Audiobooks · Books · Reviews

Book Review: Post-Traumatic by Chantal V. Johnson

This review is very long overdue. It’s been sitting on my drafts for about a month, but I just didn’t know how to properly flesh it out into something that actually made sense. Here’s an attempt at that.

About the book

I received this book from Hachette Audio as an audiobook copy in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: ★★★.5

Genre: Contemporary, literary fiction

Representation: Black Latinx main character, black queer secondary character, gay secondary character

Content warning: Eating disorders, sexual abuse, assault, trauma, paranoia

Summary: To the outside observer, Vivian is a success story—a dedicated lawyer who advocates for mentally ill patients at a New York City psychiatric hospital. Privately, Vivian contends with the memories and aftereffects of her bad childhood—compounded by the everyday stresses of being a Black Latinx woman in America. She lives in a constant state of hypervigilant awareness that makes even a simple subway ride into a heart-pounding drama.

For years, Vivian has self-medicated with a mix of dating, dieting, dark humor and smoking weed with her BFF, Jane. But after a family reunion prompts Vivian to take a bold step, she finds herself alone in new and terrifying ways, without even Jane to confide in, and she starts to unravel. Will she find a way to repair what matters most to her?

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Review

As I already mentioned, reviewing this book is a challenge on its own. Post-Traumatic is a novel that mixes fiction with theory, which can, at times, make it a denser read. At its core it’s a character study of a woman navigating life as a black latinx dealing with trauma as a result of traumatic events.

Vivian is a compelling character to follow. She’s not a necessarily nice or an overly interesting person, but she’s fleshed out well, which makes her story an appealing one. There are a few scenes throughout that made me feel claustrophobic, which was the entire point and only worked because of the execution.

Additionally, her development is very interesting to follow. For the most part we can see how she encounters different situations she need to deal with, which usually lead her to try to stay in control, failing quite a few times. It’s only when she admits defeat that she manages to move on. The book is also quite interesting thanks to the added layers of complexity it portrays. Vivian deals with trauma from her very own unique perspective as a black latinx woman. Because of this, the problems and issues that arise are treated in a specific way. For instance, we have the treatment of familial relationships and how that interacts with race.

In terms of the audiobook, it was lovely to listen to. I believe the narrator managed to deliver the story really well. In the beginning, Vivian felt, personally, like a rather unlikable character, but thanks to the narration and delivery you understand her more.

Despite all the positives, I wasn’t exactly gripped by this book. It is entirely possible that my expectations were to high as I can’t exactly pinpoint why I didn’t enjoy it as much as I was hoping to. It is, by no means, a bad book—I think that’s pretty clear from all I’ve mentioned about—but it slightly missed the mark for me.

All in all, Post-Traumatic was an interesting book that had the perfect premise for me. Unfortunately I didn’t connect with it as much as I hoped.

About the author

Chantal V. Johnson is a tenant lawyer and writer. A graduate of Stanford Law School and a 2018 Center for Fiction Emerging Writers Fellow, she lives in New York.

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Have you read Post-Traumatic? Does it sound like a book you’d be interested in picking up?

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