R.I.P. Eliza HartHot
Ellie suffers from claustrophobia and has been to more therapists than she can count on one hand. She looks fine from the outside, and often the teasing and tormenting from others is too much to take, especially when it comes from a younger sibling who is all the things she is not: athletic and cool and easy to like. Ellie thinks that getting out of New York City and moving to a boarding school in California where she is surrounded by the ocean and its open spaces will help to cure her.
Upon arriving, she discovers that her childhood best friend, Eliza Hart, is also a student there. This was Ellie’s best – and only – friend for years. They were friends before her claustrophobia took over her life. Ellie is eager to have a friend again after all these years where her claustrophobia has singled her out and left her feeling and being alone.
Unfortunately, Eliza Hart has a different idea and spreads vicious rumors about Ellie. While Eliza seems perfect in every way and cool without even trying, Ellie is awkward. The rumors that are spread force Ellie to be an outcast once again.
When Eliza is found dead, her friends are sure that Ellie did it, and Ellie is determined to find out what really happened to her one time bestie. An unlikely friend comes in the form of her suite mate and together they chase down leads, follow the buzz, and discover what really happened to Eliza Hart. The beauty of this tale is that Ellie realizes it is not her story to tell. She lives with the stigma that her former BFF placed on her, and she keeps her friend’s secret. Isn’t that what best friends do?
Sheinmel’s writing on what it’s like to suffer from claustrophobia – never to go higher than a few flights of stairs so as to stay closer to the ground, never to drive through a tunnel, never to get on the subway, never to be in a room that doesn’t have a window – paints a picture of how limiting the life of a claustrophobic can be.
The way the author weaves in the various storylines makes this a page-turner with everyone a suspect, and everyone knowing something about someone else. The characters are strong and dependable, even in their weakest moments. Their humanity shines through and sheds a light onto what mental illness could look like.
Mental illness manifests differently for each person who suffers from it and often the person who is suffering is holding onto their own beliefs, hopes, and wishes, not to mention the stigma and shame that comes with it. If education and compassion are the answer, then reading “R.I.P. Eliza Hart” by Alyssa Shienmel is a part of the question of how to understand mental illness.
Warning: you may not be able to put this down once you start reading it.
The plot is a page-turner as everyone knows something about someone.
I love the alternating chapters and alternating points of view so we as the reader know how both Ellie and Eliza feel.