Title: A World Without You by Beth Revis
Genre: Contemporary, Young Adult
Length: 372 pages
Book Rating: B
Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through Penguin’s First to Read Program
After the unexpected loss of his girlfriend, a teenage boy suffering from delusions is convinced that he can travel through time to save her, in this gripping new novel from New York Times bestselling author Beth Revis.
Seventeen-year-old Bo has always had delusions that he can travel through time. When he was ten, Bo claimed to have witnessed the Titanic hit an iceberg, and at fifteen, he found himself on a Civil War battlefield, horrified by the bodies surrounding him. So when his concerned parents send him to a school for troubled youth, Bo assumes he knows the truth: that he’s actually attending Berkshire Academy, a school for kids who, like Bo, have “superpowers.”
At Berkshire, Bo falls in love with Sofia, a quiet girl with a tragic past and the superpower of invisibility. Sofia helps Bo open up in a way he never has before. In turn, Bo provides comfort to Sofia, who lost her mother and two sisters at a very young age.
But even the strength of their love isn’t enough to help Sofia escape her deep depression. After she commits suicide, Bo is convinced that she’s not actually dead. He believes that she’s stuck somewhere in time — that he somehow left her in the past, and now it’s his job to save her.
Not since Ned Vizzini’s It’s Kind of a Funny Story has there been such a heartrending depiction of mental illness. In her first contemporary novel, Beth Revis guides readers through the mind of a young man struggling to process his grief as he fights his way through his delusions. As Bo becomes more and more determined to save Sofia, he has to decide whether to face his demons head-on, or succumb to a psychosis that will let him be with the girl he loves.
A World Without You by Beth Revis is a heartbreakingly realistic depiction of a seventeen year old young man’s struggle with mental illness.
Attending the Berkshire Academy on an island off the Massachusetts coast, Bo believes the school is for gifted students who have “superpowers”. His superpower is the ability to travel back in time, his girlfriend Sophía’s gift is invisibility and his classmates’ gifts range from telekinesis (Ryan) to pyrokinesis (Gwen) and speaking with the dead (Harold). Unfortunately, his assumptions could not be farther from the truth since, in actuality, he and his classmates are suffering from a wide range of mental illnesses. After Sophía commits suicide, Bo is convinced he time traveled with her back to 1692 where he accidentally left her. Frantically trying to “rescue” her, he sinks deeper into his delusions and as he becomes certain someone is trying to control his mind, Bo ignores evidence that conflicts with his belief he and his classmates have superpowers that the school is teaching them to manage.
Although Bo’s perceptions are completely unreliable, his fear, anger, confusion and grief are all too real. Utterly convinced Sophía’s disappearance is his fault, he is frantic to figure out how to use the “timestream” to get back to 1692 so he can rescue her before she falls victim to the Salem Witch Trials. His anger over everyone’s insistence that she is dead is palpable as is his fervent belief that he and his classmates are at the Berkshire Academy to learn how to control their “superpowers”. Some of his delusions are based on real life events, however, Bo’s psychosis skews his perception about what is really happening around him. He believes, with all his heart, that his version of reality is correct, that any contradiction of his viewpoint is suspect and somehow altered by outside forces. Readers get an in-depth view of how his mind works as Bo desperately tries to bring Sophía back and these heart wrenching chapters are a true to life portrayal of how someone with a mental illness thinks and acts.
Although mostly written from Bo’s point of view, occasional chapters from his sister Phoebe’s perspective show the effects of his mental illness on the rest of the family. Through her eyes, readers see the disruption and destruction he wreaks when he is home. The emotional toll is high as everyone tries to keep the peace when he is around and Phoebe feels enormous pressure to be the “perfect” child in an effort to balance out Bo’s problems.
A World Without You by Beth Revis is a heartachingly honest young adult novel that is as fascinating as it is poignant. This impressive story provides an informative, well-researched look into what someone suffering from delusions, paranoia or psychosis experiences on a day to day basis. Although the storyline occasionally gets a little bogged down and repetitive during Bo’s attempts to find Sophía, the plot is refreshingly unique and quite compelling. A heartrending yet surprisingly hopeful novel that I found impossible to put down and highly recommend to readers of all ages.