‘snowflake’ – a very sensitive person. Someone who is easily hurt or offended by the statement or actions of others.

According to the ever-reliable urban dictionary.

This is a term I am sure many of us have seen thrown about over the last couple of years in particular, and to the annoyance of others, I am not afraid to admit that, yeah, for many times, I have and continue to be a snowflake. Everyone is wired differently, so it up to them how they perceive the words and actions of others, which I know I am growing a skin to – not even a thicker skin, just a skin.

Seeing the contrasting cover of Louise Nealon’s first novel on the shelves of Waterstones didn’t fail to grab my attention, helped by the little captions they include underneath ‘For readers who love Normal People!’. I knew I had to read this.

Set in Ireland; students; casual, real conversations. My kind of book.

Snowflake told through Debbie’s perspective, a Trinity College student who lives on a dairy farm a bit out from the city with her mum, Maeve – who demonstrates bipolar traits – and her uncle, Billy, eventually equally as turmoiled. Issues of mental health and friendship pop up throughout as Debbie is a bit slow to adapt to university life whilst forming friendships with people she pretends to like, as well as Xanthe, who she actually doesn’t mind once she figures her out.

The odd thing I found in this novel, which Nealon experienced herself, was writing about dreaming she was other people, mostly in distressing situations which ends up being a reality for farm worker James, also a hit with her mum.

Xanthe and Debbie’s relationship is unique as is hers with uncle Billy, who tells her how it is and drinks a bit too much. I guess it is this upbringing and comforts of the farm that helps Debbie build a bit of a thicker skin after being accused as a snowflake by him herself, where she later confronts Xanthe who reveals she has depression.

Calling someone a snowflake after they’ve got depression – just a no-go zone.

Readers will understand mental health is an important topic of mine and those truly suffering like this can tell you this could be the pinnacle for ending everything. Dark, I know.

Understandably, their friendship takes a turn for the worse and we slowly see whether they will build that trust back up. I like the feeling Nealon describes of Debbie’s close-knit community in her village, laden with typical associations of Irish drinking and the taboo of addressing mental health, so much that she goes to counselling.

Will she call herself a snowflake now? Or realise that perhaps some snowflakes aren’t fake and melt?

I hope this is something people will realise that it is not just a ‘get on with it’ situation, as for some people, this needs to be overcome and controlled in order to improve and not get to such a state again.

rating – 4/5
genre – Irish fiction, coming-of-age

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