When her older brother develops bipolar disorder, a seventh grader must cope with its effect on her family.
When Zinnia’s parents get the call that her older brother, Gabriel, has been in a car accident, time, like Gabriel’s new diagnosis of bipolar disorder, seems to take on a life of its own. Chapter headings that mix vague and specific days and times reinforce this notion. Likewise, flashbacks to odd and even scary events with her brother help Zinny see that Gabriel’s condition was not a sudden onset. Although the story focuses on how Zinny deals with this conflict on a personal level, such as retreating from friends, it also explores the effects of mental illness on Zinny’s entire family (who seem to be white). While Gabriel recovers in a treatment center, Zinny’s narration reveals that her mom wants to keep everything secret, her dad’s working longer hours, her older sister feels guilty, and, with attention elsewhere, her younger brother is neglected. There’s no single savior who helps Zinny but instead a string of people and events that work together: a lunchtime therapy group at school (both group and student body are diverse), a school counselor who notes the harm of “crazy” language, scientific experiments that reframe her thinking, forming new friendships and salvaging old ones, and finding humor where she can. The last brings levity to this tough topic.
A carefully crafted blend of realism, age-appropriate sensibilities, and children’s interests.(Fiction. 9-13)