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And the winner is… What’s the link between pop culture and mental health? YA author John Corey Whaley tells all PLUS win! 1 of 10 copies of Highly Illogical Behaviour with signed bookplates


John Corey Whaley’s third novel, ‘Highly Illogical Behaviour’, is taking the YA world by storm! This touching, sweet and thoughtful novel about friendship and mental health is a total must read. The author himself has stopped by to talk a little bit about the book and its themes.

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In my third book, ‘Highly Illogical Behaviour’, protagonist/antagonist Lisa is seeking to cure Solomon Reed of his agoraphobia so she can write a paper about it to get into a psychology program at a prestigious university.  But, because she doesn’t want to get caught doing such a terrible thing, she befriends him and, instead of performing therapy on him, tries things like playing games and indulging in his obsession with ‘Star Trek: the Next Generation’ and other television shows like ‘Game of Thrones’ and ‘Adventure Time’.  And, much to Lisa’s surprise, this turns out to be an effective way to communicate with and understand Solomon better—and to get him to open up about the more painful aspects of his mental illness (which, as a surprisingly charming socially detached teenager, is something he is reluctant to discuss at first.)

In this story, I wanted to give credit to the way that games and pop culture have helped me in times when I’ve gone through episodes of severe anxiety or depression.  I think it’s easy to overlook how a television show, movie, comic book series, or a book can help a person feel connected and less lonely—and understood, to some degree.  Isn’t that the point of art anyway?  To create some universal experience in readers or viewers or listeners that will drive them to find some personal meaning in the art itself?  And, with games, specifically strategy games, there’s a fantasy element as well—where you spend hours pretending to be something or someone else and that, for many people coping with serious issues, can sometimes be a welcome and much needed relief from inner turmoil.  We need to laugh, so we watch a funny TV show.  We need to cry, so we listen to a sad song.  I think we take for granted how important these massively consumed things really are in many people’s lives.

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It’s escapism, sure, but it’s also about allowing yourself to let go of negative thoughts long enough to maybe free up some space for more positive ones—or at least fuel something creative and energetic in an otherwise uninspired mind.  I struggle often with inspiration—where it comes from, how to tap into it, and a lot of that has to do with my anxiety and depression, and how they, and the medication I use to treat them, oftentimes work against what I feel is my best creative self.  So, I escape into long strategy games like ‘Risk: Game of Thrones Edition’ or ‘Talisman’ or ‘Machi Koro’ or ‘Settlers of Catan’.  My boyfriend and I will play day- long tournaments sometimes and despite that sounding like a ridiculously immature life (hey, we’re “artists” okay?….), I’ve found it to be a great way to detach just enough to help me center myself on what I’m working on or dealing with in general—while also using a surprising amount of brain power because these are hard games.

And it’s the same with binging a favourite television series—it’s still fiction, for the most part, and fiction teaches empathy better than anything else.  We use fiction to understand universal truths about humanity and ourselves, so next time you feel guilty for staying up three nights in a row to finish a new show, just remember that you’re not just watching it to escape—you’re watching it to understand humanity a little bit better.

books mean a lot to me

Lisa in ‘Highly Illogical Behavior’ realizes early on that tapping into Solomon’s existing obsessions is a way to open him up to revealing more of himself.  They play games.  They binge TV.  They escape the world together, the same way we all do so often, and suddenly all mental illness aside, all ambition aside, they are on equal ground.

Because we’re seriously good to you, we’ve also got 10 copies of ‘Highly Illogical Behaviour’ to give away – and they’ve all got signed bookplates!

This competition is now closed! Congrats to the winners @kripes71, @chelsea_2016_, @Bethispixie, @novellique, @BookLoverx, @Lilluxuriesx, @KatieBookQueen, @LibraryLiz101, @morganjune2002, @AmyAmybondoc.

To enter: Follow us @maximumpopbooks and RT the following tweet. Then make sure to fill in the form at the bottom. Simple!

Fill out my online form.

ENDS 3/8, 9PM. UK ONLY. 

Tell us about your favourite pop culture escapes at @maximumpopbooks!

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Written by Sophie Waters

Sophie is the Head of Commercial at Maximum Pop! Having studied English Lit and Creative Writing at Bath Spa University, she came to MP! to satisfy her passion for books. Sophie is a diehard Hufflepuff and feminist. She's also a huge cat lover, and can often be found rocking her socks off at a gig.

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