Dear Nobody: The True Diary of Mary Rose
by Mary Rose - edited by McNeil & McCain
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Published by: Sourcebooks Fire on April 1, 2014
Genres: Memoir, diary, teen, YA, drugs, alcohol, disease
Source: ARC from Publisher
NOTICE: I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
"I am a freak."
The words and drawings of Mary Rose present a gritty, powerful, no-holds-barred true experience of a teen girl so desperate to be loved, so eager to fit in that she'll go to extremes that could cost her her life.
This is not a story about addiction. Or sexual promiscuity. Or cystic fibrosis. It's the story of a young woman with a powerful will to live, who more than anything wants to be heard...and loved.
As a reader who enjoys memoirs, the grittier the better, I had trouble reading this one. I learned that first and foremost, this isn't a memoir - it's a compilation of diary entries by a girl who didn't authorize its publication. Although she speaks of someday wanting to be a writer, nowhere does she suggest that she'd like her most private thoughts published after her death. In fact, she writes many times about how she'd like to present herself to the world. Proud, appearance-driven Mary Rose would most certainly not want to show the world her weaknesses and raging, uncontrollable thoughts. In light of that, I wonder why the editors and Mary Rose's parents allowed this to be published.
There are several themes woven throughout Mary Rose's diary entries: Drug & Alcohol Abuse, Physical Abuse, Parental Neglect, Sexual Assault, Chronic Illness, Poor Relationship Skills, and Mental Health Issues. Without delving into the causes of these, but only the reactions, the reader only gets half of the story as Mary Rose records her exploits and their consequences. We are mostly left to imagine the cause for each reaction, something that would be indicated had this been an actual novel and Mary Rose a fictional character.
Mary Rose's story is set against a background of parental neglect and physically and mentally abusive family dynamics. Her mother is always in an abusive relationship, first demonstrated by entries about her step-dad, then shown with the continual on-and-off relationship between her mother and Joe. According to Mary Rose, her mother declared more than once that if Mary Rose didn't like Joe living with them, she could find someplace else to live. Again, the reader must keep in mind that these are Mary Rose's perceptions of things. I don't doubt that her mother was continually in abusive relationships; that much is clear. There is, however, no way to tell if Mary Rose's depiction of her mother is accurate. One thing is for certain: Mary Rose had a lot of time to herself at all hours of the day. Had a parental figure been keeping a close eye on her, she wouldn't have had so much time to abuse drugs and alcohol. If her mother had only given her attention, perhaps her perpetual loneliness wouldn't have lead her to associate with other misfits who abused drugs and alcohol. If only. . .
Throughout the book, Mary Rose is in and out of rehab. I honestly lost count of how many times. She overdoses at least once that she writes about and is rushed to the hospital for an alcohol-related reaction as well. To numb her pain of her loneliness and inner turmoil, she becomes an addict. It is through her addiction that she is able to relate to others her age. She is unable to form any lasting relationships with others without the aid of her addiction. That said, those relationships are severely unhealthy. On one occasion, her own boyfriend stands idly by while Mary Rose is sexually assaulted while she's passed out from drinking. He "cares" enough to tell her the next day, but clearly didn't care enough to stop it from happening in the first place. These are the kinds of "friends" Mary Rose makes, although she is unable to maintain them for long. This leads me, the reader and a person vaguely knowledgeable about mental health, to come to a conclusion not made in the story: Mary Rose most likely suffered from a personality disorder - most likely Borderline Personality Disorder. As the story is only told through Mary Rose's view, there is no analyzation into why she can't make lasting relationships or why she's turned to mind-altering substances just to survive the day.
Borderline personality disorder's essential features are a pattern of marked impulsivity and instability of affects, interpersonal relationships, and self image. The pattern is present by early adulthood and occurs across a variety of situations and contexts.
Other symptoms usually include intense fears of abandonment and intense anger and irritability, the reason for which others have difficulty understanding. People with BPD often engage in idealization and devaluation of others, alternating between high positive regard and great disappointment. [Source]
I believe BPD goes a long way to explaining Mary Rose's tumultuous "love" relationship with Geoff and the continual revolving door of friends like Traci, Hayley, Sam, Fred, etc. It explains her sudden rages and her loneliness, her fear of abandonment.
Finally, over half-way through the book, we learn that Mary Rose has Cystic Fibrosis, a genetic disease which is chronic and ultimately fatal. Although the life expectancy for sufferers has increased to mid-30's, Mary Rose's hard life is sending her to an early grave. The reader watches this as Mary Rose is repeatedly hospitalized by Pneumonia and lung infections. Ultimately, we see her death at age 18 - far too young for someone to go.
I enjoyed reading Mary Rose's no-holds-barred description of her life, her feelings and her hopes and fears. It was rather refreshing, if not sad. I still question her mother's decision to allow the diary entries to be published. Her mother states in the epilogue that she and Mary Rose's friends wrestled with whether to publish her thoughts or not. It seems that perhaps Mary Rose did indeed have the friends she denied having all along. Perhaps the decision to publish was less than wanting to share this troubled girl's innermost thoughts and more of an apology or penance from her mother, who admits that she is not proud of some of her life choices back then. Regardless, what we, the reader have, is a cautionary tale of the harsh realities of many teens today.
Mary Rose died of complications by Cystic Fibrosis on February 12, 1999.