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Code White holds a courageous mirror up to the world of the mentally ill and those in recovery. This is a rich and thorough personal first novel, set in a psych ward and written from the perspective of a high femme protagonist-narrator, Alex. Like a true depressive, Alex’s lows bleed through, reinforcing the eerie world in the ward as the reader slips under the hospital sheets and is confronted with the raw guts and aftercare of the clinically doomed, groomed and destructive. Occasionally employing the sparse sentence structure popular in contemporary urban CanLit (Sparling and McCormack), the pacing of the story is enhanced by humorous and sneaky character development. Despite her fluctuating mood, Alex observes the administrators and her fellow patients with insight. While being drugged, she studies the eyes of her doctors. When she rants in fragmented diary entries, she provides rapid story growth. These non-Hollywood details solidify the work.

Anderson’s portrayal of life for a young person in a mental hospital is full of self-doubt, self-obsession and paranoia. Alex is the perfect translator for the reader to gauge life in a temporary mental prison. A passionate and realistic no-nonsense portrait of femme culture in the unstable world of modern mental health, Code White is the kind of book that those “chick lit” books have nightmares about. (Nathaniel G. Moore)

by Debra Anderson, $19.95, 294 pgs, McGilligan Books P.O. Box 16024, 1260 Dundas St. W., Toronto, ON, M6J 3W2

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