With language on social media being a big promoter of poetry’s accessibility, Daley-Ward tackles difficult topics like sexual abuse, addiction, death, and bigotry by describing her experiences in a nuanced yet extremely straightforward manner. Given that most of the memoir reveals the perspective of a child growing into an addict, Daley-Ward’s stream of consciousness doesn’t euphemize harsh truths ... Despite her use of uncomplicated language, Daley-Ward continually incorporates gut-wrenching imagery in her work, and...she packages heightened emotion into just one or two lines ... poignant distinctions between the imagination and reality...make Daley-Ward’s work so difficult to put down. Moreover, it’s Daley-Ward’s ability to provide a lyrical account of her seemingly dark life that sheds the memoir with a soft, intimate light that only a poet’s self-analysis can provide ... We don’t just grow up with Daley-Ward in this memoir—we grow up with the terrible as well. It is a haunting presence in her life, perhaps an imaginary friend. It is cruel, toxic, impossible to get rid off.
Yrsa Daley-Ward’s newest book...does not run across the pages like a traditional work of creative nonfiction. Nor does it fall squarely into a hybrid/prose poetry format ... Yet, even though we (the readers) do not have a template for this style of memoir, there isn’t a single moment in which the prose, which often breaks off into line breaks, sometimes split into two crutches on the page—there isn’t a single moment where that sort of lineation doesn’t make emotional and intellectual sense ... The Terrible doesn’t fall prey to the trope of art wherein a character finds out they are queer and then lives life forever doomed. Instead, the characters in the memoir triumph in the middle, and sometimes because of the tales of their lives.
There may be truth in this memoir, but not in the traditional sense. But then, her writing is anything but traditional ... The Daley-Ward in the book reinvents herself several times; her story involves drugs, depression, sex work and modelling. She has devised a form that combines first and third person, poetry and prose, upside-down printing, and wincingly honest streams-of-consciousness about sexuality and physicality that sometimes make for difficult reading ... Some readers will be put off by the start-stop nature of this extraordinary narrative. Others will be thrilled by its honesty.