A teen’s road to mental wellness begins when he wakes up in a mental health facility following a break.
Why is 17-year-old Klee Alden (pronounced “clay,” like the painter) facing two weeks at the Adolescent Inpatient Center at Northhollow? Klee feels guilty about his father’s suicide. His sense of inadequacy is heartbreaking: if Klee had tried harder, maybe his father would still be here. His father suffered from undiagnosed depression. Is Klee, whose own illness isn’t clearly defined, doomed to follow in his footsteps? The main narrative takes place over the course of Klee’s two-week stay at the AIPCN—or the Ape Can, as its young patients fondly call it. Flashbacks, disjointed at first, become more coherent as Klee begins the healing process and relays events leading up to the present. Klee’s recovery includes a lot of sleep, daily therapy, and board games and nightly swims with a wisecracking nun whom the white teen describes as a “dwarf.” A sarcastic, hallucinatory crow symbolizes the lying nature of depression. The text doesn’t treat mental illness as a personality flaw, nor as an easy thing to cure, but some may find it troubling that Klee’s doctor (who is Latina) doesn’t reject his use of “crazy” to describe his mental state. Most characters are assumed white; one of the other patients is an Asian girl who plays the violin, and another doctor is South Asian.
An unapologetic and wry story about a teen finding his way out of a personal crisis. (Fiction. 15-18)