Published by Harper Teen on August 16th 2007
Have you ever had the "out-of-control" dream? The one where you know you're not crazy, but no one around you--not your parents, not your teachers, not even the authorities--will listen to you? For sixteen-year-old Brit Hemphill, the out-of-control dream comes true when her dad enrolls her at Red Rock, a bogus treatment center that claims to cure rebellious teen girls. At Red Rock, Brit is forced into therapy, and her only hope of getting her life back is in the hands of an underqualified staff of counselors. Brit's dad thinks Red Rock can save her, but the truth is it's doing more harm than good.
No girl could survive Red Rock alone--but at a treatment center where you earn privileges for ratting out your peers, it's hard to know who you can trust. For Brit, everything changes when she meets V, Bebe, Martha, and Cassie, four girls who keep her from going over the edge. Together they'll hold on to their sanity and their sisterhood while trying to keep their Red Rock reality from becoming a full-on nightmare.
Gayle Forman has been on my TBR list for a loooong time so I jumped at the chance at participating in a readalong of her books. I had zero expecations going into Sisters in Sanity but I was pleasantly surpised at how readable and compelling this book was and am a firm Forman fan for life!
Sisters In Sanity is the story of Brit, a teenage girl, plays in a band, dyes her hair, isn’t her stepmother’s biggest fan- typical teenager. So when her dad tells her they’re going on a family trip to the Grand Canyon and dumps her at Red Rock, a rehabilitation centre for troubled teens Brit’s world is turned upside down.
This book infuriated me. Not because it was bad, it was an excellent book but the subject matter and behaviour of the characters was horrifying at times particularly because you know that girls like Brit are being forced into similar situations every day. Brit is diagnosed with Opposition Defiant Disorder otherwise known as being a normal teen in my humble opinion. She is forced into humiliating situations, coerced into participating in confrontational therapy which involves tearing a person’s character apart until they crumble and denied any contact with the outside world. It’s clear from the word go that Red Rock is a messed up excuse for a therapy centre run by cowboys.
Brit comes together with a group of girls who become a vital and stable support system that gets them through the craziness. Each girl has a distinct personality and brings a different facet to the group calling themselves – Sisters In Sanity – they resolve to survive and take down Red Rock.
This is a very character driven book and Forman really does an excellent job of shaping each character into a real, fleshed out person. I don’t think I’ve ever had such visceral reactions to fictional people before. Particularly Brit’s dad who has to be one of the most infuriating and spineless characters I’ve ever come across. Throughout the book we get glimpses of Brit’s past, her mom who is bi-polar and her descent into “madness” as she refuses to take her meds and ends up leaving her family. I do understand the fear Brit’s dad has about his daughter and his worries she will end up the same way but I feel that he doesn’t fully understand the consequences of his actions and I would have preferred to that developed more.
The real heart of the story is the girls, I loved their relationship with each other and the deep understanding they had. Sisters In Sanity gave me a real insight into the abuse of trust that happens every day while institutions such as Red Rock are allowed to exist. I really loved Brit, I thought she was a wonderful well-rounded character and her sweet, innocent romance with Jed, her bandmate was butterfly inducing and one of my favourite parts of the book.
Overall- Sisters In Sanity tackles difficult subject matter with sensitivity and warmth, creating wonderful characters and a story of hope, friendship and courage.