I found The Remedy by Suzanne Young (Simon Pulse, 2015) browsing at the library. (I may have left that day with about 10 too many books.) Looked like a fluffy romantic read, to zone out to in between “important” books. Um, no. I really need to stop judging books by the cover. I loved this squirm inducing specfic story and couldn’t put it down!

Quinlan McKee is a Closer. She provides in-situ grief counselling for families by role playing their dead child. She’s 17 and has been doing this since she was 7. Quinn has one last assignment before she ends her contract and starts living her own life. But will she know who she is after all these years of living a string of other lives?

The assignment throws up problems from the start. It’s the longest she’s ever worked, Catalina’s boyfriend Isaac is included in the brief, and Catalina’s sister Angie thinks Closers are heartless monsters. But Quinn is the best in her business, she knows she can handle anything her work throws at her.

Quinn slips into Catalina’s life, and immediately cracks start to appear. Why isn’t Angie staying with her parents during this difficult time? Why are there pages missing from Catalina’s journal? And why is Isaac so damned sweet? When Quinn (Catalina) starts falling for her (pretend) boyfriend, Catalina’s charmed life threatens to swallow Quinn whole. But anyway, would that be such a bad thing?

The world of The Remedy is a clever take on mental illness and a society’s extreme solution to the psychological problems growing up can entail. In this world teenagers are taught to keep a journal and counselling is mandatory when problematic behaviour is flagged, particularly following grief. The child labor aspect of being a Closer is really icky. As I read, I wondered how this could not be damaging to the Closer. Suzanne Young’s handling of these questions satisfied me, not least because of unanswered threads to be tackled in the other books. She set up the ending well with just enough closure on Catalina’s life.

Reading about mental illness in speculative fiction is a welcome change from the usual contemporary fare, especially after some recent renderings I felt could have been better written. Suzanne Young’s portrayal is very different to the PTSD of that other specfic fav The Hunger Games, but just as well done.

Now I have to seek out The Epidemic to continue Quinlan’s checkered trials, prequels to The Program and The Treatment. My TBR pile is teetering dangerously.