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.
*Thank you to the publisher, Random House Books for Young Readers, and NetGalley for the copy in exchange for an honest review.
The first time I came across Words on Bathroom Walls on NetGalley, I easily dismissed it as it looks like a heavily emotional one and I am looking for something light that time. Plus the fact that I already have a lot of ARCs to last me till next year. But I keep seeing it everytime I browse NetGalley and my fingers must have slipped on the request button since it “magically” appeared on my shelf. Anyway, I’m so glad I got approved on this title because it is not only good, it is also funny and different and brave to tackle a delicate topic as mental illness, in this case, schizophrenia.
Adam Petrazelli, 16, was diagnosed with schizophrenia. He was seeing things that shouldn’t be there, hearing things that shouldn’t be there. His doctor said his case is unusual as he was diagnosed at an early age since most schizophrenic males are diagnosed in their late twenties. Still, it doesn’t mean they can cure him, but at least they can do something about it. Adam started taking a trial drug, ToZaPrex, to help him manage his hallucinations. Things seem to be going well. And as he starts in a new Catholic school, where the administrators and teachers are aware of his condition, Adam is hopeful. Maybe everything will turn out just fine for him. There, he finds himself in the company of a new friend, Dwight, who can’t seem to stop talking, and also meet lovely Maya, who later on becomes his girlfriend. Adam decided to keep his condition a secret to his friend and girlfriend, though. The last time a friend found out about it, he stopped talking and hanging out with him completely. He will not let that happen again. Everything is going fine, ToZaPrex is doing its job. Though the visions are not completely gone, at least he was able to control it and distinguish real from not. Until it stopped working. His visions started coming again to the point where’s he’s not even sure if Maya is real or just part of his hallucinations.
I didn’t expect to like Words on Bathroom Walls so much. Sure, the blurb looks really intriguing, but I expected it to be somewhat serious and heavy considering the topic it’s dealing with. Imagine my surprise upon reading something less heavy and funny. I am so hooked, I love it! Adam is such a delight to read. It is impossible not to like him. He is witty, smart, snarky and sarcastic at times, and so easy to connect with, you can’t help but root for him all throughout. The fact that he is schizophrenic, which we don’t see often is interesting enough. But his attitude towards his uncommon condition is so refreshing. He is not totally positive about life, not that. But he doesn’t wallow in self-pity, either. He is calm about it, and even hopeful. And if you’re not sold yet, Adam loves baking and he used it to deal with his stress. Now, that’s new, a teenage guy who bake. Also, all those Harry Potter references are just too funny!
But it is not only Adam that made this story works so good. There’s Adam’s mom who’s been his rock since the beginning and never once gave up on him. Her love and support to her son is just amazing. And though Adam’s father is MIA, there’s his stepfather, Paul. He may seem aloof after his diagnosis but I like how he is represented as a good guy, stepping up as Adam’s dad and not as a mean, selfish stepdad. Of course, there’s Maya, whom I love extra because she’s a Filipino. Hey, it’s not everyday I get the chance to read about a Filipino character and it’s nice when you come across one. But anyway, aside from that, I like how Maya seems to be the perfect match for Adam. Another thing is how it didn’t do the love can cure everything route. Suffice to say, the supporting characters are quite solid, as well.
The story was told via journal entries by Adam, who refused to talk to his therapist so he proposed of Adam keeping a journal. That way, the therapist can monitor the progress/effect of the new drug to Adam. And though I have a reservation to that kind of narrative, the author do it effectively. It helped me understand Adam and his condition, and also to understand how someone with mental illness copes in everyday lives. It sure is hard, and I came to feel more compassion and respect for people battling with mental illness.
Words on Bathroom Walls is a well-written story and it came as a surprise upon knowing that it is Julia Walton’s debut novel. I have no idea about how close the representation of schizophrenia is in the book but I’d say it is evident that the author did her research well. I feel like it was represented truthfully. She managed to write a story where people can learn more about mental illness and understand what it’s like to live with it. While some books that deal with mental illness can be emotionally heavy, sometimes even dark, this tackles the subject lighter than most yet still realistic. I honestly don’t know much about schizophrenia but this book gave me a better understanding of the illness. It is, in a way, can help educate people and remove the negative notion the people with mental illness constantly get. A truly engaging read and I hope a lot more people will get to read this.
(*Photos and synopsis courtesy of Goodreads)
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