Girl Interrupted, a Book Review

The Vitals

Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen

192 pages, 1994 Vintage (US)

Total Rating: 31/35


author, Susanna Kaysen (11/11/48--)
author, Susanna Kaysen (11/11/48--)
Winona Rider as our narrator in the film version
Winona Rider as our narrator in the film version

Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen

This review also appeared in the June 2012 edition of efiction Magazine.


I was fortunate when I first read this book to have not seen the film first. Certainly, I'd heard of it, but all I knew was that Winona Rider and Angelina Jolie share a kiss on camera (this, of course, is reason enough to watch the film). As such, I had no mis or preconceptions about the story, and only a vague idea of what the story actually was. It made for a very enlightening read.

I didn't know, until I got to the front matter of the book, that it was not a novel, but a memoir-- and a most unusual one.

Set in the late 1960's, our narrator, after a thirty minute evaluation by psychiatrist who had never before evaluated her, is committed to a mental institution in New York at eighteen years old. She is eventually diagnosed with borderline personality disorder.

This brooding, depressed, angry teenage girl sees the world, in all it's hilarity, sadness, and absurdity with more clarity and lucidity then those of us who are not officially insane. The story-- such as it is-- had me at times rolling on the floor laughing and at others fighting back the tears.

It's a relatively short read and follows a non-linear story line without a traditional arc. It's more of a collection of vignettes and observations then it is a traditional story, and this style fits the theme well. If the story of a mentally ill girl was told in an A B C format, it would lose it's believability and this story would be just another memoir about a troubled youth. But, this story doesn't delve into the sinister like memoirs such as Sleepers . It offers a rather fair view of the hospital and it's staff. the only vitriol really is for the night nurse and a doctor or two. For the most part, Kaysen reports facts objectively.

The truly intriguing part of the book for me, though, was the inclusion of her actual medical records and charts. I appreciate her vulnerability and willingness to disclose so much personal information about herself (after all, why craft a memoir if you're not going to be honest?).

There is some graphic sexual language and profanity, so, queasy readers beware.

It's a fast, and entertaining read though, in this author's opinion, has a rather flat ending. It's still worth a read. it is, perhaps, the most unusual memoir you will ever read.

Writing/Editing Quality: 9/10

Entertainment quality: 17/20

Originality: 5/5

Total Rating: 31/35



Thanks for Reading.

A FREELANCE WRITER, HONORS STUDENT AND GOVER PRIZE FINALIST, JUSTIN W. PRICE (AKA, PDXKARAOKEGUY) CONSIDERS HIMSELF A POET FIRST AND FOREMOST BUT IS ALSO A SKILLED SHORT STORY, BIOGRAPHER AND HUMOR WRITER. HIS POETRY COLLECTION,DIGGING TO CHINA, WILL BE RELEASED FEBRUARY 2ND, 2013 BY SWEATSHOPPE PUBLICATIONS AND IS CURRENTLY AVAILABLE ON AMAZON AS WELL AS YOUR LOCAL BOOKSELLER.

HIS WORK WILL ALSO BE FEATURED IN BEST NEW FICTION (2014 EDITION), AND HAS APPEARED PREVIOUSLY IN THE RUSTY NAIL, EFICTION, EFICTION HUMOR, THE CRISIS CHRONICLES, THE HELLROARING REVIEW AND THE BELLWETHER REVIEW. HE CURRENTLY SERVES AS MANAGING EDITOR OF EHORROR MAGAZINE AND THE BRIDGEONLINE NEWSPAPER. HE PREVIOUSLY SERVED AS THE POETRY AND CORRESPONDENCE EDITOR FOR THE BELLWETHER REVIEW.

HE WORKS AS A FREELANCE WRITER, EDITOR, AND GHOST WRITER, AND IS WORKING TOWARDS HIS PH.D. HE LIVES IN A SUBURB OF PORTLAND, OREGON WITH HIS WIFE, ANDREA, AND THEIR LABRADOODLE, BELLA.

PLEASE VISIT HIS PROFILE PAGE FOR MORE INFORMATION. THANKS!



Check out this, and other books by Kaysen. You should also check out the film.



My poetry collection

More by this Author


Comments 31 comments

PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

PDXKaraokeGuy 3 years ago from Portland, Oregon Author

Thanks ct92. Let me know how you like it!


ct92 profile image

ct92 3 years ago from Denmark

Thanks for a good review :) I have only seen the movie, but your review convinced me to also read the book.


PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

PDXKaraokeGuy 3 years ago from Portland, Oregon Author

Thank you Dreone. I'm glad you enjoyed this review. It;s certainly a most unusual memoir :-)


Dreonelove333 profile image

Dreonelove333 3 years ago

Outstanding review. I saw the movie and read the book (reading the book first as usual) and this review does a great job in encompassing the book in a few paragraphs. I applaud both the author of this review as well as the author of this book. Transparency is always the best way to go.


PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

PDXKaraokeGuy 3 years ago from Portland, Oregon Author

Thank you so much. I appreciate the time to took to formulate such an insightful comment. Thanks stopping by and visiting!


PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

PDXKaraokeGuy 3 years ago from Portland, Oregon Author

Thank you, Dreonlove


sarinananana profile image

sarinananana 3 years ago from A corner in South Carolina

Your review was exceptional; I actually enjoyed it more than I enjoyed the book. Not that Girl, Interrupted was an unpleasant read. Parts of it certainly rang a bell with me. I especially enjoy this quote:

"The debate was wearing me out. Once you've posed that question, it won't go away. I think many people kill themselves simply to stop the debate about whether they will or they won't. Anything I thought or did was immediately drawn into the debate. Made a stupid remark—why not kill myself? Missed the bus—better put an end to it all. Even the good got in there. I liked that movie—maybe I shouldn’t kill myself."

