by Barbara Dee
Expected Publication September 15, 2020
Aladdin Books (Simon and Shuster)
Middle Grade Novel
Review copy Provided by Publisher
When twelve-year-old Zinnia Manning’s older brother Gabriel is diagnosed with a mental illness, the family’s world is turned upside down. Mom and Dad want Zinny, her sixteen-year-old sister, Scarlett, and her eight-year-old brother, Aiden, to keep Gabriel’s condition “private”—and to Zinny that sounds the same as “secret.” Which means she can’t talk about it to her two best friends, who don’t understand why Zinny keeps pushing them away, turning everything into a joke.
It also means she can’t talk about it during Lunch Club, a group run by the school guidance counselor. How did Zinny get stuck in this weird club, anyway? She certainly doesn’t have anything in common with these kids—and even if she did, she’d never betray her family’s secret.
The only good thing about school is science class, where cool teacher Ms. Molina has them doing experiments on crayfish. And when Zinny has the chance to attend a dream marine biology camp for the summer, she doesn’t know what to do. How can Zinny move forward when Gabriel—and, really, her whole family—still needs her help?
I was already a fan of Barbara Dee after reading Halfway Normal, Everything I Know About You and Maybe He Just Likes You, so I knew this was going to be a really great story. And I was right! After her older brother, Gabriel, is in a car accident, it is revealed that he is also living with bipolar disorder which has led to him exhibiting some risky and dangerous behaviors. Shortly after, Gabriel leaves home to get treatment in a residential facility and the family is in a state or upheaval. Zinny needs to deal with her feelings of guilt, shame, anxiety and has lost friendships. One of the aspects of this book that I enjoyed is the focus is not fully on Gabriel, his disorder and recovery, but more on how the diagnosis has impacted the family.
The story is narrated in third person which is effective in showing how each member of the family deals with this challenge in their own way. Dee explores each character to show a full spectrum of coping strategies and feelings.
I would highly recommend this book for grades 5-8. It would also make a good read aloud for grades 4+.
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