There were some incredibly touching moments, but overall Without Merit was a little too weird and unbelievable for me.
The Voss family dynamics are very strange, and while this is explained eventually, it feels like a forced strangeness. Like ‘look how weird this family is; we’ll never have the one conversation it will take for everyone to get along and make everything make sense‘. It’s the part that makes it so clear that this is made up for a book, not a real family. So what should be a story addressing depression and mental illness is a story about a weird family who keeps too many secrets from each other.
There is a good discussion here about depression and how it looks different for different people. Still, it comes off, as Merit herself jokes, as an after-school special—very predictable and forced togetherness and almost like a lecture. Important message, poor delivery.
There are some weird incestuous abuse moments that are brushed off way too easily, some mental illness that’s revealed but not addressed, a will-they-won’t-they relationship that contradicts itself every other chapter, and a very large quasi-family with inappropriate relationships. And that pretty much sums up Without Merit.