I have experienced that debate firsthand...as well as how tiring it can be. Kaysen represented the rationale of a mentally ill person very well, but I did not particularly enjoy the writing style and never got a grip on the main character. After finishing it, I felt I understood more about friendships than her Borderline Personality Disorder diagnosis. Though maybe that is just me!

Still, your review was delightful.


Dreonelove333 profile image

Dreonelove333 3 years ago

Great book...great review


PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

PDXKaraokeGuy 4 years ago from Portland, Oregon Author

Sue, it's a very interesting book. Thanks for stopping by and commenting!


PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

PDXKaraokeGuy 4 years ago from Portland, Oregon Author

Vellur... I hope you enjoy it! Come back and tell me what you thought!


Sueswan 4 years ago

Hi Justin

I never saw the movie but the book sounds good.

Voted up and interesting.

Take care :)


Vellur profile image

Vellur 4 years ago from Dubai

I haven't read the book, plannig on reading it after reading your review. A great review and an interesting read.


PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

PDXKaraokeGuy 4 years ago from Portland, Oregon Author

tobusiness, thanks a lot. Take a look at the book. it's worth your time, and it shouldn't take you more then a couple of hours to read. Thanks for reading and commenting!


PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

PDXKaraokeGuy 4 years ago from Portland, Oregon Author

MIzjo, thanks for stopping by and commenting. It really is a good read, if you ever decide to read it you will not be disappointed... and you touched on the point and theme of the book wonderfully.


tobusiness profile image

tobusiness 4 years ago from Bedfordshire, U.K

What a brilliant review, I must admit, I saw the film some time ago, but it did not do much for me, however, having read your review of the book I may just take a look.


mizjo profile image

mizjo 4 years ago from New York City, NY

I have neither seen the movie nor read the book and have not had the slightest inclination to do either. You do write a good synopsis though, and reveal the cruel inadequacies of our medical system in those 'dark ages', when, after a 30 minute evaluation, an 18-year-old is condemned to a mental institution.

That sort of strait-jacketing is enough to send anyone of 'borderline personality disorder' truly round the bend into insanity. That the victim survives this incarceration and lives to tell the tale and other tales subsequently, says much for her inherent strength of character and innate intelligence.


PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

PDXKaraokeGuy 4 years ago from Portland, Oregon Author

Till, the book was sad and funny and everything in between. it's worth a read, for sure. Thanks for reading and commenting!


PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

PDXKaraokeGuy 4 years ago from Portland, Oregon Author

Great Vinaya, I'm glad. I hope you enjoy it!


PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

PDXKaraokeGuy 4 years ago from Portland, Oregon Author

DMC I don't really know. i haven't seen the movie so I can't say how one compares with the other.


PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

PDXKaraokeGuy 4 years ago from Portland, Oregon Author

Aurelio, it's certainly unlike any book you've ever read. It's worth a read


PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

PDXKaraokeGuy 4 years ago from Portland, Oregon Author

I haven't seen the film, Audra, so i don't know how they relate. I do know there is no smooching between women int he book, so, who knows. I found the narrator to be quite likeable and entertaining. Let me know what you think!


PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

PDXKaraokeGuy 4 years ago from Portland, Oregon Author

and thanks on the rating system! I think it's more helpful then just giving it a rating.


PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

PDXKaraokeGuy 4 years ago from Portland, Oregon Author

Tammy, I imagine it was. It's pretty enlightening and honest book... it hits all the emotions. It's well worth the few hours it takes to read it!


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 4 years ago from New York

Your explanation of the book makes it sound less depressing than the movie. I hate to admit I didn't see the whole movie but what I saw was depressing. Guess I need to go back again.

Voted up and useful.


Vinaya Ghimire profile image

Vinaya Ghimire 4 years ago from Nepal

I have watched the movie version of this book.

After reading your review, I want to read the book.


dmcgaw profile image

dmcgaw 4 years ago from Manitoba, Canada

I knew there was a book but I hadn't thought of reading it. Do you think someone that saw the movie first would enjoy the book?


alocsin profile image

alocsin 4 years ago from Orange County, CA

I'd never even heard of the film, let alone the book. But I like experimental work and non-traditional storytelling so this sounds right up my alley. Voting this Up and Useful.


iamaudraleigh 4 years ago

Justin, I have seen the wonderful movie two times! The second time around made me cry hysterically. I too have the author's diagnosis. I had a difficult time relating to Winona in the movie though. Your review makes me want to read the book and get a better grasp on the author. Voted up...thank you for writing this!


tammyswallow profile image

tammyswallow 4 years ago from North Carolina

I watched the movie, but I didn't read the book. Your hub makes me want to read it. That had to be a very difficult condition to have for a young girl in the 1960's. With all those relationship issues and desires for promiscuity, it would be hard to be in the typical marriage expected of women in the 1960's. Great hub and I love your rating system.


PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

PDXKaraokeGuy 4 years ago from Portland, Oregon Author

Thanks for checking it out xstatic. After you read the book, let me know how you like it!


xstatic profile image

xstatic 4 years ago from Eugene, Oregon

I have not seen the movie either, but may have to now that I know more. Think I will read the book first, though. This is a well written review that makes the book look very interesting.

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