Review: The Law of Loving Others by Kate Axelrod

The Law of Loving OthersTitle: The Law of Loving Others
Author: Kate Axelrod
Published: January 8th 2015 (Razorbill)
Pages: 240
Genres/Themes: Young Adult, Mental Illness, Family, Romance
Format: E-book
Source: Borrowed (Library)
Rating: Four Stars
Goodreads Summary:
Terrified by the realization that she could lose her mother to schizophrenia, Emma spirals out of control over the course of one winter break.

The car glows with that careless feeling before the freedom of winter break as Emma drives home from boarding school with her boyfriend, Daniel. But when Emma calls to tell her mom she’ll be home before dinner, something is wrong. Just hours after Emma returns home, she realizes that her mom is suffering from a schizophrenic break. Emma’s entire childhood and identity is called into question. How could the woman who sent huge care packages of candy to sleep away camp be the same woman duct taping their windows to keep out the voices in her head? In her search for answers, Emma lands on a terrible possibility: schizophrenia is genetic. Emma could have only a few more years of sanity. Emma could end up just like her mom.

In the span of just one winter break, Emma’s life falls apart. Her relationships alter forever and she is forced to see the hard reality in a line from Anna Karenina: “The law of loving others could not be discovered by reason, because it is unreasonable.” 

Purchase: Barnes and Noble / Amazon / Book Depository
Cover Thoughts: I really like the cover of this. I like the simplicity of it and the colors. I love how “loving” has a glow around it”.
My relationship with The Law of Loving Others was definitely a rocky one. In the beginning I didn’t know what to think of the writing style, but as the book went on, I began to love it.
The biggest reason I needed to read The Law of Loving Others was to see how well it dealt with the family portrayal for someone having a family member with a mental illness. Ever since I listened to the musical Next To Normal, I’ve been so attracted to literature that deals heavily with mental illnesses in a home and how it affects not just the person with the illness, but also those around them, their friends, family, etc. The Law of Loving Others definitely didn’t disappoint me, it was great seeing how worried Emma was then caring for her mother. It was interesting to see Emma confront her dad about her mom, not wanting to do anything “special” since her mom was sick and not understanding how her dad could. Her dad had sixteen years to come to terms with her mom’s illness, Emma had one winter break, roughly a month. 
What drew me to The Law of Loving Others is that the main character, Emma, finds out her mother has schizophrenia. This leads Emma to worrying about whether she has schizophrenia too and if it’s just waiting to take her over. As you can imagine, Emma’s very distressed about this as it was the last thing she expected to come home too. She begins to analyze everything she says and thinks, is it really “her” her or is it the schizophrenia? Is she mentally ill as well? Is her illness just hiding away until it strikes at her?
I thought this was so realistic because Emma’s caught completely off guard, how can a person prepare for that? In the beginning, she doesn’t make the wisest choices, she drinks, she does drugs, she uses self-destructive behavior as an outlet.
“You can’t just start that like that” and then I remembered, that IS how self-harm starts. Unexpected, not at the best times (there is no best time) and never in the right frame of mind.
I was really bothered by her drinking and drugs. Initially, it was a big turn off for me, though it was only occasional use. Then I remembered something again, she’s a teenager, she’s been away at boarding school for three months and she JUST came home expecting to see the mother she always knew. How was she supposed to act? No, they weren’t the best, most thought out decisions, but when life throws something at you that you’re not prepared for, you’re probably not going to be thinking the best at times.
So by the end, I understood Emma a lot better. I definitely felt for her and what she was going through. I loved how in addition to dealing with her mom’s illness, how she worried about how she would turn out. Finding out a parent has a mental illness, especially one believed to be slightly genetic, can definitely make a person worry. “Do I have it?”, “Am I crazy?”, “I might end up crazy”. This reminded me of the character Natalie, also sixteen, in Next To Normal who had the same fear and like Emma, used drugs to escape her mother’s illness and her own problems. I loved how the mental illness was the very center of the book and it affected everything Emma did. I liked how she was constantly worried and questioning her sanity and wanting reassurance. There were a lot of thought provoking questions involved about mental illness and love, I loved that.
As Emma comes to grips with her mom’s schizophrenia, she examines her relationship with Daniel who lives a somewhat pampered life. Emma begins to wonder if her and Daniel are right for each other, if he’ll still love her if she has schizophrenia and if he’ll be there for her.  Later Emma meets Phil, a guy whose brother has bipolar and attracts her. I liked how Emma found someone she could relate to, but I’m not quite sure how well I actually liked this. Phil was an interesting character, I liked a lot of what he said, but his placement seemed to be a little too convenient. He definitely got in the middle of Emma and Daniel’s relationship even though they were already on the rocks.
