Mental by Justice Serai
Age Group: Young Adult
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Release Date: April 7, 2015
Amazon ♥ B & N
Hope is an illusion meant to convince the broken to keep on living. That’s me. Broken.
My father pays heaps of money for doctors at the Norfolk Psychiatric Center to fix me. I’ve spent six months of my prime teenage years at this residential facility – a place for teenagers who’ve gone mental.
That’s me. Mental.
Just when I begin to feel myself fade away, a boy with a wolfish smile and mischievous eyes reels me in. Julian is broken too, but he believes in me enough for the both of us. Through him, I begin to experience this thing called hope. Doctors can’t fix me, my parents can’t either, but maybe it’s not me who needs fixing.
After all, mental is only a state of mind. It all depends on who’s doing the thinking.
He puts out his hand and says, “Come with me.”
I stare at it for a moment then, in an uncharacteristic move, I put my palm in his. Smiling, he pulls me up from my chair and we run. Daring a glance back, I see the teacher handing the kid a tissue while speaking angrily into the phone.
Julian will get in trouble – we both will – but I don’t care. Right now, as we run down the hallway, hands clasped together, I feel free. He leads me around a corner then stops in front of each door in an administrative hallway, looking for somewhere safe to hide. Most of the rooms have someone typing away at a computer. They look curious but mostly ignore us.
Finally, we come across a janitor’s closet. He yanks me in then slams the door shut.
It’s cramped and smells like bleach but still somehow romantic. Julian kicks the mop bucket to the side and we stare at each other, grinning and panting.
“Are you sure you’re real?” I ask, a little breathless.
He raises his brows. “Don’t you mean, are you sure I’m real?”
Awestruck, I shake my head. “I don’t know.”
He laughs then takes my face in his hands, but his expression sobers as he gazes down at me. “I’ll never let anyone hurt you again, Lucy.” He says this as if he has any control of it, as if it’s his fault anyone has.
It’s intense and makes me feel funny – fluttery stomach and pounding heart funny. If he’s not real, I don’t want to know it.
The small overhead light shadows part of his face but I can still see the intent in his eyes. He’s going to kiss me. I don’t close my eyes this time. I have no idea what I’m doing so if I screw it up, which I probably will, and he never kisses me again, I want to remember it. His breath smells minty, like he just brushed his teeth. His hands are warm on my cheeks. He closes his eyes, and leans in.
Our lips touch. His are hot and soft and wet, and so much better than I ever expected. My mouth falls open, letting him guide me. Teeth graze my bottom lip and sparks shoot all over my body like little fire crackers that have just been awakened. I feel daring and excited and scared all at once.
He drops his hands from my face and starts to pull away. I boldly follow then wrap my arms around his neck to keep him still. I’m not ready for this to end. He smiles against my mouth and I laugh. He chuckles too and we’re lost in each other. Lost in minty kisses and the danger of hiding in a broom closet. It’s unconventional, but somehow the best place for a first kiss.
Urgent voices and footsteps sound like they’re coming our way.
Without missing a beat, Julian reaches up and pulls on the string that plunges us into darkness. His arms tighten around me and my body presses against his. I’m hyperaware that we’re touching, all over, not just our hands or lips. I respond hungrily, rising on tiptoes to kiss harder, deeper, feel more of him.
In the pitch black of that cleaning room, I learn an important lesson. Life is too scary and goddamn depressing not to make the most of the small moments of happiness we can find. This is a crack in the wall of my dismal existence. With Julian wrapped around me, his lips moving against mine, I finally feel the sun.
If my name weren't enough to doom me to nerdville, my love of all things dark and weird would.
Inspired by stories of hope and perseverance throughout history, in my own life, and in the lives of people I know, I strive to write authentic YA fiction for the oddball in all of us.
I want to make people think deeply, feel wholly, and laugh and cry, just as I have.
I'm no stranger to tricky topics such as LGBTQ issues, adoption, disabilities, and mental illness, and I hope you come to love my characters as much as I do.