I probably should have posted about this a long time ago, but Andrew Knighton has written an incredible blog post about the portrayal of mental health in Naming the Bones (which you can find here)
And there are minor spoilers for Naming the Bones, if you haven’t yet read it.
My intention in writing Naming the Bones was always to shine a light on the monsters inside of us. The things we do in service of them, or to escape them: in Alessa’s case, learning to cope, taking circuitous mental routes around the trauma embedded inside of her like scar tissue. The ritual of ‘naming the bones’ as a distraction technique, but also a way of grounding oneself, because panic is a rising tide but there are ways to float. And simply finding the wherewithal and motivation to keep going, keep pushing, when you’re too tired to tread water and hiding from the world seems the only option. Both are normal. I wanted that to be clear. Alessa wants to rebuild her life, but she has to heal a little first.
And then Casey. I loved writing Casey. She’s based (partially) on a real person towards whom I have very complex feelings, negative and positive. I suppose in many ways she is a personification of not coping. She can do it on her own, except she’s not doing anything: she’s not rebuilding, not coping. She doesn’t tell anyone about the Shades. And then Alessa comes along, and suddenly, for the first time, Casey is not alone. That’s a key thing about Casey, and something I hope people pick up on as they read. I don’t believe she’s villain, or a bad person, despite the terrible things she does: she’s someone who was hurt, and who had nobody to help her cope, or rebuild.
As Andrew says, in his blog post:
In Alessa’s case, the trauma monsters make the process of rebuilding very real. Alessa has the chance to literally face her demons, but she has to decide whether that’s the right path for her, as well as how to deal with the darkness when she faces it. And she has to decide who she can trust, whose advice will help and whose will lead to disaster. Because facing monsters, like digging into your own emotional baggage, can be self-destructive if it goes wrong.