I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Words on Bathroom Walls by Julia Walton
on July 4, 2017
Genres: Young Adult, contemporary, mental illness, tough issues
Format: Print, Print ARC
Source: the publisher
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Fans of More Happy Than Not, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, and It’s Kind of a Funny Story will cheer for Adam as he struggles with schizophrenia in this brilliantly honest and unexpectedly funny debut.
Adam has just been diagnosed with schizophrenia. He sees and hears people who aren’t there: Rebecca, a beautiful girl who understands him; the Mob Boss, who harasses him; and Jason, the naked guy who’s unfailingly polite. It should be easy to separate the real from the not real, but Adam can't.
Still, there’s hope. As Adam starts fresh at a new school, he begins a drug trial that helps him ignore his visions. Suddenly everything seems possible, even love. When he meets Maya, a fiercely intelligent girl, he desperately wants to be the great guy that she thinks he is. But then the miracle drug begins to fail, and Adam will do anything to keep Maya from discovering his secret.
There is something so endearing about the portrayal of Adam, our main character in Words on Bathroom Walls‘ synopsis. I mean, as a Harry Potter fan, I laughed and cried at the notion that this kid was so salty over the fact that Harry’s delusions and voices ended up being real, but his weren’t. And it was precisely choices like this made by Walton that made this book so realistic.
Sometimes you read a book to forget the real world; other times you want a closer look at what it is like to be someone else. I really felt like that is what we were getting – insight into the world of someone with schizophrenia. Not once did the book feel cliched, overdone, or exploitative. In fact, by the very nature of the storytelling, Adam was given the power to tell his story the way he wanted. By making the book a journal of letters to his therapist, we were able to get a raw and unfiltered look at Adam’s life – things he wouldn’t dare tell others. While this type of writing can make the main character an unreliable narrator, we were already facing that issue since Adam can’t trust his own senses. So this allowed us to explore the issue in a very real way, unpacking the day-to-day.
While there is so much to say about Adam himself, I feel like I need to take a moment to talk about his parents. His mom and step-dad were just everything you want in a parent in a situation like this, even when they seemed to fail. Because having a child with special needs is so tough and it takes someone who will fight for their child. They were supportive, but the relationship was definitely still very complex. As a parent, it was hard not to put myself in his mom’s shoes rather than Adam’s at times. They weren’t perfect, but things could have gone a lot differently for Adam with a different set of parents.
So, this story begins with Adam having a chance to try an experimental drug and begin a fresh start in life – new school, chance to blend in and be ‘normal.’ Adam makes friends and develops a romance. The romance isn’t all-encompassing, doesn’t overpower the book, and isn’t a savior method. It is what it is meant to be – two high schoolers falling for one another. The secondary characters in this book were all so well-developed, so you will definitely enjoy his friends.
However, we all know the problem with trying to be something you’re not, especially when the medication doesn’t work, is that it begins to unravel at your sanity and the fabric of the very constructs you’ve built up. And Adam definitely experiences that as he goes on. While he uses baking as a coping mechanism (SERIOUSLY, I was getting so hungry during those scenes!), we definitely see the very high and very low of Adam. It’s heartbreaking watching him experience some of the things that happen. And yet, you can’t help but root for him, because he’s just such a great kid – he doesn’t come off as self-deprecating, but you’ll definitely feel sympathy for his lot in life.
When you’re looking for a read about mental illness, authenticness is key. This book didn’t feel written, it felt like Adam was telling his story. And that’s exactly how it needed to be.