I know. File this under “duh,” right? But, once again, two Young Adult novels absolutely nailed it, tackling difficult subjects with humor, pathos, and realism.
Subject #1: “Aging out” of the foster care system.
Subject #2: Dealing with the symptoms and stigma of schizophrenia.
Both intense topics, which makes me suggest that these novels are meant for the older teen–no younger than a mature sixteen year old. Plus they include the language you would expect from the general population at that age and observations about sex, religion, parents, school, and the future.
Interestingly, despite having different gendered narrators who are dealing with different challenges, they reminded me a lot of each other. In fact, in a world easier manipulated, I would love to see Muiriel (What I Carry) and Adam (Words On Bathroom Walls) meet and share a few pages together.
WHAT I CARRY, by Jennifer Longo: Muiriel has been in foster care her entire life. Left at a hospital as an infant, she is unique in that there is no biological family to miss or with whom to reunite. But now she is nearing adulthood. While other teens look forward to turning eighteen, Muiriel dreads it. She will be thrust out on her own by her legal parent–the state of Washington. But she does have skills, like living an absolute minimalist lifestyle, acclimating quickly to new places, and always being polite–twenty homes in seventeen years will teach you things. She’s also distanced and highly suspicious of any person or situation that remotely resembles love, comfort, and stability. Can you blame her? All she needs is the right combination of people to change her mind.
I loved this book. I wish there was a sanitized version of it (regarding some of the language) so I could recommend it for younger teens because it shows a slice of life that most of us will never know. Muiriel is intelligent, witty, sensitive, and profound. You root for her all the way. 9.5/10 Stars
WORDS ON BATHROOM WALLS, by Julia Walton makes us privy to the patient-doctor diaries of sixteen year old Adam. After a scary outburst at his old high school that resulted in a schizophrenia diagnosis, Adam is starting anew. New meds, new school, new friends, and new secrets. No one can know that he carries an imaginary entourage of hallucinations around with him. No one can know about the voices. No one can know that he doubts everything he sees and hears until there is concrete proof that they’re real. No one, that is, except his mom and stepdad, who are loving and supportive, but still treat him like he’s made of glass.
Adam writes these diary entries to his doctor because he refuses to talk to him. Lucky us, because we can feel his sadness and sarcasm, the two most prevalent and conflicting feelings. His condition has no cure, so the only choices are to laugh or cry. When those fail, there is always the ridiculousness of the world in general. 9/10 Stars