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I find it ironic that on Mental Health Awareness Day, I am writing a review for a book about a mental illness. Little Panic came into my life through an email from a book store. It was a new release, and honestly, the cover was too pretty to ignore. It had to be mine.
Little Panic by Amanda Stern is a book for anyone who has experienced anxiety, or anyone who wants to spend a few hundred pages in the mind of their anxious loved one. I fall under the former half.
I’ve experienced anxiety to varying degrees for my entire life. There are times when it’s worse, sometimes for months on end, and there are times when it’s not bad for months on end. Unfortunately, anxiety is really hard to put into words in a way that other people will understand. Frequently, the cycles of thought that anxious people get trapped in are irrational. That doesn’t make the panic less real, no matter how many times they are told that what they are afraid of is irrational. I am aware that many of my anxiety-causing thoughts are not rooted in logical thinking. This doesn’t make me less afraid of them. This is just one reason that anxiety is hard to explain. Amanda Stern overcame that challenge.
Stern creates a novel that is part autobiography, part medical record, and part poetry. She talks about her life in a gorgeous way, making it read far more like fiction than a true story. The book has an innovative structure. Each chapter ends with the results from some kind of test performed on Amanda during her life. She endured a lot as her mother took her to specialist after specialist, trying to find what made her daughter so different. And she never found it. Amanda was not diagnosed with anxiety until she was in her twenties.
In Little Panic, Stern takes the reader through her mind, pointing out everything along the way. Writing this book must have been the ultimate act of vulnerability. She paints pictures of a world through her eyes. Obsessed with worrying about danger, Amanda struggles with separation anxiety most of her early life. She feels comfortable in her home in The Village. She feels safe walking down the streets of New York City alongside her mother and siblings. That is basically the extent of her feelings of security. Everything else is a whirlwind of anxiety, panic, and terror for Amanda.
The reader gets to watch Amanda grow up as the book jumps back and forth in time. It follows her through relationships, puberty, loss, school, performances, disasters, friendships, appointments, family meetings, drug addiction, and self-discovery. Yeah, the last part sounds corny. But I promise you, this book is worth reading and it’s anything but corny. I found my heart racing alongside Amanda’s every step of the way. I could feel her fear, her disappointment, her confusion, her anxiety, her sadness, and eventually, her hope. She writes honestly, and it’s obvious. Trust me; you will love her by the end of the book.
I would give Little Panic by Amanda Stern 5/5 stars. Whether you have anxiety, you want to see what it’s like for those that do, or you’re just looking for a good book, Little Panic checks all of the boxes. I felt like she unearthed things in my heart that I didn’t even know about, all while reminding me that everything is going to turn out okay. Anxiety isn’t terminal, friends, and Amanda Stern is living proof of that. Do yourself a favor and go read her book.
Get it here.