Harrington (Sure Signs of Crazy, 2013) offers another perceptive story of a resilient preteen coping with a parent’s mental illness.
Mysti Murphy has a knack for storytelling. It gives her what her family can’t: adventures beyond her front door. Her mother has severe agoraphobia, which means her father shoulders the responsibilities of work, shopping and transportation, and things like home repairs or dental work are postponed. Fortunately, Mysti’s only friend, Anibal, doesn’t mind her situation. However, as her father often says, change comes for everyone. Hoping to date a popular cheerleader, Anibal becomes a hipster—and a bully in the process. Then, Mr. Murphy falls out of a tree, injuring his brain and plunging Mysti and her family into quiet, suspenseful panic. As emergency groceries run low, Mysti scrambles to hide their situation from her teachers and her quirky new friend, Rama Khan. Inspired by the Battle of the Alamo, she becomes determined to stand up not only to Anibal, but to the unpredictable world outside. Mysti’s curatorial narration—as if she were describing paintings or book characters—works on multiple levels, showing off her snark and emphasizing her mother’s sheltered influence. Her mother is flawed but sympathetic; she knows her fears are disproportionate, but their debilitating effect is real.
With gallows humor and believable small victories, this unusual novel is a window into making friends and facing fears. (Fiction. 9-13)