Mental health fiction review: On a Scale of 1 to 10

I have been a member of the mental health online recovery network for many years now. Although this journey has been a turbulent one with certain aspects of the network being so toxic for a vulnerable young person, I have had the pleasure of coming into contact with so many amazing and talented young people. I am proud of the community that I am part of and everyday it gives me a little happiness burst to see people thriving. I like to think that my contribution to the network these days is a realistic but overall positive one.

When a friend of mine on the network announced that she was having her book published, I knew this was going to be big. Ceylan Scott, who has been influential on the network in depicting her mental health journey with refreshing honesty, has a way with words that is just breath-taking. Mental illness can be difficult to articulate and it is just so overwhelmingly beautiful when someone is able to put into words what you only feel in rushes of intense emotion.

And over the years I have had an interest in mental health fiction. This started off with The Bell Jar (1963) and Girl, Interrupted (1993) and led to more recent books such as All The Bright Places (2015), It’s a Kind of a Funny Story (2006) and Thirteen Reasons Why (2007). Although all of these books felt brilliant in their own way, there was always something missing. Despite some of these books being based on the authors’ own experiences, they never 100% resonated with me, perhaps due to the age difference between these writers and myself. I was looking for something else, and I found this in On a Scale of 1 to 10.

I read On a Scale of 1 to 10 in one sitting. As someone who struggles with concentration, this is just the first of many indicators of how brilliant this book really is. I had been anticipating the arrival of the book since I ordered it weeks ago, and when it arrived today there was nothing holding me back. I got my cup of tea, pulled up my blanket, and read. I laughed, I cried, I found myself within the pages of the book and I learned more about mental health and life outside my own small pool of experience. It was a difficult book to read, but difficult in a good way.

Child and Adolescent Mental Health Units (CAMHS inpatient units) are of course all slightly different, but I felt like Scott’s depiction hit the nail on the head in a general sense. The pointless ‘therapy’ classes, the obnoxious and sometimes clueless members of staff, the self-righteous and condescending consultant, the painful difficulty of making friends that could all too quickly be whisked away at any point to another unit. It was really refreshing to read about a unit that wasn’t either a hellhole or some kind of holiday camp; Scott managed to acknowledge the inevitable bad with the surprising good.

The characters were so vivid. I felt Tamar’s pain, her immense struggle with her emotions. I felt her conflict and her frustration with the mental health system in general. I wanted this character to be safe and to be well. She isn’t perfect, she isn’t a helpless victim, she is complicated in the way that all humans are but mentally unwell people are especially.

I would urge all my friends and family to read Ceylan Scott’s debut novel. It’s a compelling book and I’m sure that it’s going to be playing on my mind for a long time.

You can order On a Scale of 1 to 10 here:

on a scale of one to ten



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