A review of The Definition of Us by Sarah Harris

Reviewed by Emily McDonell

The Definition Of Us
By Sarah Harris
Little Brown
July 2018, ISBN: 9780349419640, 224 pages

Maybe normal is just a state of mind. The Definition of Us is a delightful read, with important issues and themes being raised throughout the book. An unexpected occurrence leads to a newfound bond and friendship between the group. After their beloved therapist, Howard, disappears without warning, Jasper, Andrew, Wilf and Florence find a shared goal. Find Howard. Again, a ‘breakfast-club’ esque situation in a sense, as we to, travel across the country with these characters and watch them grow.
Florence is the narrator and leading character, and we discover more about her relationships with the other characters, her journey and story throughout the book. Her perspective on events and questions provoked with the group throughout their road trip is unique and I found her character to be interesting and relatable in a sense. Characters like Jasper and Wilf, in particular, also share with the group their experiences and these moments really conveyed and demonstrated the developing friendship and unity within the group.

The book is littered with both sad, sweet, funny and serious moments and altogether it works perfectly. The more we read we not only get to know the characters but can relate to their friendship, characters or experiences at times. Despite the mental health conditions shared amongst the group, they soon begin to realise maybe there is more to them than labels.

I found The Definition of Us to be a short read, with particular parts of the story that melted my heart, made me laugh and think. A beautiful story about friendship, overcoming obstacles and the concept of normalcy. Personally, I consider this to be a good ‘gateway’ text to the YA bracket. Serious topics and themes are discussed, and I would recommend to those who made be concerned or sensitive in regard to this to read other reviews and ‘trial’ the book to see if it feels right.

However, the expression, writing style and humour both combine and balance out sad moments, in a superb manner. The book is also a great introductory read to other novels about mental health and has the perfect blend of enjoyment and laughs as well as thought-provoking ideas and questions often raised in society today. This is an element I adore in fiction, and The Definition of Us did this flawlessly. Additionally, I was excited review this text for many reasons, which I have mentioned previously, but was keen to recommend a book which does bring attention to mental health, particularly that in teenagers and young adults. I find topics like this in fiction can not only allow teenagers to resonate with the characters but also raise awareness of such conditions in a creative manner and motivate others to speak out and create change, even if only slightly.

About the reviewer: Emily McDonell was first prize winner in the Hunter Writers’ Centre/Compulsive Reader book review competition. She is a high school student, an avid reader and has a passion for books. It was clear from a very early age that books would play a large part in her life. Emily has participated in the Premier’s Reading Challenge since starting her schooling and her favourite subject is English. Emily has also been a Girl Guide for the past nine years and is currently working to complete her Queen’s Guide Award. Emily also loves animals especially her dog Jersey.

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