Tuesday, 6 August 2013

The Quest for Juice (Paranoia #1)

The Quest for Juice (Paranoia #1) by Jonathan-David Jackson
Paperback, 468 pages

Published 10th June 2013 by Kipling Books

Shelves: adult-fiction, arc-or-review, awful-cover, better-than-expected, books-i-own, if-i-were-a-boy, lasting-impression, mental-health, read, read-in-2013, realistic-fiction, really-good
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Description via Goodreads:

Oscar has always lived a life of quiet paranoia, but now everything is changing. Suddenly, the bus is frequently late, his housekey won't fit in the lock, and someone has taken his juice, which was the one thing holding his life together. He strikes back against the people behind it all, but when he strikes too hard an innocent man ends up dead, and Oscar ends up in jail, diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic and facing life in a mental institution. On his journey to mental health and the truth, he has to make hard decisions about medication, trusting his own mind, dating a nurse, and whether that hedgehog can actually talk.

Though I've been very firm with myself lately and told myself to restrict my acceptance of books for review, there are certain books that are going to make me give in - The Quest for Juice is a book that I simply couldn't resist and accepted as soon as I read the idea behind it. If you know me, you'll know that I'm interested in anything and everything mental-health related and so when I was offered a book about a paranoid schizophrenic in a mental institution, how could I say no?

I have to admit that I am not one to pick up self-published or books that haven't been published by a big name publisher, so in that respect, this was a first for me. I am wholeheartedly glad that I gave this book a chance - the quality of this book, the writing, the plot, the structure was fantastic - it's so clear that Jackson is a talented writer and I am sure that a lot of others would agree. Jackson's writing seems so fresh and it really is captivating. His style of writing really helped to bring his protagonist, Oscar to life. Despite his irrational behaviours and thoughts, I managed to connect with him and Jackson helped us to understand why Oscar had these thoughts. Throughout parts of the book, I actually found myself wondering if Oscar was right in his thinking (a lot of us are captured on CCTV monitoring everyday...) or not. Jackson really is a clever, cunning writer who makes you think. 

Oscar was such a fantastic character to read about. As I've said, he was easy to connect with and despite his issues, he was also a very kind and (often unintentionally) funny man. The Quest for Juice claims to be 'darkly comic' and it is, in the best sort of way. Going through Oscar's situation could make you either laugh or cry and thankfully, Jackson helps us to find the humour in the situation. I am not usually a fan of footnotes in books, but they definitely worked in this case, breaking the book up with Oscar's often comical comments. This is a wittily funny book. Looking back, the story seemed like a bit of a farce (in a good way!), whilst at the time actually being very 'normal' in Oscar's eyes.

Naturally with his condition, Oscar has a hard time with friendships and romantic relationships, both of which are explored in this book. I really enjoyed reading about Oscar's relationships and watching as both his thoughts and trust changed when he was taking medication. As aforementioned, Jackson is a clever writer - I also started assessing people in this book as Oscar did, should he really trust them, or the medication that they are giving him? I don't know if this is because I am a naturally anxious, somewhat paranoid person, but I was really swayed into Oscar's way of thinking at some points, whilst at the same time, laughing at the irrationality of it all.

In our politically correct era, perhaps a few people could potentially be offended by this book, but I will happily admit that I found it very funny. This isn't a factual book - it's a piece of comic fiction and it does what it is meant to - it engages the reader and makes you smile as you turn the pages. Paranoid schizophrenia and mental illnesses in general are very real problems and they should certainly be talked about on a serious level, but I actually like this take on mental illness because it doesn't take itself too seriously. 

It takes something really special for me to give a book a five star review, but by the end of the first chapter, I knew that this book would be getting full marks from me. The Quest for Juice is a truly captivating, intriguing book with such brilliant writing that had me hooked from the first pages. I  truly can't wait to see Jackson's next offering - accepting another book from this author is something that I certainly wouldn't have to think about twice! Highly recommended for adults and older YA readers. The Quest for Juice is a hidden gem... seek it out!


  1. I think I might have to hunt this book down now, it sounds amazing! I've read a couple of psychological books recently and have found them to be quite heavy going so it sounds great to have a book exploring the same kind of issues but in a comical way... thanks for the great review! :)

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