The Boy Between
By Amanda Prowse and Josiah Hartley
Rated: 5 stars *****
Today I have the priviledge of closing the blog tour for The Boy Between with a review
Tender, authentic, profound, honest and incredibly emotionally insightful – The Boy Between, you can tell, is written from the heart and covers so much ground in what became a family crisis, that I am sure will connect with so many people on some level or another and what makes it unique is, this crisis in mental health is told from a mother and son’s perspective. It makes it a rounded read and one I think will perhaps benefit so many people, whether you are the person directly suffering or someone more indirectly, caring or just perhaps know someone or want to find out more.
Thank you to Kelly at Love Books Tours for inviting me to review this book.
Find out about both authors below, then the blurb and review.
About the Authors
Josiah (Josh) Hartley lives in an isolated farmhouse in the West Country, but close enough to Bristol to enjoy its music scene. He is an animal lover and servant to two French Bulldogs. Equally happy at a music festival or watching rugby with his mates, he likes the outdoor life and with Devon only a short drive away often heads to the sea to surf and sit on the beach watching the sun go down. After a stint at the University of Southampton and another at the University of Bristol and one unsuccessful suicide attempt, Josh decided to write about his descent into mental illness and the depression that has held him in its grip for the past few years. The Boy Between carries the overriding message that things can and often do get better. It’s a book of reflection, raw, honest and full of hope: the proof being that Josh is still here and now excited about what comes next. He is ready to catch any opportunities that life throws his way, quite a thing for someone who only three years ago was living in a world gone grey, ready to disappear from the face of the earth…
Amanda Prowse likens her own life story to those she writes about in her books. After self-publishing her debut novel, Poppy Day, in 2011, she has gone on to author twenty-five novels and six novellas. Her books have been translated into a dozen languages and she regularly tops bestseller charts all over the world. Remaining true to her ethos, Amanda writes stories of ordinary women and their families who find their strength, courage and love tested in ways they never imagined. The most prolific female contemporary fiction writer in the UK, with a legion of loyal readers, she goes from strength to strength. Being crowned ‘queen of domestic drama’ by the Daily Mail was one of her finest moments. Amanda is a regular contributor on TV and radio but her first love is, and will always be, writing. This is her first work of non-fiction.
Bestselling novelist Amanda Prowse knew how to resolve a fictional family crisis. But then her son came to her with a real one…
Josiah was nineteen with the world at his feet when things changed. Without warning, the new university student’s mental health deteriorated to the point that he planned his own death. His mother, bestselling author Amanda Prowse, found herself grappling for ways to help him, with no clear sense of where that could be found. This is the book they wish had been there for them during those dark times.
Josiah’s situation is not unusual: the statistics on student mental health are terrifying. And he was not the only one suffering; his family was also hijacked by his illness, watching him struggle and fearing the day he might succeed in taking his life.
In this book, Josiah and Amanda hope to give a voice to those who suffer, and to show them that help can be found. It is Josiah’s raw, at times bleak, sometimes humorous, but always honest account of what it is like to live with depression. It is Amanda’s heart-rending account of her pain at watching him suffer, speaking from the heart about a mother’s love for her child.
For anyone with depression and anyone who loves someone with depression, Amanda and Josiah have a clear message—you are not alone, and there is hope.
No one wants to find themselves in a situation where their child becomes depressed or indeed has a mental health issue, but there is a heartfelt reminder at the start of the book that you are not alone. What Josiah and Amanda have done is bravely spoken out about how it is and how it came to be that a 19 year old boy became depressed. Hopefully one day it won’t be a brave thing to do, it just will float into natural conversation, but I use, that sometimes overrated word because mental health is still judged and still needs to be part of this type of conversation to get it even more into the public domain and in the hope that people will seek help.
It starts with a prologue as to the state in which Josh became so depressed he could have committed suicide, followed by an introduction by Amanda that shows what a hard predicament to find a household having to deal with and write it down. It’s such an honest account that they deserve kudos as they each write alternating chapters, so you as a reader can see 2 perspectives, one from Josiah who is deeply depressed and the other from Amanda who wants to save her son.
This book may resonate with some people, whether they are that person or caring for a person in similar circumstances and it also brings it more out into the public domain for a wider conversation, understanding and empathy.
The writing is absorbing because of the language that is used and you can almost feel what is being written. There is such honesty and a rawness that comes with that. It is incredibly moving and emotional and at the same time informative in a way and may well leave you just wanting to hug them.
There are some lovely tender moments when Amanda recollects when, Joshy, as she likes to call him, is very young and has the ambition of cutting grass and comes up with a rather emotionally intelligent answer as to why this and not something else. There is also, almost a bittersweetness to it. The importance of happiness also comes across.
The innermost thoughts are incredibly interesting from both Josiah and Amanda. What is fascinating and thought-provoking is some of the back-tracking Amanda does, from how her son was when he was very young to the present, in terms of his health and his personality traits and the correlations between how he was then and now, similarly as Josiah talks about his own life from the past and present. There are some uplifiting moments that just capture a different, more positive, lighter side of life that spike through times when life was quite the opposite.
It is highly responsible too that they have highlighted high profile mental health campaigns such as ‘Campaign Against Living Miserably’ and ‘Britain Get Talking’ amongst others, including Mental Health Month and then there is also MIND and The Samaritans. At the bottom of my review, I will add some contact links to people who can assist. Never find yourself alone. Within the book there is also a list of symptoms to depression. It’s all incredibly well thought out, it is about the authors lives, which I’m certain many readers will be able to relate to and also has helpful information throughout it as well, that builds for a greater understanding. It is more than lists, it is from the point of view of how it actually feels for Josiah as well. There are the challenges of school, homelife and university life. There is the mother trying to do the best she can for her son and wishing for a better outcome and then there is the offspring, going through depression and in reality they are both, in different ways, having to deal with it and live with it. It really shows how mental health issues can affect the whole family, just in different ways.
The book takes a very interesting look into universities, it could actually provide some use for people within them, for students, but a greater insight for those who are staffing them. It also shows up what is lacking within society that needs fixing, whether that was intentional or not, I do not know, but it’s certainly there, which could be very thought-provoking as a society as a whole, in how behaviours affect others. It is startling how much pressure is there, when it is actually all written down, from work/study/life balance to barely being seen as a whole human-being in places like universities and more and how it all made, in this instance, Josh feel and the impact it had.
The book also goes into an interesting look into anti-depressants, Josh’s take on them and also some of the effects he had and being in the psychiatrist’s office and also the lack of understanding from friends. This really is such an honest look into his life.
It concludes with very helpful advice for those who have depression and those who are carers/guardians/friends of those with depression that could really benefit someone in someway and are really easy to do. There is also a list of people, really famous people, who readers perhaps wouldn’t have thought, could possibly have depression because of being in the spotlight so much for their achievements. It also shows some hope and positivity for the authors futures.
Useful Links – You Are Not Alone.
The links below are of places you can go confidentiality to seek any confidential assistance you may need. I’ve added them here but please know, I would not know if you have clicked on them or not.