Rating: 3 stars
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Cameron Fox is a former child star and he currently sings lead for the band that includes all of his siblings and is managed by their controlling father. Getting into the car after a night of drinking while he was passing through another state wasn’t his smartest idea and resulted in a car accident. Cameron is then sentenced to a year in a work release program at a behavioral health facility and his family cuts him out of the band. Cameron has a lot of preconceived ideas of what he’s going to find at the hospital and none of them included Jonah.
Jonah voluntarily checks himself into the hospital twice a year to manage his psychotic episodes that continue to plague him. He keeps the horrific trauma that happened to him as a child a secret as he refuses to talk about it and doesn’t actively participate in any type of therapy. He just wants to ride out the storm and get back to his secluded life as a writer. He didn’t count on meeting Cameron, the grown up version of the boy from TV that was the only thing that made him smile in his darkest hours. But Jonah knows he couldn’t possibly have anything to offer Cameron and Cameron has to figure out a new path for his life that he hopes will include Jonah.
Strong Medicine has a lot of the themes I often look for, including characters that have dark pasts but are survivors. Although this book does indeed have that, I simply could not get become engaged with the plot or the characters.
The book is divided into three parts with the first part being the longest. It’s this first part that we have the entire set up of Cameron and his struggles with alcohol, his family, and living in the closet, as well as the framework of Jonah’s psychological issues. Due to this I had a good feel for both characters, but the pace was incredibly slow for me. There were also too many areas that just didn’t work for me. On Cameron’s first day at the hospital, the head nurse gives Cameron the back story and diagnosis for all of the patients. Cameron is not a trained medical professional; he’s there instead of going to jail, and this didn’t seem appropriate to me.
Jonah refuses to talk about what happened to him and his story is slower to come out. He saw truly terrible things and then later on received no help. When his story does come out, there is enough to get a sense of what happened, but it is not gone into in depth. He lives a reclusive life as a writer and twice a year almost with precise timing he checks himself into the hospital to ride out the darkness that claims him. I really wasn’t getting how his mental illness could be so scheduled. His episodes are dark and he can’t function in the outside world when they take over and they are described as psychotic breaks. Cameron meets Jonah during one of these psychotic breaks. I was not given enough to fully make me buy into Cameron falling hard and fast for Jonah in the condition he was in.
Woven into this is the story behind Cameron’s family and specifically his father. Their relationship is dysfunctional at best, but at the end there was hardly a resolution along with many loose ends. There was also a story line with Cameron and side characters in the hospital that was supposed to be a catalyst for Cameron, but then went nowhere. Then, the story of Cameron and Jonah trying to start a relationship was fit in between all of this.
This was the first book I have read by this author and while I can’t speak to the rest of her catalog of books, Strong Medicine was not a good fit for me.