Title: The In-Between
Author: Jaime Lang
(Note: Jaime is my little sister. She did not ask me to review her work, but I wanted to share it anyway. She has made some revisions since I first read the book, which is not reflected in the review.)
Aramyst was supposed to lead an Exceptional-Normal life: to have a nice job, a nice family, and succeed in the American Dream. Then came the rumblings of schizophrenia, depression, and social anxiety, along with the burgeoning realization she was gay (or transgender?). Burdened with this double stigma, Aramyst struggles through the typical markers of young adulthood—friendships, first loves, and fitting in—with a loosening grip on reality and a “demon captain” urging her to suicide. It is only through making peace with herself that Aramyst is able to escape from “The In-Between,” a realm between real and unreal, life and death.
This book isn’t really about being gay or having schizophrenia, so much as it is about the struggle to be honest with yourself. Unable to discern real from unreal, Aramyst learns to mistrust herself—that she is wrong and that everyone else is right. Coupled with an environment that sends the message that being gay is immoral, Aramyst comes to the conclusion that she is evil. She learns to hate and tries to destroy herself—ripping herself apart from the inside out.
Although her journey is dramatic, the telling is simple, almost child-like at times. I was surprised by how much I could relate to this book. Who hasn’t had some inner, negative voice telling them all the ways they’re stupid and how they’ve messed up their lives? Who hasn’t wanted to destroy the undesirable parts of themselves, pretend they don’t exist, will them out of existence? I felt compelled by the author’s honest voice and it wanted to keep reading, even through the painful stuff.
And it is painful. The subject matter of THE IN-BETWEEN can be hard to read, although not for the reasons you’d think. For all the trigger issues of self-harm, hospitalization, and suicide attempts, it’s actually the day-to-day parts of life that are most intense: the friendship and relationship dramas, the desire to be loved, and the feeling of rejection. In a world that’s upside down, the big, scary stuff is mundane, while little bouts of human interaction are paralyzing.
In the middle of a book, while reading about a relationship I knew wasn’t going to end well, I had to stop and skip to the end, in order to reassure myself that everything would be all right. The good news is that there is hope, but it is not what you expect. Everything doesn’t go back to normal, the problem fixed, everything isn’t fine and dandy. Instead, Aramyst finds truth and wisdom buried within her pain that gives her the courage to move forward.
One objective criticism I have with THE IN-BETWEEN is the abundance of misspellings and grammatical errors. It caused me to grit my teeth, again and again. This is not a professionally published book. This will not appeal to those looking for a polished memoir. But it is an honest telling of life with schizophrenia and I’d recommend it for anyone who wants to get a better idea of how this form of mental illness can affect real life people.