... a powerful mix of biography, exploration of mental illness, and fragments of a nightmare journal of the space between girlhood and womanhood ... Some parts could be confused with fiction, when Escoria is writing about hallucinations, but the narrative is full of letters, notes, and even patient logs that make it more of a detailed memoir, spanning two tumultuous years in Escoria's life ... an honest, harrowing book that deals with addiction and mental illness while also showing the changing ways in which teenagers experience life. Escoria never sugarcoats any of it. Instead, she shares everything, showing readers how humans can be broken in strange ways that no amount of therapy and medication can fix. It also offers a glimpse into the nightmarish lives of those with profoundly damaged psyches ... Escoria earns the readers' trust early, and that helps her story feel like a continuous gut punch, a 336-page attack on the senses that makes readers suffer whenever Escoria suffers, until they're as confused as she is ... a necessary read ... a heartfelt, raw, powerfully told story about surviving mental illness and learning to cope with inner demons. Escoria is a talented writer who's not afraid to write her truth, even when it will scrape viciously at the souls of readers. This book hurt, but by the last page all I wanted was to give the author a hug and thank her for sharing.
... a worthy new entry in that pantheon of deconstruction. Told in a series of fragments spanning the teenage years in which bipolar Juliet’s life unravels, it is a narrative that insists on its own severity ... Juliet’s level of general intensity can make Martin Amis characters read like prudes ... Self as trauma is evident in the novel’s bones. Reading her staccato, impressionistic fragments is like mainlining chaos: Juliet’s life has not been polite enough for chapters ... This collapse of demographic boundaries is one of trauma’s only gifts, and one that becomes increasingly evident as the narrative progresses.
Narrating between the experiences of Juliet’s past self and the hindsight of her future self, Escoria weaves a story that isn’t just relatable to those with mental illness, but really illustrates what it’s like for those readers who don’t have it ... Escoria’s writing traces the scars in this book with a gentle fingertip, capturing the moments with a dream-like clarity, watching them unfold, knowing what the consequences will be ... The juxtaposition of smiling elite alongside the 'Palms Trash' (as her group of friends comes to be known) is both striking and refreshing.
I struggled to write this review. Not because Juliet the Maniac is undeserving of praise. But how to honor the glimmering beauty of its teenage voice, sharpened by pain, without amplifying the siren calls of self-harm and suicidal ideation that fell over author Juliet Escoria during the onset of bipolar disorder, which she fictionalized for her debut novel? ... Novels that consider the unflinching question of whether to die often bend toward showing us how to live. To read Juliet the Maniac is to confront our shared faith in the flawed logic of life’s meaning, and by so doing, become worthier of our humanity.
[Escoria's] writing of these things has never been romantic or representative, avoiding the all too common fatality of parodying pain as untouchable. Nor has her writing ever fetishized mental health struggles and teenage rebellion. Not one of her books caters for the fragility and passivity of others. Instead, within each, Escoria slices open her past, present, and future, writing with a remorseless and unwavering sense of the real i.e. feeling. But Juliet the Maniac is the first book in which Escoria’s presence is more than an impression ... In general, the format of the novel is inconsistent — as is the fragmentary nature of remembering or recalling...However, there is never a sense of things being 'out of order.' Indeed, Escoria does a wonderful job of creating a sense of linearity. The stories flow, but like dreams: you’re not sure how you got to where you are but it feels right all the same ... Escoria’s use of recollection as methodology lends a complex multiplicity to this book ... This book is Juliet Escoria’s story being set free. And like how Juliet finds recognition through the lives of others, I too found myself within this heart-wrenching novel.
Escoria’s descriptions are moving in their absences and silences ... Juliet the Maniac conveys the enforced distance of a society that refuses to care, or care adequately, but also the critical distance of a teenager developing her own worldview. It isn’t the drugs that matter (or it isn’t only the drugs). It’s the electricity that pulsates from within the prose. That fire burning inside. What Juliet the Maniac manages to convey so well is the development of the teenage brain revealed in the moments where Juliet goes from trying not to feel, to feeling everything, to feeling nothing, and then to feeling something else, something 'realer than real.'
Escoria here delivers a coming-of-age novel about teenage life and mental illness that’s also an explosive work of autofiction. With bold honesty, she tells an unforgettable story that’s unhindered by romanticism in its unabashed portrayal of Juliet’s darkest struggles.
... wildly gripping ... The disorientation and alienation of mental illness becomes an interactive textual presence – at times poetic, at others darkly comic, and often both ... a work of frightening charisma – effortless and unbearable, poetic and hilarious – a plunge into a disintegrating identity told by way of lapses – of judgement, of lucidity, of hope. Juliet is continually swallowed up by the schisms of chemical imbalance, and her author counterpart is persistently fishing her out to tell her story.
Readers are immersed in the girl’s state of mind, but can also see what her experience looks like from the outside ... The contrast between these insertions and the narrated passages is jarring; it forces the reader to move between deeply interior and distant views of Juliet’s life, each of which seems to call the other’s accuracy into question ... In treating [Juliet's] circumstances as fiction, she regains some of the autonomy [she's] lost.
Astutely, Escoria depicts not only the pain and confusion of mental illness, but also its daily humiliations and inconveniences ... The second half of the book takes place after Juliet’s latter suicide attempt, and it presents a more compelling narrative arc and immersive setting than the first half ... Juliet the Maniac is a wild ride of a book, and I was rooting for Juliet every page along the way.
Escoria is especially adept at portraying the fraught and, at times, volatile friendships of troubled teenage girls dealing with a multitude of disorders and diagnoses ... Every so often, Escoria punctures the narrative with 'A Letter from the Future.' These chapters clue the reader into ways the story differs from how Escoria lived it ... a howl of despair, but one that needs to be heard in order to understand afflictions such as depression, bi-polar disorder and schizophrenia, as well as destigmatize those who suffer from them.
... searing ... Escoria rejects a traditional structure, opting instead to tell the story in vignettes reminiscent of Eve Babitz’s work, including handwritten notes, official reports and logs, and other paraphernalia from that era. The specificity lends the novel an immersive feel. Interspersed with letters from a future Juliet, who offers a glimmer of possibility if not exactly blind optimism, Escoria’s novel is a moving and intimate portrait of girlhood and mental illness.
Descriptions of Juliet’s hallucinations are vivid, fantastic imaginings ... At times it becomes a numbing catalog of Juliet’s teenage parties and hangouts ... Juliet’s story is most compelling when she is contemplating her future or breaking through her own narrative to directly address the reader ... A vivid if sometimes-repetitive rendering of mental illness and disaffected youth.