Hello everyone!

I am back with another book review! Today, I am reviewing The Long Road Home by Alec John Belle. Thanks so much to the author for sending me an eGalley of this book for an honest review. As always, all opinions are my own.

I really loved this book. I wasn't too sure what to expect going in, but once I got into it, I knew I was hooked.

Similar to It's Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini, this book takes place in a psychiatric hospital after the main character, Brooke, tries to commit suicide for the second time. By the way, I'm just going to warn you know, this book deals with very serious topics and triggers, such as suicide, and self-harm, such as cutting and overdosing, so if any of these affect you, maybe turn away now.

When this book first starts, you can tell that Brooke does not want to continue living. This was her second attempt and she's adamant on getting out to, in her words, "finish the job." The thing that is most important in this and other books dealing with suicide or mental illness is working through these tough topics, and incorporating hope as well. This was one of the truly grittiest novels on teen mental illness I have ever read, and the author works to bring in hope for the future.

I think what struck me most in this book was the writing style. It was so descriptive and when we were given insight to what was going through Brooke's head, you felt like you were in there with her. The struggles she was going through were your struggles. The writing style was so immersive, you felt like you were Brooke.

I really enjoyed the romantic elements of this book, and how Matt and Brooke interacted. You could just feel the connection between them, and along with Brooke's history with her past crushes, you could really see what was at stake for her if things went bad. Even when they just had daily banter, I could feel the tension between them.

Brooke for me was an interesting character. As someone who has never truly been in her shoes, and is not very familiar with cutting or the motives behind it, I was intrigued by her. Her descriptions were extremely vivid and I guess I never fully saw the extent of self-harm in this way. I really appreciated her growth, even though it was only for a week.

One of the other characters, Jennifer, a sort of antagonist with her own problems also ends up at the same hospital as Brooke. Through the THEN flashbacks, we see she has bullied Brooke non-stop for years, for no apparent reason. I disliked Jennifer from the beginning, but bad people aren't necessarily born, they are shaped that way. When the truth behind Jennifer is finally revealed, I was in shock. I definitely did not see any of that coming and pretty much sat in shock for a few minutes. My heart was broken for her after the end of the book, but that just shows that not everyone can beat their demons, no matter how hard they try.

I also appreciated the fact that this book was realistic and that not every ending is a happy one for every person.

I don't think I can give this book a full 5 stars just because of the timing. Brooke was only in the hospital for a week, but the story felt so much longer. It seemed like it went on for weeks, at least maybe that was because of the flashbacks to THEN. The other reason I didn't love this book as much as I could have was because of the flashbacks. Yes, they were helpful for backstory, and definitely necessary in some points, but it just felt too structured. NOW chapter, THEN chapter, NOW chapter, etc. There were points that I just wanted the NOW chapters, because I was so invested in the story, and it felt a little disjointed.

Overall, however, I very much enjoyed this book and would highly recommend it to any and all. It deals with some LGBTQA+ issues as well as mental illness and is a book that I think many today could benefit from reading.