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All Better Now: A Memoir by Emily Wing Smith

So All Better Now was the only book on my list that was non-fiction, and I don't always like non-fiction books, but this one amazing! I didn't know too much about it going in, aside from the fact that it's about a girl who is a little different who is in a car accident at a young age and discovers she has a brain tumor.

On the cover of the book, there is a picture of Emily at a young age, and despite the sweet pigtails and adorable frilly dress, she looks incredibly forlorn. From that picture, you get a good idea of what will happen in the book.


The book starts when Emily is 6 years old and starting therapy. She talks about how she likes to please her therapist, and really all adults. She doesn't like children; she is easily aggravated by their behaviors and attitudes. She argues with her mother; she doesn't really go into what type of arguments or how the turn out, but it sounds like they are a very emotion driven ordeal. She has a younger sister and a baby brother, but throughout the story, her siblings are just kind of there.

Cover photo.
Every few chapters, an evaluation from the therapist she is seeing is included. Because the first part of the book is told from her point of view as a child, reading the evaluations gives you a better idea of what is going on with Emily. They talk about how she does not really make eye contacts; doesn't wait for instruction (which signals that she can be controlling); she draws herself smaller than  other people in her family; and despite drawing everyone with smiles, her picture are very sad.

Page 20 of All Better Now.
Through her young eyes and thought, we learn that she is "very left-handed" and calls her right hand "bad hand." She talks about how when her anxiety takes over, she gets "whoozy head" (eventually shortened to "woo-head"). She does not attempt to make friends in her group therapy sessions and again it is noted that her temper is easily tested.

When she is a little older, she tells a story of how she obeyed her parents by not going to a girls house, and while she is enjoying the park by herself, a boy comes and rapes her. She eventually tells her parents, although she never intended on telling them

As she gets older, she makes up an imaginary friend and boyfriend so that they people at her school will think she is cool. While shopping one day with a person who she considers her best friend even though she knows the feeling isn't mutual. It is on the walk home that she is hit by a car and her head is damaged. While at the hospital, they do a scan and discover a tumor that has been there possibly her whole life. It is removed and both her and her parents hope that this will fix her aggression issues and she hopes that she will finally be all better.

Despite removing the tumor, she still suffers from a lot of the issues she did beforehand and now she has to deal with being "that girl who was hit by a bus and they discovered a tumor." From here on out, she now is trying to come to terms with her new identity. 

The part where you see the biggest change in Emily is when she spends a summer at Hollins University for a writing camp. Here, she easily makes friends and for once, she doesn't feel different. When she returns for her senior year, she continues to make real friends who she goes to college with.

The book ends with an epilogue where she talks about her accomplishment: being a successful young adult writer, being married to a man who she loves, and finally feeling all better while acknowledging she  has bad days still.

What I Liked
  • I loved how she included the evaluations from her younger sessions. I wish there had been more of them, but they were really only important for when she was talking about her younger years.
  • It's a memoir, so maybe this is redundant, but it is so personal. 
  • I loved reading it through the eyes of a 6 year old, a 10 year old, onward. It makes it so much more interesting.
What I Didn't Like
  • I wish some more information about the car accident and tumor had been provided. It is an integral part of her story and I feel like it was just kind of glazed over.
  • Everything after her time at Hollins University felt rushed.
Overall Thoughts

Emily's entire story is moving. Her entire life growing up is spent with her telling herself that she needs to be sorry for everything, that she takes up too much space. It is so hard to watch a child go through everything. She needs everything so perfect and pristine and if it's not how she thinks it should be, it causes her to break down.

What I love about this book, in regards to Mental Health Month, is that it shows that you don't have to be a teen or adult to suffer from a mental health issue, but kids can as well. Kids pick up on stressors in their environment, they take everything in and internalize it. Yes, with Emily, part of it was the brain tumor, but a lot of the things she suffered with continued after the tumor was removed.

What I also love with this being a memoir is that it shows that there is another side to whatever it is you are going through and you can live with it and through it. Emily went to college; received her Bachelors and Masters; she is happily married; she has written 3 books, this one being one of them; she has friends and relationship with her family. She knows that she will always have to live with "woo-head" and "bad hand," but she doesn't let it define her. Whatever you go through, whatever you live with, it doesn't have to define you.

Rating: 10/10
Pages: 289
Genre(s): Young Adult, Biography, Memoir


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