Hyper: A Personal History of ADHD (Paperback)
The first book of its kind about what it’s like to be a child with ADHD, Hyper is a “haunting narrative that explores the world’s most scrutinized childhood condition from the inside out” (Nature) that also illuminates the history of how we came to medicate more than four million children today.
Among the first generation of boys prescribed medication for ADHD in the 1980s, Timothy Denevi took Ritalin at the age of six and suffered a psychotic reaction. Thus began his long odyssey through a variety of treatments. In Hyper, Denevi describes how he made his way to adulthood, knowing he was a problem for those who loved him, longing to be able to be good and fit in, and finally realizing he had to come to grips with his disorder before his life spun out of control. Using these experiences as a springboard, Denevi also traces our understanding and treatment of ADHD from the nineteenth century, when bad parenting and even government conspiracies were blamed, through the twentieth century and drug treatments like Benzedrine, Ritalin, and antidepressants. His insightful history shows how drugs became the treatment of choice for ADHD, rather than individually crafted treatments like the one that saved his life.
Thought provoking and deeply intelligent, this is a remarkable book both for its sensitive portrait of a child’s experience as well as for its thorough exploration of a remarkably complex and controversial mental condition and its treatment. “There’s much to be learned in Hyper, about pushing boundaries and respecting them, about parenting, and about the special kind of triumph that can come as a result of hard-earned self-knowledge. Denevi has written a book about a condition that has been studied for a long time, but, truly, it hasn’t been talked about like this” (BookPage).
About the Author
Timothy Denevi received his MFA in nonfiction from the University of Iowa. His writing has appeared in various magazines including The Atlantic, Time, Gulf Coast, and Arts & Letters, and he’s been awarded fellowships by The MacDowell Colony, the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, and the Community of Writers at Squaw Valley. He lives near Washington, DC and teaches in the MFA program at George Mason University. Hyper is his first book.
"Riveting and monumental....There's much to be learned in this book about ADHD, about pushing boundaries and respecting them, about parenting, and about the special kind of triumph that can come as a result of hard-earned self-knowledge. Denevi has written a book about a condition that has been studied for a long time, but, truly, it hasn't been talked about like this."
"Hyper is the story of all of us who have lived -- or continue to live -- with ADHD.”
"Tim Denevi has written a vivid, moving, and gripping first-person account of what it's like to grow up hyper. He weaves into the narrative an erudite account of the history of ADHD. And he packs it all together in concise, vibrant prose, compact enough for even those of us who have ADHD to read! Excellent book!"
— Edward Hallowell, M.D.
"Enlightening...Readers with ADHD will find affirmation of their own thoughts and emotions, while those without the condition will experience revelations."
"In this haunting narrative [Denevi] explores the world's most scrutinized childhood condition from the inside out."
"Denevi skillfully blends a personal account of his experiences with ADHD with a thorough and enlightening social and medical history of the disease....Frank, moving, and instructive."
"Denevi skillfully weaves historical anecdotes into his personal account...excellent."
— Publishers Weekly
“ In his remarkable book Hyper, Tim Denevi tells the story of his childhood struggles with ADHD and his evolving understanding of this puzzling disorder. His narrative captures the essence of his daily struggles and features the disarming poetic rhythm of an extraordinarily talented writer.
Over the past decade, I have often been asked to recommend books for parents and professionals who are trying to better understand ADHD. I have always responded with the titles of the three classics by Hallowell, Levine and Ratey. Now, there are four. Hyper is full of blazing insights, wisdom, information and inspiration. It is a significant and singular contribution to our field.”
— Rick Lavoie, author of It’s So Much Work to Be Your Friend and The Motivation Breakthrough
"At once both memoir and social history, Hyper chronicles what it was like to grow up as a kind of guinea pig for the treatment of ADHD in the 1980’s. With hard-won clarity and excruciating honesty, Timothy Denevi has written a fascinating and sometimes disturbing account, never self-pitying but consistently illuminating and riveting."
— Robin Hemley, author of Nola, A Memoir of Faith, Art, and Madness
“Timothy Denevi is a wonderful, true storyteller, drawing us into his own perilous childhood while taking us through vast changes in cultural attitudes, from a time doctors described ADHD kids as feeble minded threats to civilization to the triumph of Congressional recognition of their right to treatment and education. Hyper is informative, moving, and entertaining––quite a feat.”
— Robert Shapard, editor of New Sudden Fiction and Flash Fiction Forward
"In Hyper the interior life of a misunderstood boy is honored with lyric language. Tim Denevi has written a memoir about emotional vulnerability and recovery in the literary tradition of Styron and Susanna Kaysen. This is a powerful, literary book about childhood medication and its human cost. It's also a lasting story about mind, heart, and soul."
— Stephen Kuusisto, author of Planet of the Blind
"Tim Denevi tells two stories--episodes in the history of the diagnosis and treatment of ADHD and episodes of his own life, from early childhood to maturity. He shows us how terribly difficult (and time after time, inadequate) has been the scientific and therapeutic effort to alleviate the suffering of children and youths. And with immediacy and clarity he narrates his own past anguish and bafflement (and that of his parents) as they all three tried to make sense of his impulses and vulnerabilities. Over time, they found their way to everyday ordinary human success at life, and Tim Denevi has found the way to write about it--a very impressive success indeed."
— Reginald Gibbons, author of Slow Trains Overhead: Chicago Poems and Stories.
“Intriguing…A well-written, easy-to-read journey of one man’s experience living with ADHD and the history of the disorder. Parents may see their children in Denevi’s story, and adults may see themselves in the childhood accounts that are shared here.”
— Library Journal
“What’s been missing from the discussion are the personal accounts from people who navigate the world with this disorder coloring every aspect of their lives. Enter Timothy Denevi, who gives a first-person account of growing up with ADHD by marshaling his masterful storytelling skills[…] seeing Denevi overcome his childhood struggles with ADHD and go on to lead a normal, productive life can offer hope to families of children with ADHD.”
— Green Bay Press Gazette