you kept switching between different bodies, different lives. Although far from perfect, I though this aspect of the story was well considered–it certainly sparks greater consideration in the reader. The characters–besides just being great characters–are well suited for this particular story I think; in any case I enjoyed them. If you enjoy light novels that mix high-school antics with serious psychological and philosophical considerations, Kokoro Connect Hito Random might be a fun read for you.

Note: I have to confess, I read the fan translation from Baka-Tsuki for this one. I’m longing for (and actively working towards) the day when I can read the original Japanese novel, but I’m not there yet. Although the translation here is a smidge rough in a few places, overall it’s quite readable, and the translators do a lot to make the “someone in someone else’s body” thing actually readable. I’m still holding out hope that Kokoro Connect will get an official English translation, especially since the manga has been released.

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The Dead Zone

Author: Stephen Kingthe dead zone

My rating: 4 of 5

WARNING: MATURE AUDIENCE

If you know something’s going to happen, are you morally bound to do something about it? Johnny Smith never imagined considering that sort of moral conundrum the night he took his girl Sarah to the fair. They were just having a good time . . . until a tragic accident later that night left Johnny in a coma. Nearly five years later, he awakens to find his world irrevocably altered: his girl married, his youth vanished, his health crippled. And the strangest changes to his mind. Johnny Smith finds that memories related to locations are a “dead zone” in his brain, something he can’t bring into focus. But as if to compensate for this loss, he also finds that he sometimes gets what can only be termed “psychic flashes” when he touches things–memories of pasts that he never knew, awareness of present events that are deeply-kept secrets, and worst of all, knowledge of future events and the corresponding responsibility of that knowledge.

The Dead Zone was a fascinating read from a psychological and moral standpoint; it’s more introspective than some of King’s writing (although I am regularly impressed by the way his books tend more towards the psychological and less towards the thriller–a very positive thing in my thinking). Johnny Smith’s character was a good choice in that he’s a “good guy” from a religious heritage, and although not religious himself, he has strong moral feelings about life–but he’s also conflicted in a lot of ways. That makes for some very interesting psychological development. Plus, he’s the sort of guy who just wants a normal life; he’s totally not interested in the whole “psychic” gig. King’s exploration of the effects of brain damage and the resultant flashes on Smith’s daily thought processes in interesting also. Additionally, I think he did a good job progressing the plot through foreshadowing and hints without there ever being a great deal of “action” per se until the very end. In spite of that, I never found the story boring–okay, I consumed the entire 400+ pages within a couple days. Without giving away details, I thought the ending was more Carrie-esque, while still fitting the rest of the story; I guess you could say it was the inevitable conclusion of Smith’s condition. In any case, for adult readers who enjoy a good psychological thriller, I would highly recommend The Dead Zone.

NOTE: I forgot to add this above, but I found his treatment of the 1970’s U.S. to be quite interesting as well, especially his treatment of the political environment of the time.

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More Happy Than Not

Author: Adam SilveraMore Happy than Not

My rating: 4.5 of 5

WARNING: MATURE AUDIENCE

Every life is a mixture of good stuff and bad stuff. Aaron Soto is no exception, and he tries to be happy with what he’s got. But sometimes it really seems the good just isn’t enough to make up for the bad. Sure, he’s got an incredible girlfriend, a job, a home–but he’s also got the memories of his father’s suicide, his own attempted suicide, poverty, friends who don’t really care. Sometimes it’s so overwhelming that the memory-altering procedure offered by the up-and-coming Leteo Institute really seems like a good option. But when Thomas comes into Aaron’s life, always knowing just what to say, things begin to change . . . for better or for worse.

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I picked up More Happy Than Not, and in a lot of senses, this isn’t a book I would usually read. But I have to admit, it pulled me in, right from the first few pages–and the great pacing and interesting story continued throughout. The writing style is very engaging, a personable first-person taste of Aaron. And while his story is certainly sad, it never gets depressing to the point that I didn’t want to continue reading–a balancing act that takes some talent to pull off. There are a lot of things about Aaron that I don’t really care for (like the way he can’t stay committed to a relationship), but the transparent depiction of the conflicts he goes through within himself are honest and moving. And the struggles he deals with in realizing and dealing with his sexuality in a number of senses is eye-opening. I do have to say, the cyberpunk Leteo thing threw me when it became a bigger part of Aaron’s story, although it had kind of been hinted at right from the beginning; I guess I’m just blind in that sense. And the ending really threw me, but at the same time, it works quite well. Finally a word of warning: this is an older YA book, and there is ample sex, drugs, language, violence, etc. But for a mature reader looking for an engaging but challenging story, I think More Happy Than Not is a great choice.

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