On a Scale of One to Ten by Ceylan Scott
24th May 2018
Although On a Scale of One to Ten is a YA novel – the debut novel by author Ceylan Scott – don’t let that fool you into thinking it’s going to be an easy read. It’s an unflinching look into life with mental health problems, and the terrible things we can do to ourselves when we feel like there is no other escape.
As someone with a history of self-harm, there were scenes I found difficult to read and I often had to take breaks from the darker parts. The publishing house has included trigger warnings for self-harm and suicide as well as a list of helplines for organisations such as the Samaritans at the back of the book, which I commend them for; there are also descriptions of disordered eating which some people may want to avoid.
The reason why this is such a difficult read at times, though, is due to the strength of the writing by Ceylan Scott, and the book’s authentic depiction of mental illnesses, including BPD, sufferers of which have historically faced huge prejudice.
An incredibly brave and in-depth journey into a part of many people’s lives that is still sadly tabooA note from the publisher at the beginning mentions that this book is based on Ceylan’s own experiences, and it is an incredibly brave and in-depth journey into a part of many people’s lives that is still sadly taboo.
Tamar is a likeable and believable central character, and the cast inside the hospital are written with sympathy and nuance; nobody, either patients or staff, feels like a caricature. I would, however, have liked to have seem some more development of the people in the ‘outside world’, including Tamar’s parents and friends.
The real success of On A Scale of One to Ten is its ending. It’s a tricky balance: a fairytale ending where everyone magically gets better overnight is unrealistic and tacky, and yet there has to be a ray of hope, and Ceylan Scott manages this balance admirably.
It’s a clear-eyed ending, with no miracles promised and no neat narrative bows tied, and yet had I read it at the worst points of my own mental illness, I know I would have found it comforting.
There is no preaching involved – all sorts of treatment options including medication, therapy and more holistic therapies such as exercise are treated with equal validity.
Overall, while I would warn you to be careful and aware of your triggers before picking up this book, I would absolutely recommend it, both to people who have suffered with mental health problems and want to feel less alone, and to anyone who simply wishes to understand what others are going through when they are at rock bottom.
On a Scale of One to Ten by Ceylan Scott is out now from Chicken House Books