Olive Newman is a British teenager of sixteen. She has a mental health condition which she does not wish to have specifically defined, but which has serious effects on Olive. It causes her to make a bed under her desk at home and refuse to sleep anywhere but there. It also causes Olive to experience violent mood swings from ecstasy to deep depression and self-loathing.
Her doctor invites Olive to go to a new camp for teenagers, which is on trial because it has not yet been officially licensed. When the licence is granted, the centre will charge thousands of pounds for an admission. In this situation Olive can attend Camp Reset for free. Olive agrees to go to the camp.
The novel poses the questions whether attendance at the camp will make Olive better or worse, and what kinds of people will she meet there?
For the most part, Bourne presents a readable account of an important subject. Olive does eventually learn the nature of her difficulty. The first person narrative gives the reader the opportunity to look at life through the eyes of a person with that specific difficulty, a valuable though not necessarily a comfortable reading experience.
But at certain points Bourne’s own experience, valuable as it is to inform her narrative, obstructs the flow of the story and masks the importance of the characters. The publisher explains that Bourne has direct experience of working with young people who have mental health issues. At certain points in the book the accounts of the treatment take hold of the narrative and obstruct its flow. At one point it reads more like a text book than a novel. This single defect detracts from what is otherwise an excellent novel.