This volume is truly a must-read for anyone who struggles with a mental disorder or someone who finds comfort in daily structure. Forney addresses readers with the tone of a caring friend, and her approach will likely make her fans eager for more grounding advice.
Rock Steady is pragmatically structured around specific topics, which only occasionally are accompanied by witty narrative segments. Still, the humorous narratives can be the best part ... Aside from her illustrations, Forney’s writing style gets her message across: she does not coddle her readers, nor does she overwhelm them with complex medical terminology ... Still, even without a gripping narrative arc, Rock Steady achieves its goals in a brilliant manner. It might not be engrossing, but it will be easy and comforting to consult for some issue-specific advice and relief.
While it’s drawn from her own experience with bipolar, most of it is applicable to anyone with a mood disorder; in fact, it has chapters that would be useful for anyone, like one entirely dedicated to insomnia. It has everything from practical advice on funding your mental health care to track listings of mixtapes to help with different moods ... Rock Steady, though, is a practical guide. It’s impossible to gauge how well it succeeds without asking if it’s useful, or if it’s not. All I can say is that I found it useful, and I imagine many others will too.
Her writing is unpretentious, occasionally goofy and manifestly replete with love for her fellow humans. Her art is full of love, too; her rich, swooping line seems to cradle the reader's eye ... But what really distinguishes Rock Steady isn't its thoroughness, it's Forney's personality. Only she would think to design merit badges for all the different phases of treatment ... And, of course, only Forney would include such delicious cartoons. Her layouts deftly balance information and fun. Even her font exudes warmth. Forney makes her approach seem like the only way to write about depression — or about anything. Rock Steady isn't just a book about 'my bipolar life,' as the subtitle says. It's a book about life.
Artistically, Ellen Forney has it all ... The openness and honesty of her approach also make it easier for neurotypical readers to identify with those suffering from mood disorders, demystifying the condition and clarifying how they can best help and support loved ones with bipolar disorder ... She deploys her simple, approachable style sparingly, sometimes just doing spot illustrations that turn intimidating clinical concepts into cute, fuzzy creatures or humanizing a quote from a medical authority by providing a thumbnail caricature of the speaker, invariably looking friendly. When she draws a narrative vignette, it rarely goes longer than a page ... Rock Steady is leagues more inviting than a traditional prose book. As a broadly accessible work, it advances understanding and acceptance of mood disorders and does as much as can be done to defang a terrifying beast.
Forney’s artwork is the perfect delivery vehicle for this message. Her lines are so soft and clean and inviting that readers are drawn to them. You can’t see a Forney figure from afar without craning your head to inspect it more closely. These inky curves, emotive figures, and dynamic actions are so easily relatable that audiences can’t help but be receptive. Even a topic as fraught with stigma as the relationship between mood disorders and art feels approachable when Forney discusses it in ink on paper ... Rock Steady should appeal to any creative person. Forney’s appeal to routine and stability is a whiff of fresh air in the fetid self-pitying swamp of creativity self-help books. Anyone who follows her advice about containing drama and learning how to cultivate a sturdy support network will be better off in the long run. But the audiences at which Forney is taking direct aim - bipolar readers, and those suffering from other mood disorders - stand to learn the most from Rock Steady. Simply put, this is a book that can save lives.
Forney effortlessly conveys her message in clear, succinct writing combined with energetic but simple visuals to illustrate difficult concepts. What results is a balanced, uncluttered resource, infused with empathy, humor, and encouragement. This guide is mental health literacy at its best, making it a must-read for those with mood disorders and their loved ones, health professionals, and anyone looking to gain a greater understanding of an often misunderstood but common condition.