This book is spectacular. Cindy tackles the issue of mental illness on a young family: its unpredictability, the stress, the emotions and how this illness affects everyone around them. This middle school novel is not just for children, it’s for anyone who has been touched by mental illness as Della’s father says it perfectly when he lies about his wife’s absence. “Lots of people, they don’t understand an illness like your mama’s, like schizophrenia. They hear that name and start to use hurtful words, like “crazy” and “psychotic” and start seeing a person as just a disease, not a human being.” So, they feel that it’s just better that they lie or not say anything about her condition.
Eleven-year old Della would do anything to cure her mother. Della feels she’s at fault for her mother’s disease and since her mama won’t go to the doctor, she intends to cure her. She doesn’t just want the symptoms go away, like they have in the past, she wants a healthy mama. But as the days go by, it seems mama is getting worse.
Della tries a variety of ways to cure her mama but mama’s behavior is worsening and she is being unpredictable. In an area where neighbors help neighbors, Della feels alone and scared as she knows she can’t reveal to anyone their family’s secret. Arden, her best friend, who knows a bit about the situation, carries the weight of secrecy and friendship, watching her friend suffer.
I loved the Southern atmosphere of this novel where the community was positively involved in the lives of their neighbors. The concern for them yet the knowledge of knowing when to step away was felt as individuals drifted into Della’s family’s routine. The weight of responsibility that Della felt for her mother’s illness was heavy, yet that is how she felt as words of her mother’s illness were heard upon her ears. I felt for Della as she tried to help but it was like a losing battle.
Her little sister was a handful and I had to laugh and shake my head at her adventures. I felt Mylie needed someone to take her out and just run with her: run and run and run!
I loved the reference to the books as I read. Since I love The Graveyard Book, I was thrilled to see this book mentioned and how the character cited it. This book is filled with friendship, struggles, family, determination and love, it’s a book that you will not forget. I really enjoyed this book and feel that it’s a book that not only children will enjoy.
“Sometimes when things are bad for me, books get to be some of my best friends.”