This was where The Law of Loving Others was sort of losing me because of the characters actions again. Emma gets angry at Daniel for not texting or calling her back when she needs him to. He gets mad at her for not wanting to go to a party on New Years because her mother’s in the mental hospital. Their relationship was very back and forth in terms of fulfillment and wanting more. Emma wanted Daniel to be more for her, to do more for her and Daniel wanted Emma to let go and be fun again. I liked how in the beginning, there were already problems between Emma and Daniel, she mentions how he didn’t like reading, while she did and how he cancelled their plans and went out and doing questionable things with his friends. In spite of that, there were good parts about their relationship, he wasn’t pretentious and he made her laugh. I usually hate the “trope” with a couple having issues and to an extent, I hate that The Law of Loving Others had this, but on the other hand, it’s understandable because it’s not just a “feeling” Emma has. She knows they have a lot of things not in common and think about different things.
I loved how Emma wonders how her dad stayed with her mom, how her grandmother took her mom’s illness, how her friends felt years later. Emma definitely learned the “law” of loving others. There’s no rationality to it other than when you really love someone, you love them despite their illness or anything else. It isn’t logical and it can be hard learning to love someone whose changed from how you knew them.
What I think Axelrod did best in The Law of Loving Others is the mistakes that Emma made and all of her inner monologues. Those alone were very thought provoking and a little relatable. Emma was a flawed character, of course, with the drinking and drugs. She was also a confused and hurt character with the burning and relationship choices she made. I love how she got through all of that though to a somewhat stronger person. She’s still not okay with her mother being schizophrenia, she still has that fear that she will be too one day and she’s not sure where things stand romantically with her at all, but she’s learned. 
Aside from the mental illness focus, I loved in the beginning of The Law of Loving Others when Emma explains how exactly she ended up going to boarding school. It came after watching Dead Poets Society and School Ties, two movies involving boarding school, of course. I definitely related to this because I wanted to go to boarding school too when I was in the seventh grade. My reasons weren’t quite so…thought provoking, I’d loved the show Zoey 101 on Nickelodeon and thus my boarding school dreams sprouted. I never went to boarding school though, I found out it was extremely expensive. 
There were some things that really threw me off when reading, one of these things is the random interactions Emma has with children, both involving her phone. I wouldn’t have minded the interactions if maybe they’d been somewhat related to what was going on, but in the second encounter, Emma is somewhere with Phil and a girl suddenly asks if she has games on her phone. In the middle of this, Phil was talking to Emma about mental illness and it was just a bit awkwardly written. 
Another thing that wasn’t very well done were the sex scenes, they sort of faded to black and didn’t even have a build up. In one of the sex scenes it goes from the couple laying on a bed to then the two having had sex. It completely skipped over any sexual detail. Given the drug and drinking nature already mentioned in The Law of Loving Others a few times, I feel elaborating on these scenes wouldn’t have hurt anything. There is a friendship Emma has and I wish the two characters had more scenes together.
~Final Thoughts~
Although some things didn’t pan out as much as I wish they had, I really enjoyed The Law of Loving Others. It definitely involved quite a bit of reflection, but that’s not a negative thing at all. I love that Emma was flawed and made mistakes, even though I initially held these things against her. The mental illness was well portrayed and I only wish it had gone a bit deeper into Emma’s mother’s actions. I thought Emma was realistic with her actions and I loved her character development. She didn’t become perfect by any means, which is to be expected after only four weeks dealing with it. I loved how Anna Karenina fit into the book because the title is taken from that and the character is reading the book while all of this is going on. It plays a bit part in the story, I think, and I liked it a lot. 
~Do I Recommend?~
~Recommended For~
People curious about mental illness
People wanting more “adult” sounding fiction
~Will I Re-Read It?~
~Will I Buy It?~
Most likely.
~Memorable Quotes~
Winter in Pennsylvania was bleak, but still there was something beautiful in its nearly silent emptiness.”
“I felt as though I might be sick and I wondered if this was the moment that I’d look back on and know, irrefutably, that everything had changed. I wished that I could’ve somehow held onto and savored the ordinariness of the past few days.” 
“I groaned. “I hate that. I hate girls who hate girls.” 
“And this was something I would always wonder about—how the lines were drawn to define mental illness. When did a little depression become pathological? When did anxiety turn into something bigger, something greater and more cautionary about your own stability?” 

About Amber (YA Indulgences)

Amber is a 20-something woman who enjoys reading, writing, listening to music and taking walks. She has a book blog called YA Indulgences . She is still trying to figure out what she's doing with her life, but she's confident that time will tell. In the meantime she's heading towards the goal of becoming a renowned blogger. View all posts by Amber (YA Indulgences)

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