Becoming Insane by Leyla Cardena

4 Minutes Reading Time

I received an advance review copy for free, and I am leaving this review voluntarily.

“As an adolescent, she considered herself an outsider and a tomboy, and found it difficult to fit in at school; instead, she found solace in old movies, furtive cigarettes and writing.”

Author Website

Language: English

Print Length: 214 pages

Text-to-Speech | Screen Reader | Enhanced Typesetting | Word Wise 

Publication Date: 30 April 2019

Categories: Psychological Thriller | Paranormal Suspense | Supernatural Thrillers

Trigger Warnings: Violence | Death | Profanity | Deity Swears

Read the Blurb on Amazon

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Leyla Cardena was born in Geneva, Switzerland. She didn’t have a happy childhood and remembered it as a time of feeling lost and helpless. After school, she works in administration and then joined a trust company while studying law at night. At twenty-three, she resigned from her job to follow her dream to become a writer.

Her battle against Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) gave her insight into this subject and the experience of receiving treatment, which she incorporated in her writing. Her first novel  Karmicalement Votre was published in French in 2013.


Meet John Crane and Jack Vain, friends since their childhood years. Both are talented artists – John is a writer, and Jack draws and paints.

John Crane

Their mother raised John and his brother Robert. Both boys were constantly competing for her attention, leading to much jealousy between him. John was a sensitive child who loved writing, following in his father’s footsteps. He left his job to write full-time but without much success. When he learned from his mother that his brother had published a book, it is a bitter pill for him to swallow, and he sinks into a depression.

Also Read:  Plane in the Lake by Neil Turner

Jack Vain

Jack got married to a rich woman and is making good money with his job. But his wife leaves everything to him – the housekeeping and looking after their two kids. It leaves him with little time for his passion – painting. He feels stuck since he can’t quit his job to follow his dream – even more so because of his love for and dedication to his kids. His whole life revolves around making people happy, but the resulting stress and frustration cause him to suffer from panic attacks.

The road to insanity

When the two friends get together, a series of events starts that leads them down the path to insanity. They regressed to animal behaviour, and it is only by confronting their past that they can begin to recover.

What did I like?

Even though the circumstances of the two friends in itself will not necessarily lead to insanity, their being together creates a different dynamic. They feed off each other’s emotions, which cause them to share fears and hallucinations. Typical of folie à deux, they share similar delusions caused by their close association. It can be seen in the similarity of their dreams, with their roots in the fairy tale they created together when they were twelve.


The author uses a lot of symbols in this novel. John dreams he is lost in a forest. He finds a church, and the priest tells him he must go to the castle and ask the old women for forgiveness. The women let her son play the violin and then give John a turn. When John argues with the women about playing better than her son, she insists that he kneel and ask for forgiveness. A strange creature with red eyes appears and promises him his freedom if John would write for him.

Also Read:  The Drowning Land by David M Donachie

Jack’s dreams meet up with a youngster who turns into a sheep and an ogre that sends him to a dungeon. The strange creature with the red eyes appears and promises him his freedom if he would draw for him. 

The different characters in their dreams symbolise the things that keep them stuck, and the red-eyed creature represents the sacrifices they have to make to follow their dreams.

And not so much?

The book ends in a cliffhanger, where the main characters are confronted with a possibly life-threatening situation. Even though the author’s goal might be to write a sequel, it felt as if the end was too abrupt, leaving too many questions unanswered.

Should you read it?

It is a different psychological thriller, where the author explores the events that lead to insanity in two friends. We gain insight into their lives and perceptions through the description of their delusions. It uses a lot of symbols, which makes you think of hell and eternal punishment. And a creature offering salvation. 

This book is not for everyone. Its dark, paranormal nature makes it a good fit for readers of paranormal suspense and supernatural thrillers. Similar books you can try are Beneath her Skin by Gregg Olsen and Imperious by CM Sutter.

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Meet Susan

Susan van der Walt is an avid reader of genres like crime, thrillers, adventure, and true stories. On Read or Rot she shares her favourite books and quotes with you. She also writes articles, book reviews and book recommendations. She lives in Alberton (South Africa) with her husband, Warrick, and fur baby, Pixie.

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