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Jerold Daniels
Emo Reality: The Biography of Teenage Borderline Personality Disorder

Adult; General Fiction (including literary and historical); (Publish)

When Lina’s idyllic childhood descends into mental chaos in her teenage years, Lina resorts to recording her thoughts in diaries, online chats and emails to make sense of her anguish. Through Lina’s heart-wrenching words, the reader steps into her broken inner world to experience first-hand the obsessions, irrationality, angst and ruthlessness of teenage borderline personality disorder. Emo Reality shines a light into the dark corners of adolescent mental illness, proving that this disorder is not just a phase, and demonstrating its ravages not just upon an individual, but also upon a whole family.
This heart-wrenching novel-as-memoir, drawn from the experiences of author Daniel’s daughter, explores the experience of a young girl with borderline personality disorder. Through fictionalized diary entries, online posts, and emails, this firsthand personal account is told in vivid detail as Lina, growing up in Tokyo, contends with and descends into the muddled, often pitiless thoughts consuming her mind. Sharing her life story from early childhood into her 20s, and exploring family dynamics, self-esteem issues, mood swings—“When my best friend kept talking, I punched her”—and her feeling that “the whole world was out to get me,” this memoir is insightful and educational in explaining the inner workings of a mind controlled by mental illness, building to a welcome burst of hope and recovery in the final pages.

Spending most of her adolescence in Singapore, Lina is an angry, depressed young girl whose "false memories" cause her to nurture an irrational hatred of her family and most authoritative figures in her life. Though she is highly intelligent, Lina sabotages her education to spite her parents and is constantly rebelling against their concerns and advice for her life path. A talented writer and singer, Lina fluctuates between dreams of being a tattoo artist and being a famous actress or musician. In her states of delusion, Lina believes the only cause for her lack of success is the overbearing rules of her father, who is often away on business. In truth, Lina and her older sister, who also is sinking into depression, have little structure and guidance in their lives aside from him.

At times wrenching in its candidness—there are references to suicidal thoughts and rape— Lina's story is touching, heartbreaking, and moving, a stark exploration of mental illness, undiagnosed and unchecked. Readers will become immersed in Lina's reflections and come to understand what it is like for an individual and a family facing Borderline Personality Disorder.

Takeaway: Unflinching novel of growing up with borderline personality disorder.

Comparable Titles: Hilary Smith’s Welcome to the Jungle, Bassey Ikpi’s I'm Telling the Truth but I'm Lying.

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

The US Review of Books

12 May 2023

Emo Reality: The Biography of Teenage Borderline Personality Disorder

by Jerold Daniels

"Encouraging voyeurism into my personal life had led me to exaggerate my problems instead of solving them."

The daughter of a wealthy father whose work takes the family around the world, Lina recalls her preteen years playing violin and enjoying school in America, Europe, and India. During middle and high school in Singapore, however, she begins to become unstable. She experiences nightmares and voices. She doesn’t do homework and fights with friends and family. Regardless of her father's efforts to hold the family together, her parents get a divorce as a result of her mother's infidelity. Depressed, Lina cuts herself, wears black, and expresses her dark moods on social media. She moves to America after high school to pursue her goal of being an independent artist. Planning a move to London, she remains in America, practicing tattoo art and then selling her YouTube videos while sharing an apartment with an abusive bouncer. Eventually moving to London, she and a supportive partner help each other heal from their pasts.

Solutions to lifelong struggles are found with a diagnosis in this poignant book. Lina’s raw emotions are described in verbatim conversations, memories, and songs, showing a girl in crisis while her parents press her on schoolwork and a future she resists. Author Daniels clearly depicts the ways wealth and scholastic success can cause pressure and strain. For example, private school expectations and comparisons to classmates stress Lina, while her parents blame her for underachieving. In response, she looks online for validation and connection.

Daniels next shows how, with the help of her partner and a therapist’s diagnosis of borderline personality in her twenties, Lina tracks false memories over time. The result is the ability to change her behavior, starting with amending her online presence and developing a persona she and others like. The setting then broadens from an exclusively internal landscape at the start, projected onto the internet, to include scenes of her physical, life-affirming relationships in her London apartment at the end. This happy, fulfilled conclusion satisfies readers after such a dire story.

Book review by Mari Carlson