She Must Be Mad. {book review}


Charly Cox’s debut book of poetry and prose explores everything from love and body image issues to crippling mental health and the calamities of grown-up life.

Organized into four chapters of millennial musings —  She must be in love, She must be mad, She must be fat, and She must be an adult — Cox’s work mixes hard-hitting prose with fiery poetic verses to create a refreshing literary concoction.

The poems and prose within She Must Be Mad were written mostly between the ages of 16 and 22. Cox, now 23, offers a very real, unfiltered, unadulterated look into growing up with bipolar disorder.

For somebody who started out as an insta-poet on Instagram, a platform replete with over-filtered, unblemished life snapshots, Charly’s very real “warts-and-all” take on the trials and tribulations of adulthood and puberty is a welcome breath of fresh air.

Cox first gained recognition as a poet back in 2017 when she posted a poem every day for a month on the popular social media platform — a noble feat considering it was the first time she’d ever showcased her poetry to an audience before. She set the wheels in motion for She Must Be Mad the following year, and when the hype started to grow, I listened to Cox read some of her poetry on a podcast.

Blown away by creative lines such as “intimate legs twined like spaghetti” and “the throng of flung-off thongs,” I decided to buy her book.

With subject matters ranging from cellulite to one-night stands, Charly whisks the reader off on a journey through the complex, labyrinthine waters of adulthood and coming-of-age dilemmas. Dubbed “social media’s answer to Carol Ann Duffy” by Sunday Times Style, Charly’s poetry might be unconventional to say the least, but it’s extremely relatable to her fellow 20-somethings.

Millennials have seen the birth of appearance-obsessed programmes such as Love Island, and we’ve shunned the traditional notion of married-with-kids-by-25 in favor of climbing the career ladder and playing the field. We’re also suffering from anxiety and depression more than ever before, so it’s refreshing for these topics to finally be explored in the broad spectrum of poetry.

The beauty is in the craft of Cox’s imagery too. In Anatomical astrologist, we’re introduced to poetical lines such as “I touched your skin the same way I’d fumble down the side of the TV in the dark and know the difference between the <off switch> and the <volume button>.” The everyday mundaneness of searching for the button on a TV is starkly contrasted with the exciting intimacy of touching someone.

In “Doctor, doctor, don’t help me,” written at the tender age of 15, Cox recognizes the normalization of her constant ill-feeling: “I think I crave rejection / And self-sabotage days / I like the way they taste / In their smokey beer cross haze.”

Cleverly-worded, these concepts resonate strongly with mental health sufferers and, quite frankly, any girl who’s fallen head over heels in love. Although only 23 years old, Charly Cox pens her work with such emotional clarity, vulnerability and wisdom beyond her years that She Must Be Mad really ought to be an essential feature on every 20-something’s bookshelf.


Tasman Hogan is a writer, poet and polyglot who lived in sunny Spain for three years, scoffing patatas bravas and teaching kids their ABCs. Now she resides just outside London, working in content marketing and drinking a little too much Coca Cola.


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