Updated: Aug 25, 2022
Title: Everything That Makes Us Feel
Author: Chuck Murphree
Release Date: July 28, 2020
Publisher: TEN16 Press
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Synopsis from Goodreads:
Fifteen-year-old Neil lost his brother to suicide one year ago, and in the process, he lost his voice. Now, with his parents drifting apart and another first day at a new school, his life feels like it's spiraling out of control. That is, until Neil meets a high school counselor who gets him involved in the Polar Bear Club, where he connects with a group of classmates he can finally relate to. As their friendship grows, so do their adventures. Life throws out many challenges, and death forces us to ask "why" far too many times. In Everything That Makes Us Feel, Neil tries to navigate a world in search of the answers to those questions.
"Life can be complicated. It's full of everything that makes us feel. Good, bad, and everything in between. It's what makes life interesting. It's also what makes life hard, but we can survive it together."
Where do I begin with reviewing this beautiful novel? I have so much to say about it, I don't know where the heck to start! :')
Chuck Murphree's Everything That Makes Us Feel is a powerful novel about dealing with mental illness, as it explores sensitive subjects.
As someone who's passionate about the subject of mental health and raising awareness, I've been following Mr. Murphree on social media for awhile, before finally having the chance to pick up his novel, Everything That Makes Us Feel, after hearing great things about it and procrastinating on it for awhile.
Everything That Makes Us Feel follows Neil, a teen who deals with a tragedy that hit his family one year ago, and who lost his voice in the process. Murphree shows us how one traumatic event can affect a family, as Neil's parents drift apart and his depression only increases as a result.
As I read, questions posed in my head as I wondered why Neil was feeling guilty about David's death and why he felt like it was his fault. Posing questions in a reader's head is one of the most important aspects in writing to keep a reader hooked. I give Murphree that!
As someone who goes through anxiety sometimes, there were some things I found myself relating to Neil about. Such as, wanting to fit in and having the fear of losing the people I love in my life.
The part where Neil was admitted to the psychiatric ward gave me a little of Neal Shusterman's Challenger Deep vibes. 😉
I've enjoyed watching Neil grow throughout the novel as he joins the Polar Bear Club, which is run by the high school counsellor, Mr. C, and makes new friends whom he connects with and relates to, as he slowly finds his voice. I also admired his determination to get better and start speaking again.
I liked Mr. C right away. I instantly saw him as someone who you could talk to about anything. I agree with one of the reviewers on Amazon saying that he is a "father, mother, sibling, and friend all wrapped up in one warm good-hearted man". He is such an amazing counsellor who is genuinely passionate about helping students.
Another character I really loved was Travis, one of the members of the Polar Bear Club. He is a true friend who accepted Neil and saw him for who he was. He is definitely someone who you'd be comfortable with right away, and would wish to have as a best friend.
As someone who's obsessed with brothers, bromance, and guy friendships, I really adored the beautiful friendship between Neil and Travis, and it melted my heart when they started counting each other as brothers. I wanted more. 🥺
Speaking of that, besides searching for books about close brothers, I swear I was also on the lookout for books with a particular character dynamic between guys where an older guy and younger guy bond, and the older guy treats the younger guy like a little brother. Everything That Makes Us Feel did have a little of that between Neil and Travis. 😭
I was also impressed with how Murphree normalized affections between men and their emotions.
Before he got into the car, Travis hugged me, which I didn't find strange. I think I needed it. It wasn't a typical "man hug" with a slap on the back. He really held me tight.
I loved all the other members of the Polar Bear Club, but in their own unique ways. I loved Devo, as I found his addiction to '80s music kind of amusing. 😜
I loved Lux for her caring attitude. Mel... I liked her a little. And H, I found him kinda cool even though he did make me feel a little uncomfortable in the beginning.
Besides the Polar Bear Club, I also loved Neil's amazing grandfather. A cool grandpa and a wise man, who you'd want to tell anything to.
While I basically loved all the characters in Everything That Makes Us Feel, one character I strongly disliked was Neil's father. He stigmatized mental health by referring to the psychiatric ward as a "nuthouse". Good for Neil speaking up for them!
In one part, I was really impressed with how Murphree showed the bad effects of drinking without being preachy about it. He showed us that drinking is never the answer for depression.
I loved how Everything That Makes Us Feel was realistically depicted, and all the wise words about life. Sure, it may have been kinda sad, but it was the reality. For instance, the novel shows us that life is not perfect all the time and that we all experience the good and bad in our lives. One that hit me the most was the fact that nothing stays the same in life; things change and people come and go in our lives.
Murphree also shows us that some people aren't always what they seem. For instance, even a confident girl like Mel, who doesn't seem to care about anything, has her own struggles.
The last part of the book was intriguing as I anxiously wondered what happened to Lux and whether she was okay. 👀
Finally, as I was reading the book, I thought of a 4.5 or 5 stars, but there were some things I felt were unnecessary and made me feel uncomfortable that made me knock out a star. Also, there was one thing about experiencing life that I strongly disagreed with.
Overall, I mostly loved Everything That Makes Us Feel and found it to be such a beautiful novel. I would definitely recommend it to those suffering from mental illness as it strongly destigmatizes the subject and gives the reader hope. I would also recommend it to those who don't suffer from mental illness as well, as it would educate them about the important subject.
Everything That Makes Us Feel encourages us to move forward in life despite the hard times we go through. It's a novel that made me think, and I was kinda sad after I finished it. I already miss the amazing characters. 😭
What has always made a book successful for me is feeling attached to characters and rooting for them.
A tiny part of me wishes for a sequel, even though I know it's very much unlikely as I can see Everything That Makes Us Feel already perfect as a standalone.
Thank you for writing this important book, Mr. Murphree.