Age Range: 11 - 15
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 A harrowing, if roughly constructed debut, based on the experiences of the author's grandfather; this tale of a student with a learning disability who is driven into a nervous breakdown is set in the early years of this century, when treatment of insanity was still firmly fixed in the Dark Ages. Although Matthew studies to the point of exhaustion, he is frustrated by an inability to understand or retain what he reads; when his failing marks get him expelled from the college in which he's enrolled, he breaks down, withdrawing into catatonia. He is committed to a private asylum, where a horrific program of abuse and neglect drives him even further into himself. Rescued at last by his older brother Zack, who takes him to a ranch in Colorado, Matthew finally embarks on the road to physical and mental health. Sharply defined are Matthew's rage and frustration at the beginning, and his painful, tentative steps toward recovery at the end are sharply defined; in between, readers get only glimpses of his interior state, perhaps because Seago switches points of view among several characters, sometimes rapidly. Matthew's mother and others are introduced with plot-stopping digressions, and the story loses focus with the development of a romance between Zack and a young woman. Still, Matthew's character is well-realized enough to make his retreat into mental illness seem plausible, given the pressures placed on him--and his experience in the asylum is positively nightmarish. Uneven but often engrossing. (Fiction. 11-15)

Pub Date: April 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-8037-2230-3
Page count: 238pp
Publisher: Dial
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15th, 1997