In Carrie Mac’s YA novel 10 Things I Can See From Here, protagonist Maeve copes with life’s obstacles through the lens of crippling anxiety. Maeve explains that “ninety-seven percent of people worried just fine. They felt the range of related emotions, but they could still do life, even simultaneously. The remaining 3 percent? We were incapacitated.” Whether dealing with something as minor as an unanswered text or something as major as her father’s spiral into alcoholism, Maeve is constantly drawn to the worst-case-scenario, often times to the point that she is unable to fully function.
Yet Maeve doesn’t always reject her anxieties of the intensity of the emotions she experiences. While her girlfriend, Salix, wants to offer comfort and distractions as a sort of solution to Maeve’s anxiety, there are times Maeve prefers to be “pissed off and scared and awash in panic and anxiety” when the “situation called for it.” In this way, Mac portrays the severity of Maeve’s anxiety, but also presents mental illness as something that doesn’t necessarily need fixing – and something that certainly cannot be cured by even the strongest love.
Maeve’s anxiety manifests on the page through her imagined obituaries, which appear in her most heightened states of anxiety. If, for instance, her father fails to answer a call, she imagines the worst possible outcome in the form of an ironic obituary. This form of dark humor not only allows the reader to understand the intensity of Maeve’s anxiety, but also allows Mac to portray an internal state of mind in a concrete manner on the physical page. While some of Maeve’s internal dialogue around worst-outcome-scenarios bogged down the narrative, the fictional obituaries were a great break for readers while still accomplishing what Mac set out to show about Maeve’s anxiety.
The novel also dealt with addiction and sexual assault, but with nuance and empathy that allowed Mac to explore the topics without theme-mongering. For instance, when Maeve opens up about her friend Ruthie pushing herself onto her, Salix says “just because she’s a girl doesn’t mean she can get away with forcing herself on you.” Same-sex sexual assault is rarely mentioned in media, let alone YA, and Mac handles the complexities of the topic with grace. Similarly, Mac balances showing Maeve’s love for her addict father with the pain she goes through watching her father fall to temptation and substance abuse.
10 Things I Can See From Here tackles current and pressing topics surrounding mental health, addiction, and sexual assault. It doesn’t focus on sexuality, despite the narrator being a lesbian, which works in the novel’s favor and maintains the focus on the real problems at hand while normalizing same-sex love. At times, Maeve’s internal dialogue prevented the narrative from running smoothly. Yet overall, the novel managed to portray Maeve and her anxiety in realistic, sympathetic ways.