“A thrilling debut that had me turning the page well past midnight. Larkin handles a difficult topic like depression with imagination, courage and sensitivity. This is what speculative fiction does best: it asks hard questions and finds exciting new answers.”
–Helen Marshall, author of The Migration
“Emily Larkin has created an unsettling future where happiness is mandatory, tears forbidden, and ‘depressives’ medically compelled to embark upon the virtual reality of the ‘Journey’ to return to society as productive individuals. This is an accomplished first novel, a thoughtful meditation on loss and grief, and a nuanced reflection on the power of narrative to help with healing.”
–Una McCormack, New York Times bestselling author
“Emily Larkin’s first novel is an impressive debut, one of the best I’ve read in years. This is a YA novel that skims a tough yet welcome line towards a more mature readership. Within the Ward’s flawed yet deeply appealing characters are memorable, trapped inside a mental ward controlled by the cruel regime of a technologically-driven – and potentially deadly – wellness therapy called The Journey. Larkin’s engrossing tale uncoils in a future full of astute worldbuilding, raising the stakes for her vivid and tautly-described action scenes.
“This action is fast-paced without overwhelming the deeper thoughtfulness of a book that touches on hurt, regret, depression and self-harm without becoming exploitative or maudlin. Instead Larkin treats these subjects with equal parts tenderness and intelligence, bringing a surprisingly nuanced understanding to the complexities of modern life – here presented as a dystopian future where emotions are corralled and punished if they should stray beyond strict boundaries of “normality”.
“Our protagonist, the incarcerated yet never intimidated Paige, is a guiding light readers will want to follow. She’s a born leader who hasn’t yet realised the extent of her gifts, a fighter who must learn to travel past the pain of a terrible personal loss to find the greater joy and juice of life. Within the Ward packs a mighty punch, one made even more powerful by the swiftly accelerating rush of its final third, rewarding readers with a conclusion both breath-taking and moving.”
–Venero Armanno, Australian author and academic
“Oh man! This book gave me all the feels!
“Think All The Bright Places meets Ready Player One… only this Journey isn’t one you can just get off!
“The idea that you can overcome or at least learn coping mechanisms for depression through virtual reality is such a fascinating concept in itself.
The story is original and thought provoking. It reels you in and slaps you in the face! The characters are well developed and relatable which can be hard in a setting like this!
“Within The Ward certainly doesn’t lack in plot twists!!!
“I would have loved more details about each level but purely cause it was just so fascinating! And a book leaving you wanting more is never a bad thing! 4.5 stars from me!”
–Ally McKalli (Goodreads review)
“Mental illness is a subject close to my heart and although I’m not usually a fantasy reader, it was wisely used here to metaphorically describe the anguish of despair. Likeable characters you want to succeed, a page turning plot and a terrifyingly close dystopian future combine in a great read for young adults. Mental health systems in Australia are completely underfunded. Books like this bring attention to the plight of so very many young people and their families who are suffering. Highly recommended.”
–Edwina Shaw, Australian author (Goodreads review)