“I WANT TO ASK HIM ABOUT THESE THINGS, BUT WHENEVER I IMAGINE DOING SO, I FREEZE UP. I HAVE ALWAYS BEEN BETTER AT WRITING THINGS THAN SAYING THEM.”
~FINLEY , SOME KIND OF HAPPINESS
The very first chapter title is a heading in Finley's journal, followed by the bullet point entry. You very quickly learn why this is important, that this first chapter tells you everything you need to know about Finley as a person. You, the reader, feel like you have been secretly and covertly invited to take this journey with her. Moments like that keep coming, journal entries that cut away from the action and whisper to the reader secrets that Finley is too afraid or unable to think in her head. They are intimate, simple, and raw moments that took me back to the kinds of journal entries I made as a child too. If that dynamic doesn't feel well rounded enough, there's more. Working in tandem with Finley's experiences are the pages written in italics, the ones that represent the stories she is writing. They are some of my favorite pieces of this story, because they give a raw and unfiltered view of a how a child's mind works. When you do not have words or understanding for things you feel or experience, what do you do? You turn the question marks and the fears inside of you into a story you can understand, into something that you DO have words for. This is something I've learned to expect from Legrand, she never tells a story from just one angle or side. She takes a topic and she pulls and picks from it with multiple literary tools, with different colored brush strokes and mediums. In the end it's like looking at the story through a kaleidoscope of platforms, and it gives you a in-depth view that thus leads to a better understanding of the character.
Speaking of characters, let's talk about Finley Hart and how much I want to share a plate of cookies with her. I am atypically a person that loves my main characters. I need the ones I cherish and adore, I need the ones I'm jealous of, I even need the ones I hate with a fiery passion. But by god...I fell so deeply in love with Finley Hart that I started feeling like she was my little sister. I wanted to hurl things at the other characters in moments where they couldn't see her. I wanted to scream at the pages when I could tell adults were trying to protect her from ugly truths, to shout "No you don't get it. There's no protecting her, she's already fighting a wicked and cruel battle all on her own, you are not doing her any favors!" And that's really what this story is...Finley's inner battle and how she fights it through outside means. The way she thinks of herself throughout the story just broke my heart "a stain on a perfectly white carpet"...but the one metaphor she tries desperately not to use is "broken". No one wants to think of themselves that way, but it's hard not to when you wake up sad for no reason, when you get swallowed by fear and anxiousness in sudden waves that have no logical rooting. You may have never experienced blue days like Finley's, but the way Legrand explores the heavy weight of depression through the eyes of a child...it will still get to you. Because we have all had moments in our lives were we got swallowed up by some sort of emotion we didn't understand, we couldn't explain in a list or find a solution for. Finley's journey is unique, and overwhelmingly honest, but she is so easy to relate to as a character. Now some people might think that her rambling thoughts get a little repetitive around the middle of the book, but in my opinion that has a purpose too. What else would a child do with thoughts they can't control or tell anyone about? They work the feelings and the thoughts and the fears over and over in their head, trying to make sense of them. Heck that's how depression itself works...it is a stormy sea on repeat, it is dark thoughts playing like a broken record. It is you trying to list them and define them in the hopes that if you can find the right way to poke at them you will banish the stormclouds from your mind forever. And every time you can't it breaks your heart just a little bit more. And every time Finley's heart breaks you sorrow with her, because she feels so very real.
Without throwing any spoilers your way, I'll just tell you that I love a story with a "real" ending. I have the occasional want for a taste of a story that ends on everything perfectly tied in a bow, but that's not what this story needs. This story is about Finley facing herself, finding agency to define and admit to the things happening inside of her. On the way she learns things about her family, things that change her in both good and bad ways. Consequently we also see how she challenges the pristine Brady Bunch world the rest of the Harts have created, and I love the fact that there are no placeholder characters here. Everyone has depth and content, everyone is affected by Finley and makes important ripples in her life in turn. Though the setting is beautiful, a world that Finley sees through both light and dark mindsets, for me the characters absolutely make the story.
I have to end this by saying...that I don't simply think you should read SOME KIND OF HAPPINESS because it's a good story. To call it just a great story is an injustice. In my opinion this is an important story. We don't talk about mental illness enough still, and depression is still one of the hardest experiences for people to understand and give proper support to. Above all else, we especially have a hard time thinking about something dark like that occurring inside a child, and we try to keep "upsetting topics" as Grandma Hart would call it, away from our precious youth. This book is an age appropriate chance to start a dialogue. To ask questions and let our children ask questions in turn. To be reminded and aware that this is an experience that can be had by someone of any age and we should always be trying to listen to things kids aren't saying because they don't have the words. Most importantly...even if you've never had blue days like Finley, I think she'll open your heart and make you conscious of the people in your life you have met (or might meet) that do. There is no price to be put on the power of empathy.
What this book felt like to me, on a deeply personal level, was a warm hug. Or a soft whisper against my ear saying "It is okay to not feel okay. It is okay to not know why you don't feel okay. And it is okay to ask for help." That's validation, that's a right to feeling that anyone of any age could benefit from hearing. We have so many great middle grade stories that are about princes saving princesses, princesses saving princes, magic, and youth doing amazing things. But I love SOME KIND OF HAPPINESS because it reminds you that sometimes you have to be a hero against your own troubles before you can help anybody else. Sometimes that's the best kind of hero to be.
If you like books that make you sniffle, make you cry and laugh all at once, make you wonder and question and feel things, then this book is for you, friend. And I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.