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Susan Sofayov

Her mood swings drove away her would-be husband. Can she slow life down before she’s left behind?

Maggie Hovis battles herself daily. Scrambling to pick up the pieces after something possesses her to pelt a shoe at her fiancé, the law student quickly takes up the suggestion to see a therapist. But she’s crushed when she receives a stigmatizing Bipolar II diagnosis and fears her shot at normal just died.

Now saddled with a label and terrified she’ll end up like her institutionalized great aunt, Maggie delves into her family’s storied history of mental illness. And with tensions at a breaking point and her emotions on a hair trigger, she worries what others say is true: she’s permanently broken.

Can she learn to fully accept herself and decide her own future?

Defective is a beautifully empathic women’s fiction novel. If you like journeys of self-discovery, hard subjects thoughtfully handled, and blossoming passions, then you’ll love Susan Sofayov’s touching story.

Buy Defective to choose the brighter truth today!

A realistic story centered on mental illness but distinguished by hope and positivity, Sofayov’s debut novel opens with Maggie Hovis struggling to come to terms with her fiancé leaving her. Maggie’s brain seems to house two of her, both a poised and ambitious law student and the screaming, sobbing, shoe-throwing other, who has zero self-confidence and spends days in bed recovering from “episodes.” Called a drama queen by her own brother Mark, and responding to sister-in-law/ best friend Amy’s suggestion, Maggie begins seeing a therapist who, suspecting bipolar disorder, refers her to a psychiatrist. Though apprehensive about being labeled with this diagnosis, Maggie is relieved to discover that her uncontrollable thoughts are not due to some weakness–and now she hopes to win back her fiancé.

Narrated in straightforward, matter-of-fact language, Sofayov skillfully intersperses Maggie’s fight with her own brain with memories from the past which reveal a family history of mental illness complete with a hidden, institutionalized great aunt, Ella, now dead. Maggie’s decision to buy a tombstone for Ella’s unmarked grave touchingly symbolizes her struggle not just to forestall her own “episodes” but also with the belief that a normal life is impossible for people with mental illness. When the family gathers at the graveyard for her little ceremony, Maggie has traversed the arc, accepted her brain as it is, and arrived at some hard-won hope.

Sofayov succeeds in sketching the complex emotions that course through Maggie’s brain, her visceral need for love, her doubts whether a normal life is possible for "defective" people like her, and her determination to succeed at law school. The characters are all believable and relatable except for smoky hot, green eyed Nick DeCarlo, who is unbearably perfect. The novel also effectively portrays the spectrum of reactions to mental illness ranging from total support to outright rejection.

Takeaway: This smart novel about mental illness and finding love is warm and life-affirming.

Great for fans of: Marya Hornbacher’s Madness: A Bipolar Life, John Neufeld’s Lisa, Bright and Dark.

Production grades
Cover: A
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: B
Marketing copy: A