Title: Mad Love
Author: Suzanne Selfors
Publisher: Walker Books for Young Readers
May Contain Spoilers
When you’re the daughter of the bestselling Queen of Romance, life should be pretty good. But 16-year-old Alice Amorous has been living a lie ever since her mother was secretly hospitalized for mental illness. After putting on a brave front for months, time is running out. The next book is overdue, and the Queen can’t write it. Alice needs a story for her mother-and she needs one fast.
That’s when she meets Errol, a strange boy who claims to be Cupid, who insists that Alice write about the greatest love story in history: his tragic relationship with Psyche. As Alice begins to hear Errol’s voice in her head and see things she can’t explain, she must face the truth-that she’s either inherited her mother’s madness, or Errol is for real.
I liked Mad Love a lot! The book wasn’t what I was expecting, but in a good way. I was drawn into Alice’s insecurities and anxieties from the first page, and I was able to empathize with her right away. She’s under so much pressure to keep her mother’s secret, and the burden of living a lie is almost too much for her. Her torn emotions rang true for me. She is both ashamed and embarrassed by her mother’s mental illness, and she is also consumed with the fear that she might be exhibiting signs of mental illness herself, especially after Errol intrudes on her life. Either he is a total nutcase, or she is, by believing that he really is Cupid.
The story deals mainly with Alice trying to keep it together while her mother is undergoing treatment in a psychiatric hospital. There is a little bit of romance thrown in for good measure, but the main focus is on Alice and her struggle to keep going, and to protect her mother, until she’s well again. With her mother’s publisher hounding their Queen of Romance for her next book, and threatening to withhold royalty payments if she doesn’t deliver soon, Alice also receives a hard lesson in economics, and it’s not a pleasant one. I know how difficult it is to juggle financial obligations; I can’t imagine having to do it as a high school student.
The supporting cast, tenants in her mother’s apartment complex, offer Alice much needed moral support. I enjoyed the comradery between them, and even when they have their disagreements, it’s still obvious that they are a tight bunch and that the bickering upsets them. Their good intentions often drove her nuts, but when push came to shove, Alice was obviously grateful to have them to lean on. I think I liked them so much because they supported Alice, even when she wasn’t being completely upfront with them.
Errol isn’t exactly my idea of Cupid, but by the end of the book, I was convinced just like Alice was. He just wants someone to listen to him, to believe him, to be there for him. He is deserving of even more sympathy than Alice, because he has been toyed with by the gods and goddesses since he unwisely agreed to be their puppet. He was made to bestow love on others for the amusement of the gods; passionate, destructive love meant to cause strife and mischief. True love seemed forever out of his grasp, both for his victims and for himself. Even when it’s right there, staring you in the face, if you aren’t willing to see it, to really open your eyes and look, true love will always slip through your fingers. I never stopped to think that Cupid’s arrows could bring so much unhappiness before, and I found it an interesting premise.
The main strength of Mad Love is protagonist Alice. She is relatable and I connected with her right away. It was heartbreaking to think about what she was going through, and how brave she forced herself to be. She has so many secrets to keep, and she is so desperate to protect her mother. She is also suffering because she blames herself and she wonders if she could have done something differently to help her mom. Even worse, she feels abandoned and unloved by the one person she loves the most.
I don’t want to give the impression that the book is all gloomy and angsty, because it’s not. There are these wonderful flashes of humor that had me smiling, and Alice’s awkwardness around Tony was endearing. Alice learns, with the help of the somewhat grumpy Cupid, to believe in herself and more importantly, learns to believe in love again. The ending is a bit too neat and tidy, but that is a very small quibble for a very enjoyable read.
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Review copy provided by publisher