Wednesday, June 5, 2013

{Tour Stop} Book Review: Secret for a Song by S.K. Falls

Title: Secret for a Song
Series: None
Author: S.K. Falls
Pages: 155
Pub Date: May 31, 2013
Publisher: Self-published
Book Source: From the author
My Rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Munchausen syndrome: a psychiatric factitious disorder wherein those affected feign disease, illness, or psychological trauma to draw attention, sympathy, or reassurance to themselves.

19-year-old Saylor Grayson has Munchausen syndrome. Ever since she can remember, she's embraced sickness and pain so that her parents would show her attention and dote on her. Swallowing needles. Injecting saliva into her body to gain infection. Ingesting massive amounts of Tylenol to sicken herself. Things that would make anyone cringe—all in hopes of being hospitalized for the attention of her emotionally-unavailable mother and a father who is constantly away on business.

Upon meeting with her most recent therapist, Saylor is asked, if she could do anything in the world in that moment, what it'd be. To pacify her therapist, she tells him that she'd volunteer at the hospital (with the idea of gaining access to medical supplies to help make herself sick). With the help of her newest therapist, Saylor is set up with a volunteer position just four days later—she will be helping set up and break down the rooms for support group meetings.

It's here that Saylor meets Drew Dean. He is part of the Terminal Illness and Degenerative Diseases support group (TIDD group). Upon seeing Saylor reading a book on Multiple Sclerosis, Drew assumes she is the newest member of the TIDD group; Saylor doesn't correct him. When the group asks what disease she's living with, she simply says “MS” - and the biggest deception of her life begins.

- - -

Secret for a Song made me feel many different things; shocked, annoyed, sympathetic, grateful.

I had no trouble getting into this book. It takes off quickly and keeps up a nice pace.

My problem lies in the small glimpses we get of Saylor's Munchausen syndrome. I don't want to get spoilery but, throughout the book, she only makes herself sick twice. In one instance, she just seems to have the flu or something similar. The more severe things she's done were in the past, and just vaguely mentioned via inner musing. I wasn't expecting her to be half-dead for most of the book, but I think it could've used a teensy bit more in the present just so we could get a true feel for her syndrome.

As far as the characterization of Saylor goes, I think it could've been a little better. I had trouble liking Saylor at first. I didn't see what Drew saw in her. She's pretty. She's nice. But why did he fall for her? I just feel like I missed something. It took me until about 2/3 through to finally feel like I knew and understood Saylor enough to like her. Her personality doesn't come out until AFTER she and Drew are already together. There wasn't a basis for them getting to that point.

Now, let me tell you what I loved about this book.

First of all, I fell absolutely in love with the people in the TIDD group. They all had such large and interesting personalities. They each had a certain life to them that one wouldn't generally expect from people who know they are going to die sooner than they should. They were so fun and I really enjoyed each and every one of them.

S.K. Falls really did a nice, respectful job of portraying a young woman with Munchausen syndrome. I actually made sure to do a little Googling before I read this to get my facts straight beforehand (According to every reputable medical website I could find, it should be factitious disorder instead of fictitious disorder - minor detail). Munchausen syndrome is something that, like most people, I find hard to grasp. I mean, I understand the basic idea, but as someone who is terrified of hospitals and anything medical-related, I pretty much had my jaw resting on the floor for most of the story. I could just barely wrap my head around it. I was strangely moved by some of Saylor's inner musings on her syndrome.

“I liked feeling powerless and sick and diseased.”

“For someone like me, who wore disease like a well-loved sweater, it was important to analyze the cost-benefit ratio of amount of effort required to get diseased versus how long the disease lasted.”

“If I had a disease that could be as dangerous as diabetes, I'd be much more respectful of its powers. [...] I appreciated disease the way it was meant to be appreciated. I courted it because I worshiped its awesome power.”

“ [...] I already had my first love. Disease. I didn't need a boy.”
I guess I see a sort of poetry in her thoughts. In a way, they are beautiful to me.

The relationship between Saylor and Drew was sweet and moving once it got past the first phases. I appreciated the connection they made, even if on false pretense. I could probably go on about the romance for longer, but I don't see this book as, ultimately, a romance.

To me this book is a view of life and death. Naked; stark. In your face. Secret for a Song carries some heavy themes. It should go without saying, but don't dive into this book with the assumption that all stories have a happy ending, because they don't and you will be disappointed. I appreciated that S.K. Falls didn't fluff out the fact that Drew will die. There isn't any question of that; there is not going to be some miracle cure for his disease. He and Saylor will not live happily-ever-after. They will not get married. They will not have children. This book is not about that. It's a lesson in life. It's a look into some of the sharp corners of humanity and the sad truth that lying can have very hefty consequences. We all make mistakes. We all do things we may regret. It's how you choose to move forward with your life (or death) that makes all the difference. I am so very impressed with this author for taking a risk with her book. This book is a true example of taking the road less traveled.

All in all, I liked this book. Some of the more minor details bothered me, but not enough for me to dislike it, not at all. Because, at it's core, this book is outstanding. When you focus on the details that matter, it's beautiful in its darkness and moving in its realness. It's a stark contrast to 99% of other New Adult books out there right now. It's not centered around sex, love, and happy endings. It brings the life of those with disease into a certain light. It shows you that a lot of them don't want your pity. They don't want your help. They just want you to treat them like you'd treat anyone else. They don't want their disease to define them. S.K. Falls did a great job of getting this fact across.

This book isn't full of plot twists and surprises. It doesn't need to be. It's great all on it's own. The story is one that will make you happy, sad, afraid, and appreciative. It all comes down to what I consider a perfect ending. The ending of this book was my favorite part. It just couldn't, and shouldn't, have gone any other way. I definitely recommend this book, but I do so with a warning. This book does contain some darker themes and could be triggering to some people. So, make sure you don't go into it lightly. :)