It’s 2012, and a 16-year-old boy with schizophrenia starts fresh, with a new drug trial and at a new high school.
Adam’s old friends didn’t stand by him when they became aware of his schizophrenia, though he’s been experiencing symptoms since he was 12. Maybe the experimental (fictional) drug he’s taking will allow him to control his symptoms enough to make new friends who don’t know his history. Through journal entries he’s writing for his therapist, Adam details both his changing symptoms and his experiences as a new student at a Catholic school. At first school seems OK despite the provocations of a bully. Adam befriends “impossibly pale…blindingly white” Dwight and starts dating beautiful Filipina Maya. (Adam is Italian-American with no identified race so likely white.) Though the medication works at first, visual hallucinations still plague him. Adam nearly always recognizes his surprisingly coherent, sometimes-helpful hallucinations as not real, and his executive function is generally unimpaired; he can keep his illness hidden from his classmates. But the drug starts failing, and in the anti–mental-illness culture of fear immediately after the Sandy Hook school shooting, Adam’s in-school episodes go over poorly. Despite this turn, it’s a welcome novel that doesn’t treat schizophrenia as an unavoidable sentence of doom and that allots friendship and romance equal weight with mental illness.
Readers will find a refreshingly measured look at schizophrenia, but they won’t come away with medical facts. (Fiction. 13-17)