Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Book Review: Against Medical Advice by James Patterson and Hal Friedman

This book review is written for Anita, one of my followers and the author of A wife, a woman, a mom. If you don't already read Anita's blog, you should definitely check it out. Anita noticed that I had finished reading Against Medical Advice by James Patterson and Hal Friedman, but had not written a review of it. She asked me (in a comment on the review of The Commoner) what I had thought of Against Medical Advice since she was waiting to read it. So, I decided to post a review of the book, rather than just answer her (in the off chance that someone else was just dying to hear my opinion of it). Yeah, right!

First I must admit that I am not a James Patterson fan. All you Patterson fans, please don't throw garbage at me. I know he has tons of avid readers and many people absolutely LOVE him. My mom being one of them. She is actually the one who asked me to get this book for her from library where I work. When the book came in, I saw that it was non-fiction and a memoir of sorts about a boy and his family dealing with, as was described on the book jacket, a medical mystery. Well that caught my attention, because I like books that deal with medical mysteries. Against Medical Advice was actually co-authored by the boy's father, Hal Friedman who is a published author himself and apparently has known James Patterson for twenty (or thirty years). Right there that made me suspicious. If Hal Friedman is an author why, exactly, did he need James Patterson to co-author this book? Being the cynic that I am, I assume it was to cash in on Patterson's fame and loyal readership. That kind of bugs me. But no matter, the subject matter was still interesting to me, so I read the book anyway.

The book was told from the perspective of Friedman's son, Cory, at the age of 17 years old. And this was a major drawback for me. It was told in such a simplistic and amateurish style that I just didn't enjoy the writing at all. Why not just let Cory write the book himself? It would have been more authentic that way. And the medical mystery...Tourette's with OCD! THAT'S a mystery? I don't think so. I will agree that Cory suffered from a very severe case of Tourette's which was exacerbated by the OCD. AND it did take a long time for him to get an accurate diagnosis and the right combination of drug therapies. And he certainly suffered during this process. BUT, to use Patterson's name and the guise of a mysterious medical condition to get people to read this book really annoys me. Especially since I was one of the many people to be duped. Did I like this book? No. Was it the story of a medical mystery that really intrigued me and kept me guessing? No. Do I feel sorry for Cory and his family. You bet. Do I feel aggravated that I was duped into reading a mediocre book by the trumped up content. Yes! Does it annoy me further that other readers will be further duped into reading it because Patterson (supposedly) wrote it. Yes, again. I think this would have been a much more honest book if Hal Friedman had just written a simple book about his son and his family's struggles with plain old Tourette's complicated by OCD. Would he have gotten as many readers? Absolutely not. Would I have more respect for him. Mostly certainly, I would.

Anita, I'm sorry I couldn't give you a more positive review of a book you're waiting to read. And I know (from your book list on your blog) that you are a Patterson fan. I hope this doesn't discourage you from reading this book, if you were really looking forward to it. This is just my opinion, afterall.


Anita said...

Pam, I appreciate your honesty. I admit, I was looking forward to a bit more a mystery there too. I have enjoyed the Patterson Alex Cross series, they are easy to read, and while not deep, they keep my attention. Some of his others are ok too.
I picked this up at a used book store for just a few dollars, so no great loss if I don't enjoy it and pass it along.
Well done review Pam, even for a book that was less than stellar!

Anonymous said...

Well I will certainly take this book off my list of books to read...thanks for the heads up and the honesty.


Pam said...

Anita and Colleen - sorry I couldn't be more positive about this book. But, again it's just my opinion.

Anonymous said...

I am a psychiatric nurse and I have to say that I was saddened and dismayed by this book. I think that Mr. Patterson did a grave disservice to a greatly misunderstood science of psychiatric medicine. Yes, Cory has a psychiatric disorder that is difficult to diagnose and to treat and he did eventually go into remission, but that is not to say that he would not have recovered much sooner had he followed medical advice. To summarize, his parents should have settled on one psychaitrist to manage his care and followed his recomendations including but not limited to- medication compliance and absolutely no drug/alcohol abuse. There were so many many wrongs in this book that I can't believe I have not found any rebuttals from any psychiatrists online thus far. But they are so used to being bashed and then watching mental health care go by the wayside in this country despite all of the mental health headlines being made (Virginia Tech, Columbine, road rage, suicides and such) This country really needs all of the support for mental health it can get and James Patterson using his influence just put another nail in psychiatrys' coffin and set our country back another huge notch! By the way Mr. Patterson, had you checked- it certainly is acceptable to increase a medicine that is causing side effects and actually get the wanted effect to resolve those side effects. You took a 15 year old boys medical knowledge as fact rather than validate his "facts" with any medical resources.This book is so sad on so many levels and I truly hope it does not cause even one family dealing ith Tourettes to fear seeking and following competent medical advice. B.J.L. RN-BC

Pam said...

B.J.L. - Wow! Thanks so much for commenting on my blog. I had not even considered the ramifications of Patterson's book on the health and wellbeing of psychiatric patients, not to mention the health care industry. I was simply reviewing this book for literary and/or readability level. Now, I feel a little irresponsible myself. As someone who has a BA in Psychology and the utmost respect for the medical profession, I am so thankful that you shared your perspective on this important matter. Mr. Patterson is more interested in selling books that he is in writing good ones or in being a medical advocate, apparently. Thanks again for your important input.


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