Overall enjoyment: 3/5
World building: 2/5
Goodreads Summary: When August learns that his best friend, Jack, shows signs of degenerative hallucinatory disorder, he is determined to help Jack cope. Jack’s vivid and long-term visions take the form of an elaborate fantasy world layered over our own—a world ruled by the Wicker King. As Jack leads them on a quest to fulfill a dark prophecy in this alternate world, even August begins to question what is real or not.
August and Jack struggle to keep afloat as they teeter between fantasy and their own emotions. In the end, each must choose his own truth.
I have confused feelings about this. I feel like I misinterpreted the summary and so had an unrealistic expectation for this book. This book is all from August’s point of view and while Jack does have an elaborate hallucinatory fantasy world that is not really the focus nor in my opinion is the quest. The focus is August’s attachment to Jack and how Jack’s hallucinations not only deeply affect Jack, but also deeply effect August. This was hard book to read, not because it was poorly written, but because it is so well written. This is not a book that makes mental illness look pretty. This book that looks at what the reality of untreated mental illness and it’s hard. This is not a light, fluffy book this is a bit of a wake up call for everyone who doesn’t get it, myself included.
World building. I’m going to be honest. There is next to none. We get a brief description here and there of the surroundings. We’re in our modern world. Jack’s fantasy world is briefly explained. I think this was done very intentionally though. None of the stuff I just mentioned was meant to be the focus of this story and it could’ve taken away from the impact of the real message if too much time had been spent on it. It is a rare day that I will say that minimum world building was a good move for a book, but I think this was an intentional move and I think it was for the benefit of the book.
Characters. Oh, August and Jack. I hurt for them. There are some background characters, but they’re not much worth mentioning. I hurt for the characters, but they were personally hard for me to connect with. I think Jack is a bully and I say that because I think he was that way before his hallucinations really started and August isn’t described as super likable either. However, I think again it was intentional and actually a good part of the characterization. These two have been neglected and the only thing holding them both up are each other. That doesn’t always create a healthy relationship. I would say they both have very distinct voices that stay consistent throughout the entirety of the book.
Diversity. Both August and Jack are bisexual. Jack also has a hallucinatory disease for most of the book. I haven’t read many books with mental illness rep so it was nice to see even though it was hard to read.
Overall, I think the book was very well written. Ancrum does an amazing job. It was so hard to read though and while that was the point of the book I can’t say it was one of my favorites. If you want a book with flawed, hurting characters that gives a realistic view on what serious mental illness looks like I think you could really enjoy this book. If your looking for something more focused on fantasy or escapism this is not something I would recommend.