Content warning: This novel does contain some graphic scenes depicting sexual assault and abuse, and we advise readers to be aware of difficult content that may cause distress.
Sidney is happily married to her firefighter husband and thinking about having a child, but her life has been marred by psychotic breakdowns. Haunted by memories of Dean Cola – the teenage crush who is an essential piece of the puzzle that is her past – she returns to the town where she grew up. Something unthinkable happened there, but is she strong enough to face it?
A compelling portrait of mental illness, memory, and the ways that the years when we ‘come of age’ can be twisted into trauma.
All That I Remember About Dean Cola is a book that is unafraid to shed light on harsh themes. Author Tania Chandler handles themes of abuse, sexual assault, and mental illness in a sensitive yet confronting way. It’s a hard book to read but one that’s ultimately hopeful and full of heart.
Sidney deals with a lot in the novel, and we watch as she suffers some intense mental breakdowns about her traumatic past. Chandler handles the balance of delicacy and confrontation well, giving us a view into the mind of someone struggling with severe mental illness and trauma.
There are some scenes in this novel that shook me to my core. But I think that’s why people should read it. It’s an important novel that highlights some of the darkest aspects of society. Even if uncomfortable at times, this story offers some rare insight into trauma that will keep you thinking about it well after putting it down.
One thing that stood out for me was how the story was structured. We follow Sidney in two separate timelines: when she’s a teenager, and later when she’s an adult, processing her trauma. The dual timelines allow Chandler to flesh Sidney as a character, and her growth over the course of the novel.
All That I Remember About Dean Cola is an unflinching portrait of a woman dealing with past demons. Sensitive, yet unyielding, Tania Chandler tackles some tough subject matter, delivering a compelling story that will stay with you long after you turn the final page.