Self-deprecating humor abounds in this debut novel that pulls no punches about the experience of depression and anxiety for its teen protagonist.
The words of Walt Whitman provide solace for 16-year-old James, whose mental health struggles are exacerbated by living with abusive parents and agonizing over what he could have done differently to prevent his older sister, Jorie, from being thrown out of the house. James' intense first-person narration, which includes imagined therapy sessions with a pigeon he calls Dr. Bird, both flares with frenetic silliness and sinks heavily into despair, realistically depicting his mood swings. At times contemplating suicide, he's aware of the gravity of his situation, even as his parents react with heartbreaking ambivalence: "Therapy isn't what you need....You're just at that age where you think everything is so horrible and terrible." His self-awareness makes him an enormously sympathetic character. Readers will root for him to win over Beth, the editor of his school's literary magazine, and forgive him for going over the top (“I know that they’re all just going to pretend like I’m not here trying to tear the walls down with my fucking barbaric yaawwwwwppppp!”) when he rages at a woman who has been carrying on an affair, with his best friend Derek, behind the back of her fiance.
Captivating introspection from a winning character. (Fiction. 14 & up)