Jason is “Freak” to his peers and even his ADHD friend Drip, but not to Sunshine, who—though selectively mute—shares her thoughts and feelings with him. Now she’s vanished, and Jason, whose schizophrenia has shaped his life, is a suspect in her disappearance.
Seniors Jason, Drip and Sunshine have ridden the short bus and gone through school labeled SED—that's “Severely Emotionally Disturbed, for you long-bus people.” Bullying at the hands of kids with behavioral disabilities goes unreported and unpunished, but the trio’s alliance made life bearable in their catchall special ed program, where kids with vastly different abilities and disabilities are treated as extensions of their diagnosis acronyms. (Jason, whose irony is well-honed, calls them “alphabets.”) Desperate to find Sunshine, Jason and Drip are wary of sharing all they know with adults who see them as extensions of their stigma. As the FBI investigates, Jason’s always-shaky world threatens to come apart. Not taking “fuzzy pills” keeps his brain sharp, but the voices plaguing him grow louder. Jason carries Sunshine’s secrets—should he break his promise not to tell? While the action is occasionally slow and repetitive—suspense arising more from Jason’s internal battles than external action—readers will stick with him; he’s sympathetic, compelling and smart. Navigating a harsh world, the psychologist author makes clear, amounts to an education in itself.
An illuminating, recommended read. (Fiction. 12 & up)